RE: "Retarding the Progress" - A Call for Specifics

Aaron Lynch (
Fri, 26 Feb 1999 13:34:07 -0600

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 13:34:07 -0600
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: "Retarding the Progress" - A Call for Specifics
In-Reply-To: <2CDFE2C8F598D21197C800C04F911B200CAEA3@DELTA.newhouse.akzo

At 05:15 PM 2/26/99 +0100, Derek Gatherer wrote:
>Aaron wrote:
> >What I see here is a distaste for that "calculus of mnemon
> >consistent with your emphasis on observable behaviours and
>artifacts. It is
> >an assertion of a stance, but I remain unconvinced that anything in
> >1996 or Lynch 1998 has retarded the progress of memetics in the
> >case or any other example to which I have actually applied my
> >conceptualization.
>You're right, I do have a distaste for the calculus of mnemon
>instantiations, but that distaste is built on its internal difficulties (as
>I have previously talked about) rather than any prior behaviourist agenda.

Well, I don't mean to rehash an old argument. I do, however, fail to see
how the symbolic representation of mnemons or their event diagrams has
retarded progress on a specific topic like the Hutterites. What I would
want to see is some kind of memetic research or insight on this matter that
was somehow stopped or delayed by the mnemon diagrams or the term "thought
contagion," and I simply do not see that. A more defensible title for your
paper might therefore have been something like "A Critique of the 'Thought
Contagion' Metaphor and Problems with the Theory of Mnemons." I would still
have written a dissenting commentary, however.

Speaking of titles, my subject line almost seems like an invitation to the
15th annual "Retarding the Progress" workshop. ;-)

> >As for the book title, I suppose it is partly a matter of taste. I
> >however, seek out the advice of some of those who had published in
> >first. For instance, I distinctly remember Doug Hofstadter telling
>me over
> >dinner "that's a wonderful title!"
>I have never had dinner with Douglas Hofstadter (nor indeed lunch with David
>Hull). You do indeed keep exalted company. Hofstadter's work of the 70s -
>I'm thinking of the stuff about self-replicating sentences, seems to me to
>presage the current work being done by Pocklington and Best.

That work was "Viral Sentences and Self-Replicating Structures" in January,
1983 Scientific American. That article prompted me to make my first contact
with Hofstadter by sending a few chapters from my originally planned and
more technical book "Abstract Evolution." (Fortunately, he had help sorting
all the mail going to him at Scientific American.) Hofstadter's 1983
article is re-printed with a post-script in his 1985 book "Metamagical
Themas." I don't believe in a "central dogma" of memetics, and therefore
have no problem with replicator analysis of "external" things like
sentences on paper or on the Internet.

--Aaron Lynch

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