Re: The freedoms of an internet gadfly

Aaron Lynch (
Tue, 13 Apr 1999 20:07:13 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 20:07:13 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: The freedoms of an internet gadfly
In-Reply-To: <>

At 07:42 PM 4/13/99 EDT, wrote:
>In a message dated 4/13/99 12:33:36 PM Central Daylight Time,
> writes:
>>>> In a message dated 4/13/1999 10:23:00 AM !!!First Boot!!!,
> > writes:
> >
> > >> Jake, mate. Much as I am on your side in this whole
> > argument, I have to say that this kind of statement is not
> > going to do you any favours: people will stop listening
> > pretty sharpish if you say this kind of thing. Sue Blackmore
> > is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology who has had a book
> > published by Oxford University Press and personally endorsed
> > by no less than Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett.<<
> >
> > And this is supposed to make a difference to me? Should I begin
> > genuflecting? Does this suddenly exempt her ideas from rational
> > If I see enough big names behind a book should I cease thought and
> > uncritically accept it?
> Jake, I've made this remark for myself many times: whoever writes a book, on
> whatever subject, of whatever quality, all of sudden is some NAME. Very
> interesting subject for memeticists.You are absolutely right: the more big
> behind something, the more cautious and critical one should be.
> (For clarity: I am not making specific comments on any book here). <<
>And of course for this reason, big names tend to be appropriately cautious
>when they put their names to something. At this point, I still think that
>Dennet and Dawkins were not wrong to endorse this book. Aside from the
>of "self as an illusion" problem that I have, I do think that Blackmore is
>otherwise truly making "the best shot" for the theory of the meme.


Actually, I am not sure how much reading Dawkins has given to memetics
works on a quantitative and technical level than is publishable in
lay-oriented books. As only a part-time memeticist, Dawkins has little time
to read such works, which I consider to be the real best shot for the
theory. (Blackmore does discuss some mathematical models of cultural
evolution, but only ones that have give undue emphasis on genetic
advantage--not the ones that might have been considered possible "best
shots" in quantitative memetics theory.)

People with "big names" often do not have time to read all the material
they want to read even in their own fields. In memetics, the situation is
worse: all of the most famous people involved in it have gotten their big
names through work outside of memetics. Dawkins in evolutionary biology;
Hofstadter and Dennett in cognitive science. Blackmore, though less famous,
established her fame in parapsychology. The time that Dawkins or Dennett or
Hofstadter can devote to readings in memetics is thus much less than the
time that, for instance, E.O. Wilson can devote to readings in
sociobiology. Moreover, they may feel less cautious in writing endorsements
in memetics, because memetics is outside of their primary fields. Hence,
"big name" endorsements are perhaps less compelling in memetics than in
more established fields. And I say this despite having two big name
endorsements on my own book. Big name endorsements should not stop you from
raising rational criticisms of any book, and that includes a book on


--Aaron Lynch

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)