RE: JASSS Critical Review of Thought Contagion

Aaron Lynch (
Wed, 05 May 1999 12:54:33 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 05 May 1999 12:54:33 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: JASSS Critical Review of Thought Contagion
In-Reply-To: <2CDFE2C8F598D21197C800C04F911B20224BCB@DELTA.newhouse.akzo

At 08:46 AM 5/4/99 +0200, Gatherer, D. (Derek) wrote:
>I still do not think we are having a productive discussion. First, I do not
>agree with the slant that you gave to the new thread subject heading.
>Okay, I'll go back to the original. Perhaps capriciousness momentarily
>overcame me.

Fine, that is a better topic heading. Less sensational than topics and
titles like "Extra! Brodie Defends Lynch!" "Wilbur and Orville," "Why the
Thought Contagion Metaphor is Retarding the Progress of Memetics," etc.

Still, the point you don't quite seem to appreciate is that the segment on
homosexuality in this thread was offered ONLY to show that the discussion
of homosexuality in _Thought Contagion_ is nowhere near as simple and
childish as Marsden's review suggests. I was NOT intending to launch
another thread in which the two of us would slogg it out yet again. (I know
this will disappoint all the fans of "Dr. Intellectuo vs. Mento the Mind
Bender.") I should point out, however, that other memeticists do not even
have the time to subscribe to this list, let alone take up every debate
that comes their way. I certainly don't see Blackmore on this list, for

>Second, I think that the emotions have become too intense for productive
>I suppose we have had some heated exchanges in the past, but those were
>mostly about what we might call the philosophical aspects of memetics - what
>is a meme, what are the implications of the theory etc, but this current
>matter is about straight evolutionary theory. I'm not actually presenting
>my own ideas, so I don't feel any sort of paternal affection for them.

That you do not feel paternal affection for my ideas is abundantly clear.
Our past exchanges give me the impression that if I debate you as I did
when you first joined this list (as bmsdgath), I am likely to see my effort
as accomplishing little more than helping you develop a more elaborated way
of misinterpreting or misrepresenting my work. (That's the way it looks
from my perspective, even if not from yours.) If I start defending my
position too effectively, I might also reasonably expect your posts to grow
longer with replies directed at more and more pieces of my own posts, and
often taken out of context with meanings I consider distorted. Hence, the
futility problem I have referred to before, despite considerable time being
spent. I already see the pattern beginning to repeat on the homosexuality
topic. I might have taken up the full discussion instead of focusing on the
meta-discussion if you and I had established a pattern of efficient,
productive discourse, but we haven't.

Moreover, I do have pressing memetics projects that I do not discuss on
this list--partly lack of time to argue about them. Look at it this way:
just because I have been in memetics for a long time and applied it to
considerably more topics than the average list subscriber doesn't mean that
I have proportionately more time for listserver debates now that this
technology has arrived. I will debate memetic topics, but not in proportion
to how many of them I have considered over the years.

Now you are free to present whatever algebra you want based on whatever
stated or unstated premises you want. The premises in my book that led to
the possibility of the taboo increasing the rates of "gay genes" were that
there is negative inclusive fitness for phenotypically expressed
homosexuality (e.g., for a homozygous recessive gene) and that the genes
had nevertheless achieved a non-zero *equilibrium* prevalence. There are
various scenarios that could give rise to this situation, but as I said
before, the topic requires a full-length paper. One of those scenarios,
however, is that the gene is a recessive one that confers advantage in the
heterozygous state, perhaps by improving abilities at same-sex
bonding/cooperation, perhaps by numerous other mechanisms. Regardless of
mechanism, there certainly could have been thousands of generations for the
gene or genes to reach approximate equilibrium by the time the taboo came
along. I do not, however, assume that that pre-taboo equilibrium level
would have been equal to rates estimated for the modern populations that
show the proposed genetic effects of thousands of years of the taboo. Nor
do buy into what Laumann et. al. (1994) and Michael et. al. (1994) call
"the myth of 10 percent," but consider a more likely value of q to be 0.2.
Now, one version of your premises do not assume that homosexuality genes
without the taboo are at an equilibrium prevalence, but deal with a
declining prevalence being halted by the taboo. That might be a worthwhile
scenario to consider, and might still be an interesting genetic effect of a
memetic taboo. But I do not wish to argue it with you. This is a very
extensive topic.

Regardless of how you might re-do your premises in future posts, I still
expect you to assert the foregone conclusion that "Aaron MUST be wrong!",
perhaps along with a hint of "He must be STOPPED!" When I announced that I
had seen a major fallacy in one of your earlier posts, you did not need to
know what that fallacy was in order to assert that I was claiming "a major
fallacy in the Hardy-Weinberg-Fisher model of selection against a recessive
deleterious allele" rather than in your application of it. You are free to
say that, but once you have, you support my claim that you take "Aaron MUST
be wrong!" as a foregone conclusion, and that you are willing to distort my
statements in order to support that conclusion.

While we're on the subject of fallacies, let's consider this little gem
from your post titled "Homosexuality gene-culture coevolutionary model part

>I also hope that I have
>demonstrated that we MemeLabbers are neither 'intimidated' by maths nor are
>we merely 'social scientists who although symptathetic to memetics fail to
>understand its quantitative theory'.

The fact that you can do algebra for genetics does not demonstrate that
Marsden (whose review was the subject of my rebuttal) and Blackmore (whose
book was mentioned in my rebuttal) have both the background and the
inclination to consider systems of memetic differential equations to the
point of understanding them. As I indicated earlier in this thread, I have
seen evidence that they do not understand my technical work. It is also
interesting that you are now implying that all this dispute is really about
"MemeLabbers" versus Aaron. (Someone writing privately also gave the
impression that "MemeLabbers" were in fact running coordinated attacks on
my work as a territorial offensive.) In any case, if the whole thing is
really about alliances and loyalties, and the emotions invested in them,
then nothing I can say mathematically or scientifically will change that.
The argument is pointless, as we can already tell in advance that our
disagreements (based as they apparently are on "MemeLabbers vs. Aaron")
will remain if not grow stronger by arguing them. If I had published my
hypothesis about homosexuality under a pseudonym, it might have been given
more serious consideration by "MemeLabbers." Yet given its present
treatment as a matter of personal alliances, I cannot expect an acceptably
rational treatment, trappings notwithstanding.

Laumann, Edward O., Gagnon, John H., Michael, Robert T. and Michaels,
Stuart 1994. _The Social Organization of Sexuality_. Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press.

Michael, Robert T., Gagnon, John H., Laumann, Edward O. and Kolata, Gina
1994. _Sex In America: A Definitive Survey_. Boston: Little, Brown and

--Aaron Lynch

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