Re: Xtra!

Aaron Lynch (
Thu, 10 Sep 1998 12:28:00 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 12:28:00 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Xtra!
In-Reply-To: <>

At 12:41 PM 9/10/98 -0400, Derek Gatherer wrote:
>On Wed, 09 Sep 1998 13:31:17 -0500 Aaron Lynch <> wrote:
>> I will point out that there are some drastic differences
>> between what I have said in Lynch (1998) and what Gatherer claims that I
>> have said in Lynch (1998). Anyone wanting to see what I really said will
>> just have to read my 1998 paper.
>I think that it is quite clear what you say. I never thought
>there was any danger of me misinterpreting you. Perhaps we can
>ask the other people on this list. Have I misinterpreted Aaron?
>All comments welcome.
>> For example, in order to reach the conclusion that I am proposing a
>> particular model of neurobiology, Gatherer snips off the extremely
>> important word "IF" from the sentence
>> "If a mnemon resides very redundantly in someone's brain, that person still
>> counts as only one host and one mnemon instantiation." (Lynch, 1998, end of
>> section 4) Then Gatherer attacks this supposed neurobiology as if it were
>> mine.
>But it is yours. You claim that mnemons are instantiated in host
>brains. This is what you have to justify. Why is the word 'if'
>important? How _does_ a mnemon reside in a brain? How are we
>'hosts'? Do you really think that the brain is a RAM, storing
>mnemons in a stack?

No, I certainly do not think of the brain as an overgrown RAM. However,
there are many actual and conceivable models for HOW the brain stores
information. (My model only requires THAT the brain stores information.) An
example of a neuroscience model that includes numerous copies of pieces of
information can be found in _The Cerebral Code_, by William H. Calvin (MIT
Press 1996). But my work does not specifically depend on confirmation of
Calvin's theory. I have not set out to propound a theory of how "memory
items" or "mnemons" are stored in the brain, nor do I have to.

My statement is comparable to an epidemiologist saying that *if* a person
has one copy of a virus or a trillion copies, that person still counts as
only one host. The epidemiologist can make this statement without knowing
how many copies of a virus the host typically has, or knowing anything
about what tissues it infects, how it infects them, whether it is a DNA or
an RNA virus, etc. Much epidemiology can still be done without knowlege of
such details. Indeed, much epidemiology can be done without even knowing
whether an infectious agent is a virus or not. The word "IF" is extremely
important in a context such as this, and cannot be dropped without imposing
a major change of meaning.

It is just as legitimate for a thought contagion memeticist to leave the
neurological details of information storage to the neuroscientists as it is
for an epidemiologist to leave the molecular biology of a viral infection
to the virologists. It is clear now that you would put understanding how
the brain functions as a prerequisite to doing any work on thought
contagions. To me, this looks like the sort of stalling tactic (progress
retarding tactic) for which American lawers are famous. It also appears
that this is why you dropped the word "If" from my sentence.

>> The actual point I was making was that if a piece of information exists,
>> for instance, in both hemispheres of the brain, or even more than once in
>> each hemisphere, then that piece of information will still only count as
>> one mnemon instantiation per person.
>I think the above paragraph shows that you do state this. How can
>a piece of information 'exist[] both hemispheres'?, or
>indeed in one hemisphere? What relationship does this model of
>yours bear to any known data or school of thought in neurobiology?
>or have you reinvented this field from scratch?

No, the above paragraph again contains the word "if." It therefore does not
assert even *that* a person has two functioning brain hemispheres, let
alone anything about redundancy of information content. I'd suggest reading
a basic logic text to find out just what you can and cannot infer from an
"if" statement.

>> I have seen misreadings of my work that seemed to result from busy people
>> reading too quickly,
>I wrestled long and hard over your paper believe me....
>> but dropping the word "If" from the quoted
>> material
>> does not strike me as a case in point.
>So what are you suggesting? That the word 'if' is crucial in this
>> A wide variety of other
>> problems in
>> the Gatherer paper are equally perplexing.
>Like what?

Read my forthcoming rebuttal.

>You have two tasks.
>a) Refute me by smacking me smartly over the head with a big slab
>of experimental data (as Mike correctly suggests)

Mike comes very close to demanding that a detailed neurological theory of
memory preceed any discussion of human memory content. His interest is also
in artifactual replicators, as evidenced by his 1997 JoM-EMIT paper. My
paper discusses possible animal experiments. Publishing it is thus a step
toward getting the experiments funded and underway. Thus, any demand that
the data from such experiments already be available is inappropriate.
Indeed, if you succeed in convincing experimentalists that the paper
"retards" progress, then you will have succeeded in "retarding" the
experimental work. You have taken the serious risk of being credited with
retarding memetics progress on the experimental level.

>b) Defend _your_ model.

I do not even offer a model of the neuroscience of memory, and have no
intention of defending one. As for "defending" my model, you have indeed
given me plenty of misreadings to dispell in my commentary.

--Aaron Lynch

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