Re: Memetics not tautological or circular

Aaron Lynch (
Fri, 04 Jun 1999 09:22:30 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 09:22:30 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Memetics not tautological or circular
In-Reply-To: <2CDFE2C8F598D21197C800C04F911B20224C76@DELTA.newhouse.akzo

At 08:40 AM 6/4/99 +0200, Gatherer, D. (Derek) wrote:
>However, when expressed in terms of mathematics and measurable
>propagation parameters, (Lynch, 1998) both memetic evolution theory and
>genetic evolution theory are not circular. Neither are they tautological.
>In the technical language of my 1998 JoM-EMIT papaer, one says that (for
>instance) N1 goes from one value to another value over a given time
>interval because propagation parameters R1, R2, K11, K12, K22, K21,
>gamma12, beta12, etc. remained within such and such intervals (according to
>empirical measurement) over the specified time interval.
>If the above is mathematically true, then it is a tautology because, as
>Wittgenstein among others has pointed out, all mathematical truths are
>tautologies (ie. they are necessarily true).
>The question is not whether the mathematical theory is tautologous or not
>(because it's bound to be tautologous if you've done the equations
>correctly), but whether or not the theoretical model fits with empirical
>reality (ie. does the theory have any predictive power)
>As far as Coyne's other statement goes: "The spread of genes through natural
>selection is not tautological because one can predict their fate through
>their known effects on replication and the reproduction of their carriers."
>This may well be true for genetics, but try the memetic equivalent.....
>"The spread of memes through natural selection is not tautological because
>one can predict their fate through their known effects on replication and
>the reproduction of their carriers."
>That is only true if one takes behaviours to be memes, because we can
>predict the effects of behaviour on survival and reproduction. We cannot
>predict the effects of any hypothesised internal mental entity because we
>know nothing about such entitites.

We could go on and on for months revisiting the matter of indirect
observation in science generally and internalist memetics in particular. So
I will set that aside.

As for tautologies, what is not tautological is the assertion that N1 goes
from one value to the other value over the given time interval. It is not a
statement of pure mathematics, but rather applied mathematics. Thus it is
not *necessarily* true, but contingent upon what values of those
propagation parameters are measured (using indirect methods of course.)
There is also no circularity of the form "meme 1 is fit because it is
prevalent, and prevalent because it is fit."

--Aaron Lynch

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