Re: testing memetics

Hans-Cees Speel (
Tue, 2 Dec 1997 17:30:11 MET

From: "Hans-Cees Speel" <>
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 1997 17:30:11 MET
Subject: Re: testing memetics

> Hans-Cees Speel writes:
> >What is it with this testing meme? I thought that testing in the
> >early Popperian sense is rejected by most scholars.
> Well, I haven't read much Popper but that meme is still alive and well
> in my mind. :-)
> >You cannot test a program
> >or a theory as a whole. There can be little parts you can test, that
> >may make up a nice 'partly' tested.
> I think what we're looking for is a testable hypothesis or prediction,
> about something in particular, that can be put forth with memetics, that
> is not supported by other fields of study or is not within the realm of
> other fields of study.

I can live with that. But think there are more things important in a

> What tests are there by which memetics can be thus compared to any other
> field of science?

This is really a question of big importance. What tests can be solved
or answered by memetics, and not by other sciences. I say resolved
because I don't beleive hypothesis can be rejected ones and for all
in the social sciences. In practice there are always too many
variables. Of course this can be the case too in physics and so on.

> >Also in social sciences many
> >theories are not testable and yet accepted: meta-narrative if you like.
> I'm interested. Can you give some examples, if it'll help stamp out the
> testing meme?

In policy science you have the garbage-can theory for instance. It
states very broadly that solutions and problems in organizations
'roam' around in organizations. Now and then they 'meet' in decision
arena's and a problem gets solved.
Another example is the question whether decisions taken by management
or boards etc are to be called satisfising or optimizing. In practice
this can almost never be decided, althuogh the theoretical difference
is pretty clear.

These are both examples of theories that are accepted (used by
everyone that matters in the field) but that do not contain
very testable things. Their main function for use is that they offer
a meta-narrative or metaphor that lets us see reality in a different
frame or way.
A theory in that sense should bring forth different hypothesis or new
solutions for old problems, but still these hypothesis can be
'untestable' in that the questions are nice, but that answers are not
provable in any sense.

So a function of memetics can just be that the world of information
can be seen by a different frame. I argue fir instance in my paper
for JOM-EMIT that should appear soon (this or next week I hope) that
memetics shows a new view on information by showing us that we re-use
old memes again when we say we are deciding or describing things.
We could make hypothesis or investigate how much of for instance the
arguments we use in decision making are new variation, and what we

Also memetics can show how different kinds of selection forces
intermingle in decision making (we may decide that some plan is a
good one becuase it solves a problem, or we may nod 'yes' because we
were distracted and do not want to admit that)



Theories come and go, the frog stays [F. Jacob]
Hans-Cees Speel
Managing Editor "Journal of Memetics Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission"

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I work at:
|School of Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and management
|Technical University Delft, Jaffalaan 5 2600 GA Delft PO Box 5015 The Netherlands

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