Re: Machiavellian Memes

Aaron Lynch (
Thu, 14 May 1998 01:04:13 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 01:04:13 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Machiavellian Memes
In-Reply-To: <000c01bd7ee0$800f43a0$3470cacc@lil--elvis>

>(On JoM) Aaron Lynch writes:
>>>From a scientific standpoint, the main issue is not theological, but
>>rather, the idea of doing memetics (or any science) by "revelation." In a
>>world where all too many people regard memetics as "light-weight" at best
>>and pseudoscience at worst, it is a suggestion not even to make in jest.
>Speaking of making memetics a more "heavy-weight" science, what are your
>thoughts on the possible merging of memetics and diffussion studies? This
>seems like a natural pairing that might help produce some of the hard data
>that memetics, on its own, is so sadly lacking.
>(And BTW, I don't remember if it was here on JoM or on, but
>whoever recommended Everett M. Rogers _Diffussion of Innovations_, thank
>you! It is a wonderful complement to the study of memetics and points the
>way to a better understanding of the manner and rates at which ideas
>propigate through a culture.)
>Is memetics a subset of diffusion studies? Or are they simply two joined
>sets with a great deal of overlap?
>-Tim Rhodes

My work has focused mainly on the sorts of analysis that memetics offers
beyond the existing diffusion theory (to avoid duplication of efforts), but
the short section "Memetics and Communication Science" in _Thought
Contagion_ focuses mainly on how memetics relates to Rogers's work. I view
Rogersian diffusion phenomena as a large subclass of memetics, but not as
the totality of memetics. I also mention Rogers's work in my recent paper.

As you say, the Church of Virus might not be oriented toward the same level
of scholarship found in the Journal of Memetics. Nevertheless, you may
suggest that their web pages put in more links to sites that carry serious
material. In its related sites and alt.memetics archives pages, it mentions
only the memetics book for which Word 7's grammar checker rates the
introduction as high school sophomore reading level, not the one rated at
college freshman level (and the one that happens to mention Rogers). It
also avoids links to documents that contain population memetic equations
and event diagrams. Most importantly, it does not contain any links to
peer-reviewed journals in memetics. A lot of people visiting those sites
will form immune reactions to memetics if they do not see that there is
also more serious material available. The more successfully the site
attracts visitors, the more scientists will be immunized against memetics
by these problems. Bear in mind that the main limiting factor to most
biological viruses is immunity, a point worth remembering when attempting
to spread a scientifically-based philosophy.

--Aaron Lynch

Editor, Journal of Memetics:
How Belief Spreads Through Society--The New Science of Memes
Basic Books. Online Brochure:
Most recent paper: Units, Events, and Dynamics in Memetic Evolution.

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