Re: "Retarding the Progress" - Some Specifics

Paul Marsden (
Fri, 26 Feb 1999 17:37:50 -0000

From: "Paul Marsden" <>
To: "memetics" <>
Subject: Re: "Retarding the Progress" - Some Specifics
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 17:37:50 -0000

Aaron wrote

>Now from Paul Marsden's commentary, we have a remarkable quote from his
>second paragraph:
>"As Gatherer notes, the thought contagion metaphor persists largely because
>of what could charitably be called a `disregard' for linguistics and
>cognitive science. To this I would add a dangerous `disregard' for the
>corpus of social science in general, and evolutionary social science in

I'm glad you find it remarkable - you'll make me blush with pride ;-)
>Now I could make a case that it is others, not myself, who have been
>dangerously ignoring the social science work done on the Hutterites, but
>that is not my purpose here.

Then why bother to say it? Who, for example?

>Rather, if Paul sees me as "dangerously"
>disregarding linguistics, cognitive science, and other social sciences,
>then he can presumably tell me how this has affected my discussions of the

Your if... then... claim does not necessarily follow. But anyway, the
answer is because the example is uninformed and unsubstantiated where it is
not vacuous (see previous list).

>Therefore, I would like Pual himself to tell me how how HIS
>explanation of why the Hutterites have spread instead of going extinct uses
>linguistics, cognitive science, etc. I didn't see any linguistic or
>cognitive science arguments in his posts on the Hutterites, but my present
>invitation affords him an opportunity to share those insights.

I wasn't aware I had an explanation. Aaron, I have nothing against what you
say about Hutterites per se (apart from the above) - simply that what you do
say has nothing to do with contagious thoughts, how they combine and
separate etc. You are simply saying beliefs survive because they can be
passed on non-genetically (the only way they can get passed on). This is
simply saying that those beliefs that survive get passed on, and their
prevalence depends on how may get passed on.

>Specifically, Paul, how do you propose to use linguistics and cognitive
>science in a memetic explanation of why the Hutterites spread instead of
>going extinct.

By a) dropping vacuous and misleading neologisms, and b) building on the
literature on group psychology c) drawing from studies that have already
been conducted on Hutterites, d) backing up my claims with evidence.
Culture is transmitted non-genetically, by definition, and a group employing
standard techniques of social influence and compliance, especially with
reference to authority and power structures of groups and families will
increase its survival chances (see Cialdini 1988 for an introduction to
social influence (and a more limited introduction in Richard's Virus of
Mind), Petty and Cacioppo 1981 for an overview of techniques). Memetics
does not need to reinvent the wheel - especially where it has nothing new to

Cialdini R.B. (1988) Influence: Science and Practice ; Second Edition
Illinois Scott Foreman and Co

Petty RE., and Cacioppo, JT. (1981) Attitudes and Persuasion. U.S. Brown

Paul Marsden
Graduate Research Centre in the Social Sciences
University of Sussex
tel/fax (44) (0) 117 974 1279

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