Re: Astrology

Thomas McMahan (tamcmahan@erols.com)
Tue, 06 Jul 1999 15:11:21 -0400

Date: Tue, 06 Jul 1999 15:11:21 -0400
From: Thomas McMahan <tamcmahan@erols.com>
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: Re: Astrology

I can't say I'm terribly impressed with the "contagion" analogy, simply
because it virtually obliterates the human as willful agent. A
biological virus does what it does without outside guidance; a computer
virus has definite guidance, it doesn't simply "evolve" on its own, it
has a creator(s). Memes fall somewhere in-between; they have a
creator(s) (at some point in time), but once released into the cultural
"soup" can develop in many ways and for many different reasons. I can
appreciate the logic in your argument about why something like astrology
survives. I just think we have to be careful about the language here. To
say that it "exploits" or "implicitly tells" someone to do something
sounds very pre-planned and deterministic. Perhaps you are saying this
metaphorically, not unlike many biologists who discuss genes or species
"doing" something in order to gain some sort of advantage. Biologists
shouldn't use language that way in describing natural selection; it is a
Lemarckian holdover that misinforms. A "memeticist" should be even more
careful with his/her language concerning "cultural selection." I think
we should maintain focus on why people chose memes (beliefs in sexual
reproduction among them) and not how it is somehow the other way around.

Anyway, those are a few memes of someone just getting his metaphorical
feet wet in this area.

Thomas Mc

Aaron Lynch wrote:
>
> At 11:41 AM 7/6/99 -0500, Aaron Lynch wrote:
> >At 12:10 PM 4/30/99 EDT, Jake <MemeLab@aol.com> wrote:
> >>Quoting Aaron in regards to astrology:
> >>
> >>>>Resembling
> >> a paperless chain letter in some ways, the thought contagion also
> behaves in
> >> humans much as a computer virus behaves in computers. Though it does not
> >> erase its hosts memory, it can make it harder to find a partner deemed
> >> "compatible" by arbitrarily narrowing the field. So like a sexually
> >> transmitted microorganism, astrology ideas parasitize human mating for
> their
> >> own reproduction.<<
> >>
> ><snip>
> >
> >At 07:23 PM 4/30/99 +1000, Chris Lofting wrote:
> >>Aaron's website has the following entry:
> >>
> >>"Brief Example: Consider the belief that you need to find a romantic partner
> >>of a "compatible" astrological sign. This notion causes singles who have it
> >>to raise the subject of astrological sign compatibility with each new
> >>potential partner, in order to determine compatibility. So the idea exploits
> >>human mating drives to get itself retransmitted. It is a "sexually
> >>transmitted belief," implicitly telling some hosts to send, in effect, 4 or
> >>12 copies of this idea to potential partners before accepting anyone for
> >>further dating. That includes people who are manipulated to retransmit even
> >>if spreading the word is not their specific motive for doing so. Resembling
> >>a paperless chain letter in some ways, the thought contagion also behaves in
> >>humans much as a computer virus behaves in computers. Though it does not
> >>erase its hosts memory, it can make it harder to find a partner deemed
> >>"compatible" by arbitrarily narrowing the field. So like a sexually
> >>transmitted microorganism, astrology ideas parasitize human mating for their
> >>own reproduction. This is not all that the new theory has to say about
> >>astrology, and astrology is not a special case. Similar analyses shed fresh
> >>light on a vast range of ancient religions and recent ideologies."
> >
> ><snip>
> >
> >Thanks, Jake and Chris. As this material has been quoted by both of you, I
> >give the citation (including date) as follows:
> >
> >Lynch, A. 1997. "Thought Contagion Memetics."
> >http://www.mcs.net/~aaron/thoughtcontagion.html.
> >
> >(The URL was in use as simply the web page for the book _Thought Contagion_
> >before 1997, but in 1997 I broadened the site's content, gave it the title
> >"Thought Contagion Memetics," and incorporated the "brief example" of
> >astrological compatibility memes exploiting human mating drives to get
> >themselves retransmitted.)
> >
>
> See also
>
> Lynch, A. 1999. "Scientifically Conservative Memetics." Skeptic, 7 (2)
> [forthcoming]. This is the rebuttal I sent in February to "Memes--What Are
> They Good For?" (SKEPTIC, V. 6, #3) by James Polichak. It contains the
> following section on astrology, again used as a (necessarily) brief example:
>
> "...consider the belief that you need to find a romantic partner of a
> "compatible" astrological sign. The idea causes singles who have it to
> raise the subject of astrological sign compatibility with new potential
> partners to determine "compatibility"--effectively exploiting human mating
> drives to get itself copied into more minds. Like a paperless chain letter,
> it implicitly tells some hosts to send 4 or 12 copies of this idea to
> prospective mates before choosing one for further dating. Yet as a
> "sexually transmitted belief," it may lower its adherents' reproduction by
> limiting those mate choices, not unlike the reproductive harm of STD
> spreading while harming the genitals. Understanding this can help one to
> see how millions of believers _can_ all be wrong, even to their own
> detriment. Therefore, adding some discussion of memetics to a skeptical
> treatment of astrology can make for a more potent refutation."
>
> --Aaron Lynch
>
> http://www.mcs.net/~aaron/thoughtcontagion.html
>
> ===============================================================
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===============================================================
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)
see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit