All this fuss

Bill Benzon (
Thu, 17 Sep 1998 12:03:52 -0400

Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 12:03:52 -0400
From: Bill Benzon <>
To: Memetics Listserve <>
Subject: All this fuss

In practical terms, what's all the fuss about?

Aaron believes that memes are instantiated in brains, but admits that,
as a practical matter, research will have to use survey instruments and
such to get at these memes. So, he's not going to look at memes
directly, but only indirectly. Derek believes that memes don't exist in
brains at all, but only in behaviors and artifacts. I assume he's quite
willing to use survey instruments. And so is Paul, who points out that
there is quite a bit of social science work on thought contagions, but
it's rather atheoretical.

So, where the rubber meets the empirical road, these positions seem to
study patterns among the same things (though Derek may be the only one
interested in counting pots etc.). What I'd like to know is how the
evolutionary perspective imported from biology is going to give these
empirical efforts any greater success than the atheoretical work Paul
has been citing. It's all well and good to say that memetics brings
this extra theoretical dimension to the empirical work. So what? How's
this theory going to improve the empirical work? Do Aaron's equations
have any predictive value? Do they tell us to look for phenomena we
wouldn't otherwise notice?

William Benzon
Senior Scientist
Meta4 Incorporated
33-41 Newark Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030 USA
voice: 201.656.0906
fax:   201.656.0901
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