Re: All this fuss

Aaron Lynch (
Thu, 17 Sep 1998 17:56:37 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 17:56:37 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: All this fuss
In-Reply-To: <>

At 04:37 PM 9/17/98 -0400, Bill Benzon wrote:
>Aaron Lynch wrote:
>> Now consider memetic evolution theory. If those who have learned to play
>> baseball make more efforts to spread knowledge of the game than do those
>> who have learned tennis, it is possible for one to just happen to notice
>> this.
>Is this actually so, or are you just positing it as an example?


This is one of many examples I posit in _Thought Contagion_. Only a few of
the examples in the book are backed with measured parameters, and I do not
now have a research budget for measuring parameters in most of the other
examples. The examples are proposed largely to stimulate future research.
Note that publishing without yet measured parameters was essential to
launching research into biological selection theory, too. Darwin did not
have measured survival and reproduction rates for variants within different
species, but his book did ultimately get such parameter measurements under

>> But someone aware of the peer to peer conversion aspects of memetic
>> evolution theory is much more likely to think of measuring the conversion
>> rates and conversion behaviors of those knowing how to play the two sports.
>> Positing neurally stored information gives added explanatory power: we can
>> easily see how those operating with an internally stored game concept
>> calling for several basemen, several outfielders, and a pitcher on each
>> team might continue recruitment until they get 2 X 9 +/- players, while
>> those operating with a game concept calling for one person on each side of
>> a net might stop recruitment at 2 players.
>But neural storage is really beside the point. As far as this particular
>example goes, game knowledge could just as easily be stored in one's immortal
>and incorporeal soul, or in a computer hardwired into one's spinal column.

If there were widely accepted *scientific* evidence for information stored
in an incorporeal soul or an embedded spinal computer, then I would have
referred to such as loci of information storage. I could have just said
"internally stored information," but I think the science has advanced
enough for me to be somewhat more specific.

>So you're suggesting that those who have to recruit 9 players are more likely
>to proselytize than those who only need to recruit 2? OK. I'll buy that.
>But I don't see why anyone needs memetics in order to go looking for these

They might not *need* memetics to go looking for such things, but a
biologist might not *need* Darwinism in order to look for antler-correlated
mating differentials in stags, either. But it *was* a memeticist who
proposed the recruitment differential mechanism as a basis for the extreme
popularity of team sports.

>> My equations, and more broadly, the quantitative methods based on event
>> rate parameters, help first of all by suggesting parameters to measure.
>> They also provide a basis for making specific predictions in cases where a
>> meme is favored parentally but disfavored in peer to peer conversion, for
>Hmmm....You know, a woman named Judith (?) Harris has just published a book
>(_The Nurture Assumption_ I think it's called) that's causing quite a
stir, the
>kind of stir that makes judicious people suspicious of any 2nd-hand reports.
>She's arguing that childrens' relations to peers are as important, more
>important, in determing what they do than relations to their parents. (What
>I'm waffling on is just how much Harris wants to discount parents,
>somewhat? I can't tell from the 2nd-hand reports I've got and I haven't read
>the book myself). So perhaps here's an empirical opportunity for memetics
>someone certainly). Given the cultural repertoire of a group of teens (say
>13-18); where does that repertoire come from? What are the relative the
>effects of parental transmission and peer transmission? As there anything in
>memetics that would help us to sort this out in a way inconceivable from any
>other framework?

Yes, I've recently heard about this book too, and will have to see if it
cites data that measure propagation parameters. However, I am uninclined to
rely on broad generalizations about the importance of parents versus peers.
Rather, the two transmission routes need to be empirically quantified for
each meme under study. My book opens with the case of the Old Order Amish,
where the parental transmission rate has been measured, and shown to be
quite important. But for other examples, I propose mainly peer to peer

--Aaron Lynch

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