RE: Critical thinking in memetics

Aaron Lynch (
Wed, 27 May 1998 13:08:23 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 13:08:23 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: Critical thinking in memetics
In-Reply-To: <000301bd892a$54f02d20$>

>"If you can't say something in an irritating way you might as well not have
>said it at all." -- George Bernard Shaw

I will phrase it politely, but bear in mind that criticism often does
irritate those who receive it.

The metaphor of "Button Pushing" has been so common for so long in the
English-speaking world and in marketing science that emphasizing it as the
core of memetics can and frequently does give the impression that memetics
has nothing new to say. (This may even be what caused Richard Pocklington
to use the word "vacuous" in his immune reaction.) What needs greatest
emphasis in convincing new scientists of the utility of memetics are the
phenomena for which it gives distinct new insights.

Incidentally, the dissemination of ideas by "button pushing" is an area
where Mario's objections to the word "replicator" carry the greatest force.
When beverage and advertising executives use sex, status, sports
competition, etc. to get people to think "Coke is the real thing," they
could well be imparting a thought that they do not themselves hold. That
is, their own beverage of choice in the privacy of their homes could well
be something vastly different than one based on carbonated sugar-water,
caramel color, etc. If the beverage preference they impart differs from the
beverage preference they hold themselves, then you do not have an
advertiser to consumer replication event. Indirect consumer to consumer
replication happens, however, by way of customers paying for ads that hook
new customers--a process again long recognized in marketing science, and
one for which the term "replicator" offers little new insight.

>Richard Brodie
>Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme"
>Visit Meme Central!
>-----Original Message-----
>From: []On Behalf Of
>Karthik Swaminathan
>Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 1998 7:31 PM
>Subject: Re: Critical thinking in memetics
>Mario Vaneechoutte wrote:
>> Well, if you ask me this goes in the right direction. First, because of
>> -mostly overlooked - basic importance of emotions in memetic transmission,
>> second, because it puts the actor where it should be: the human mind.
>> all, it is there that selection between different memes occurs. I think
>> one gets better answers when asking: "Why are certain memes preferentially
>> adopted and spread - replicated by human minds" then when one asks: 'Why
>> some memes replicate more successfully than others?" The emotional,
>> psychological confort brought by memes is a large part of the answer. The
>> pushing of buttons as suggested by Brodie is not such a bad approach at
>all. I
>> defended this approach previously:
>There is no question that emotions play a big part in memetic selection. I
>felt that this is quite obviouse. I agree that alertion of danger, sex and
>are big drives in human emotion. My biggest problem with Brodies book is
>that the
>Trojan Horses that he himself sneaks in takes precedence over any talk of
>Memetics which was my main purpose for buying the book. He could have
>another book on the School system and the Constitution and stayed focused on
>topic. I wished there was more on "pushing buttons" and less pushing

--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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