Xtra!: Brodie defends Lynch

Fri, 4 Sep 1998 09:23:44 -0400 (EDT)

From: BMSDGATH <BMSDGATH@livjm.ac.uk>
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: Xtra!: Brodie defends Lynch
Date: Fri, 4 Sep 1998 09:23:44 -0400 (EDT)

This message turned up on another list, so I only got to find out about
it indirectly. Sorry for the delay in respoding.

Richard Brodie wrote:

>Responding to Derek Gatherer...

> It is very tempting to redefine our model of memetics to one that
> seems easier to study.

Yes, that is certainly part of my argument.

> But isn't it better to ignore how easy or difficult it is to study
> and instead to use the model that we think most
> accurately reflects reality?

Here I dispute that Thought Contagionism/Mind Virology accurately
reflect reality. If you think that the 'calculus of mnemon
conjugations' accurately reflects reality, then you had better explain
more fully.

> When you say that you want to leave the study of beliefs to cognitive
> psychologists, are you saying that the behavior caused by beliefs is
> not memetic?

I say that learned behaviour is the subject matter of memetics. The
beliefs are too intangible. Folk psychology.

> So, for instance, it wouldn't be useful to do a
> memetic study of religion except for replicable artifacts such as
> bibles and church steeples?

That would be the best approach, if a quantitative science is
envisaged. Belief is interesting, but there can be no beliefometer.
All that we have to go on is linguistic behaviour (another artefact).

> I for one
> am still scared after reading Bloom's "The Lucifer Principle" about
> the spread of the "Kill the infidels"
> meme.

I dispute that there is such a thing as a 'kill the infidels' meme
'in the head'. Some people kill infidels, others don't. To explain it
by saying there is some thing in the head is at best unilluminating,
and at worst smacks of some kind of demonic possession theory. (I know
you don't seriously maintain this, but try substituting 'demon' for
'mind virus' in any piece of mind virology rhetoric..... it's amazing
how little difference it makes to the finished product).

> And to say it's only present in those who actually do the killing is
> to ignore the building potential an millions of minds that could
> precipitate in action at any moment.

'could' is the problem here. It's too slippery to get a grip on.

> Belief, attitude, opinion, emotional association -- all these
> influence behavior, or you wouldn't have
> any cognitive psychologists.

I agree, but likewise behaviour influences belief, or else you wouldn't
have any behavioural therapists (now available on the National
Health Service in the UK - works quite well on things like phobias,
and allegedly also on antisocial behaviour.) You want a one-way
street: internal memes make behaviours, information flows in one
direction. Except it doesn't. We learn what we see - the behaviour.
A belief or psychological state may come afterwards, but then it may be
(and probably will be) completely different to the internal state of
the individual we learned the behaviour from. The internal meme is a
poor replicator at best, and most of the time is simply not the
replicator. The behaviour replicates with far more fidelity. (In the
words of the Foster's beer advert: He who drinks Australian thinks

> They are all memes, the software of the
> mind. To argue that they are not
> memes unless some obvious behavior manifests at your convenience is
> like saying that your
> computer doesn't have a virus unless and until your hard disk
> crashes.

Computer viruses are a poor analogy. They are strings of code (I don't
presume to give you of all people a lecture on computers, my purpose
is to point out that human brains are not like that). If our brains
really were little RAMs bulging with code strings (awareness of x
mnemons), then the computer virus analogy might have some validity.
But it doesn't. A virus checker program can scan a memory and find the
virus string, there is no equivalent virus check that can be performed
in human minds. This is the worst aspect of 'mnemon conjugation' - it
effectively trashes a couple of centuries of neuroscience research,
and on what basis?

> (Today is the 26th -- I hope that everyone I'm sending this to can
> read it!)

I didn't get the original...

> There are no guarantees in social science. No matter how many times a
> teacher repeats a statement,
> there is no guarantee that every child will get it.


> No matter how many times an advertiser repeats a
> campaign, there's no guarantee that every viewer will buy the
> product. No matter how many times
> my book appears on Oprah, there's no guarantee that everyone will
> find themselves with their own
> copy so that I can further infect them with memetics memes.


> But let me tell you, you can bet the farm
> that in every one of these cases the memes will spread to SOME
> statistical portion of the audience.

Rhetoric again. There is no meme spreading from head to head.

> What factors make these memes more likely to spread once they are
> placed in front of people's
> minds? That's one exciting field of study for memetics. How do you
> create a self-replicating
> subculture that delivers a desired message to ever more minds? That's
> another thing to study. (The
> Church of Virus list, which this note is cc'ed to, is a group that is
> playing with the idea of creating a
> "religion" that spreads reality-reflecting memes)

That's another matter. I don't propose to comment on the Church of

> Is anyone here doing any scientific experiments? THAT would be
> interesting.

Fair point. In my article, I make the case that 'internal' memetics
prejudices against just such progress, by placing a rhetorical
construct, the 'internal' meme/mnemon/mind virus in the position of the
primary object of study. This is an obstruction, when what we should
be looking at is the phenomena as they present themselves.


PS I am a great fan and avid user of Word of Windows, and none of the
above in any way diminishes the utmost respect I have for you as a
computer programmer.

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