Re: Critical thinking in memetics

Aaron Lynch (
Mon, 15 Jun 1998 09:57:58 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998 09:57:58 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Critical thinking in memetics

>Ton Maas wrote:
>> > How does personnel management theory relate to memetics.
>> They are both in Fallacy, and their Existence an Imposture ;-)
>As I have just finished my thesis proposal and I can finally get on with
>the real business of synthesising knowledge, I am doing a bit of wide
>reading (wide web browsing) and have been shocked by the results. It
>appears that we are all operating in an environment that is neck deep in
>cultural myths and perceptions. Just a quick look at the "Published
>Resources" list of the
>( gives one the idea that
>there is supposed to be some great master plan that is controlling all
>existence. The penny finally dropped as to what you meant by "fallacy"
>and "imposture"! Seems to strengthen my theory that "critical thinking"
>is as scarce as the proverbial "rocking horse poop".

Critical thinking may seem scarcer than it really is, too. People who
arrive at the conclusion that reality is much more prosaic than a "master
plan" scenario frequently just don't feel moved to preach about it. When
they do, they don't get as much transfixed attention either--something that
many people thrive on.

When Wired Magazine sponsored an online debate between me and Richard
Barbrook, (link through my web page) I was rather surprised that the title
was "Memes: Self-Replicants or Mysticism." Though the memetics side won
that debate, I have since become more aware of the mystical and "spooky
science" strains of memetics that had gotten Barbrook so worked up.
Critical thinking within our field is needed to keep the anti-memetics side
from completely taking over the critical role, and to prevent our field
from being regarded as pseudoscience.

Memeticists must also resist the temptation to imitate the idea of using
fictional institution names to seek respectability or grab attention. I
don't know of any other science where such practices are common, and I
don't think it will serve our interests as a science. It resembles the
invention of fake universities with fake diplomas. The competitive forces
behind it may resemble the evolutionary pressures leading to tall trees,
except that here the competition is for taller and taller stories. But from
the outside, it could easily gain memeticists a reputation for being too
clever by half.

--Aaron Lynch

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