Re: Derek's mission

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Tue, 9 Mar 1999 17:09:17 EST

From: <>
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 17:09:17 EST
Subject: Re: Derek's mission

In a message dated 3/9/99 1:48:54 PM Central Standard Time,

<< Discussing the notion that I have abandoned the position of my 1998 paper
may give the false impression that I have actually abandoned the 1998
thesis. Yet the 1998 paper is very explicit that I consider the evolution
of brain-stored information to be only a subset of cultural evolution in
general. I nevertheless maintain that it is perfectly legitimate to write a
paper focusing mainly on that aspect of cultural evolution. It is even
legitimate to write a paper focusing on just a specific belief of a
specific movement.

Because my 1998 paper already posits that cultural evolution is a broader
phenomenon than just the evolution by natural selection of replicated
brain-stored information, ("thought contagions" in non-technical parlance),
doing subsequent work with non-mnemon event diagrams should be taken as
building upon earlier work, not "burying the dead." >>

Right. I didn't mean to imply anything about your position in that specific
paper, I was more referring to Derek's apparent over eagerness to bury it for

>>Again, I recommend that people read my 1998 paper to see what it actually

I will. I think I have read it somewhere before. It is in JOM isn't it? I
will give it a closer look. I respect your work, starting with your book,
which was the first one that I read on the subject of memes. You might say
that in some measure, I am HERE because of you. My opinions that I have
expressed here, relate generally to the "thought contagion" and "mind virus"
computer/biology metaphors. Since entering this subject, what initially
attracted me to it - the metaphor in Dawkin's essay, and the title of your
book, as well written and thought out as they both were - I now see as a
source for some confusion and lack of progress.

I didn't intend my comments to relate specifically to your 1998 paper. I
would need to read that more closely before I could give offer any opinions on
that. Most of what I know about that at this moment is from your's and
Derek's Email discussion here. I would need to brush up more on the original
before firing off on that.

>>I do not see this as a zero-sum game. Science offers more ways of progress
than calling for the death of a person or a position or both. Theories can
also be *modified*, a fact that applies to all of us.

--Aaron Lynch<<

Agreed. Only occassionally do we find ideas that need to be completely
abandoned after apparent initial promise. And when we do, even good mistakes
done well, can keep others from having to repeat them. I don't suggest any of
this has been demonstrated as the case at this point. In science there are
very few if any zero-sum games as long as all the participants are honorable.
And I have seen no dishonor here.


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