Re: [brodie book]

Aaron Lynch (
Fri, 22 May 1998 11:40:47 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 11:40:47 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: [brodie book]

>> Looking for more information on memetics, I went out and bought a copy
of Richard Brodie's "Virus of the Mind." Reading through it I found myself
>> I was looking for something a bit more scientific and less speculative.
Something more researched along the lines of Levy's "Artificial Life" or
Gleicks "Chaos Theory." This book was more along the lines of American talk
show sensationalism. At times he seemed to be blurring genes and memes a
little too much that I wasn't sure which he was talking about. His approach
is overly subjective and opinionated, and what information he gives is too
obviouse and is common heuristics. There is a definite "point of view"
here which helps in getting a slot in "Oprah" but not for someone looking
for a bigger picture breakdown of culture, beliefs and ideas.
>> On the other hand, it did hook the right memes in me to make me spend my
20 bucks on it.


I must commend you for not just walking away from memetics entirely. Many
others have had the same general impression that you have, but instead of
going out and finding the JOM-EMIT site, they have expressed their
disappointment by quietly walking away. One of the mechanisms involved is
when those who want a different kind of book turn to the back of Brodie's
book to see a listing of other works in the field. There, the only work
they see listed under "Evolution of Memes" is _The Evolving Self_, by
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. That book does have a chapter on memes, and some
scattered references to memes, but is billed as "A Psychology for the Third
Millenium," not a memetic evolution book, by Csikszentmihalyi himself. An
entire memetics journal (Journal of Ideas, 1990-1991, edited by Elan
Moritz) is unmentioned, as are various published articles and books
containing memetics chapters. The lack of references deepens the
disappointment, often leading to an entirely preventable form of
anti-memetics immunity. For those who would popularize a science, I suggest
taking the bibliographies of Sagan, Dawkins, and Gleick as role models. A
few pages of real bibliography will not cost you a slot on your favorite TV

--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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