Re: Is memetics historicist?

Robert G. Grimes (
Tue, 23 Jun 1998 14:09:34 -0400

Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 14:09:34 -0400
From: "Robert G. Grimes" <>
Subject: Re: Is memetics historicist?

A very good question, indeed... Most evaluate the accuracy of theories or
scientific soundness on the "predictive ability," i.e., if one knows what
one is talking about, one can predict (unless one is advancing

Personally, I just recounted to someone my personal use of "probability
psychology" wherein, as an observer, I will predict what is about to happen
in specific circumstances. Naturally, this is not at all based on anything
but being a student of psychology, sociology and science, and the
probabilities of future activities from the study of present
circumstances. As a result, I've always provoked discussion of such
possibilities by stating that the only "real psychologists" are sales
behaviorists in business who must predict sales on specific approaches to
psychology, needs, their understanding of sales psychology, etc. If they
don't perform, i.e., make up the bottom line, they are out. Sociologists,
in particular, may ought to be happy that they aren't judged on those
lines! Anyway, I was reiterating an experience where my wife and I were
sitting in a cafe on the riverside (attached to a shopping center) and my
wife asked if I wanted to accompany her inside to shop a little. I
responded, "No thanks, I would like to sit here and watch the fight."
Naturally, she asked, "What fight?" When I elucidated on the probabilities
of some fellows who were enjoying their beer at tables close to the outside
sidewalk (it was an open air cafe), she naturally pooh-poohed my suggestion
and reacted as if I just wanted to relax and drink a little more (she is
pretty good at prediction, too).

To make a long story short, when she returned about an hour later the
Police were just handcuffing the last of about twenty three guys who had
commenced to mix it up about twenty minutes after she left. Fortunately
for me, I had arisen at one point to make room for a body to come crashing
into my table from across the room. I had so anticipated the activities
that I was pretty well prepared to take "evasive action."

Now, I explain such prognostication on several things, observation of
memetic activities, attempting to detect pheromones, and attempting to
lower ones threshold to other "subliminal clues," i.e., to make oneself
earlier aware of stimuli that, eventually and collectively, will rise
through the limen of consciousness and enable one to "have a hunch," or
feel able to predict the course of immediate activity by sampling of
current activity. It is my belief that a knowledge of memetics will
certainly assist one in that area. It is the stuff of which politics and
ad campaigns are made....

Now, before anyone suggests that I'm referring to any extrasensory
activity, this is based on just constant practice at observation, study of
psychological motivation, again - pheromonal activity, and prediction until
ones results commence to become "better than chance." Of course, the great
portion of these "clues," in most circumstances, are minimal and difficult
to evaluate. Thus, it is difficult to acquire any but anecdotal results
(which are still fun, entertaining and educational) and the "setting of of
test conditions" is next to impossible as "acting out" for test purposes
cannot in anyway be compared to spontaneous human interaction with the
natural stimuli, etc. Friends of mine in college and later as we went our
separate careers in business, medicine, etc., maintained such habits and
the least that we can say is it assisted us greatly in being better
observers and fairly consistent and accurate "guessers." Suffice to say,
the real reward was someone remembering to say, "You told me that was going
to happen!" And it is particularly rewarding when my wife continues to
tell me that.....




> It always struck me as a little ironic that Karl Popper, who wrote 'The
> Poverty of Historicism' should also be the author of 'Objective
> Knowledge: an Evolutionary Approach'.
> There's no doubt that Popper's picture of scientific change as an
> evolving system of ideas was massively influential in the genesis of
> both memetics (Dawkins acknowledges him explicitly in The Selfish
> Gene) and also evolutionary epistemology. But Popper also rejects
> any possibility of predictive power in the social sciences, and
> characterises all attempts to produce a predictive social science
> as 'historicist' - believing in non-existent laws of history.

Snip good stuff

Bob Grimes Jacksonville, Florida

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore....."

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