Re: FW: Memetics in Time magazine

Aaron Lynch (
Wed, 28 Apr 1999 17:34:21 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 17:34:21 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: FW: Memetics in Time magazine
In-Reply-To: <>

At 03:02 PM 4/28/99 EDT, wrote:
>In a message dated 4/28/99 9:58:22 AM Central Daylight Time,
> writes:
><< I agree that Aaron is right in saying that Dawkins has different
> he does, that's a fact. But within the scientific community, to allege that
> a scientist's opinion is based on anything other than mature consideration
> of the evidence is a really serious charge. It amounts to calling someone's
> scientific integrity into question. To take an example that you'll identify
> with, Jake, from your legal career, it's rather like accusing a policeman of
> throwing away a set of fingerprints. There is a difference between calling
> a detective wrong and calling a detective wilfully obstructive of justice.
> A detective's career can survive the first but not the second. Likewise for
> scientists.... >>
>I would think the equivalent in science would be to accuse someone of
>tampering or manipulating experimental or study results, not the things that
>Aaron is pointing out. Next might be misrepresenting the data of someone
>else's study. I certainly think that Dawkin's reputation can withstand the
>accusation of "fainthearted endorsement", or even the more damning,
>blood-thirsty, fire-spitting, venomous, accusation of "DEVIOUS endorsement"
>::: >gasp!< Ooooooooooohhhhhh!!! ;-) ::: . I am sure he would find it
>laughable to consider that his reputation or career might remotely be in any
>danger from this kind of accusation - even if it were to come from someone
>more luminary than Aaron - . . .like say . . . Dennet. - even if he were to
>publicly *confess* to such a "sin".

That's right.

I certainly have not accused Dawkins of fabricating anything. In suggesting
a possible conflict of interest on Dawkins's part, I have only suggested
that it may affect what information he chooses to present and what he
chooses to omit--quite a different matter from falsifying data. Last
summer, as I was preparing to give a talk to the Society for the Scientific
Study of Sexuality, I heard Elizabeth Algier talk on the related topic of
selective citation, the common problem of scientists selectively citing
studies that support their thesis and omitting those that undermine their
thesis. So the "sins" I accuse him of are mainly sins of omission. He has
omitted reference to more technical/quantitative memetics even as he did an
excellent job of calling attention to more frivolous material. This
warrants criticism regardless of what may or may not have motivated it.
Some discussion of motivations is warranted as well, since we may want to
think twice about having a sociobiologist as the main spokesperson for

>The inquisition is now in session - Let the floggings begin!

You are a most cruel inquisitor, Jake. :-<<

--Aaron Lynch

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