Re: Astrology

Thomas McMahan (tamcmahan@erols.com)
Tue, 06 Jul 1999 18:56:17 -0400

Date: Tue, 06 Jul 1999 18:56:17 -0400
From: Thomas McMahan <tamcmahan@erols.com>
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: Re: Astrology

No, I still don't buy the contagion analogy, at least not quite that
literally. When you try to take that analogy lock, stock, and barrel
from a biological premise and place it into a cultural one it ends up
sounding silly; memes "hiding" and so forth like they're conscious
entities or, like viruses, have evolved specific techniques to ward off
specific invaders. They have done no such thing. The meme premise is one
of replication and replication only. While there may be some parallels
to draw between biological and cultural replication, there are going to
be many vast differences. Also, everyone gossips, getting to your
specific analogy, including people of conscious and intelligence, and
whether or not the gossip is malicious or evil is completely subjective
and very much in the eye of the beholder. If we start talking of
"others" participating in certain kinds of memes that "better" people
don't, this is quickly going to dissolve into social Darwinism, a
meme-complex best left in the past.

Aaron Agassi wrote:
>
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: fmb-majordomo@mmu.ac.uk [mailto:fmb-majordomo@mmu.ac.uk]On Behalf
> > Of Thomas McMahan
> > Sent: Tuesday, July 06, 1999 3:11 PM
> > 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.
> The Astrology meme needs to find a suitable host/vector. Consider the case
> of malicious gossip. To paraphrase Sun Tsu, evil gossip is like water,
> flowing effortlessly to the low ground, and away from the obstacle of high
> places. Or like electricity and conductivity. The memes of malicious gossip
> leap between receptive hosts, and conceal themselves from critical thinkers
> and people of conscience, who might mount any immune response, and the
> victims most directly injured. In this way, the memes of malicious gossip
> avoid spawning hunter-killer memos of counter propaganda.
>
> In so far as malicious gossip is an anti-competitive ploy in sexual
> politics, it too can be sexually transmitted.
>
> >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
> > >
> > > ===============================================================
> > > 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
> >
> > ===============================================================
> > 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
> >
>
> ===============================================================
> 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

===============================================================
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