Re: testing memetics

Aaron Lynch (
Tue, 09 Dec 1997 16:23:38 -0600

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 09 Dec 1997 16:23:38 -0600
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: testing memetics
In-Reply-To: <>

I don't presently have any comments on the testing of managerial and
policy-making memetics. However, population memetics is definitely intended
as testable science. A new paper at goes into the quantitative methods
and other considerations in testing population memetics. (Contains some
material and a similar title as an earlier paper.)

An evolutionary recursive replicator theory of mental/brain information is
presented. Noting that all replicator theories rest at least tacitly upon
the fundamental notions of causation and of calling two or more entities
"the same" with respect to an abstraction, the concept is rendered explicit
in defining the terms "mnemon" and "meme." It is argued that there may be
no "absolute" system of abstractions for memetics much as there is no
absolute coordinate system (framework of space-time abstractions) in
physics. A symbolic calculus of mnemon conjugations and replication events
is introduced. The term "meme" is given a concise technical definition, and
reasons are offered for avoiding more expansive definitions. Arguments that
meme sets are generally only partially ordered then provide a formal reason
for rejecting the idea of mnemon "size" as a crucial element in defining
the word meme. Differential equations are developed for meme host
population versus time in a two-meme system, modeling the dynamics whereby
events at the individual level give rise to trends at the population level.
This lays a foundation for computerized simulations and the falsification
or validation of specific memetic hypotheses. As memetic hypotheses
generally involve observable communication events they are found to have
stronger empirical standing than hypotheses involving unidentified genes.
Mechanisms of creativity as a population phenomenon are examined, with the
memetic perspective yielding a novel explanation for the temporal
clustering of independent co-creations. Creation and propagation are
integrated into a theory of evolution by variation and natural selection of

>> 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
>submit papers to
>I work at:
>|School of Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and management
>|Technical University Delft, Jaffalaan 5 2600 GA Delft PO Box 5015 The
>This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
>Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
>For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)


--Aaron Lynch

THOUGHT CONTAGION: How Belief Spreads Through Society The New Science of Memes Basic Books. Info and free sample:

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