Re: Astrology

Thomas McMahan (tamcmahan@erols.com)
Tue, 06 Jul 1999 20:24:48 -0400

Date: Tue, 06 Jul 1999 20:24:48 -0400
From: Thomas McMahan <tamcmahan@erols.com>
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: Re: Astrology

"Do you deny that infection tends towards the most suitable vectors
first?"

No, I just deny that you can treat ideas and cultural agents exactly
like viruses, right down to how they are transmitted.

"Even when it's (gossip) calculating and deliberate? Or are you saying
that never happens"?

No, of course not. I'm just denying that you can make a nice, neat
distinction between what is malicious and what is not. What if two
people think that they are harmlessly talking about someone, and word
gets back to that someone who takes that to be a malicious act? Is that
really malicious or not? Does it really matter to the person offended?

"Do you deny that a personality can be defined by which sorts of memes
will find the consciousness permeable? And, indeed, does this not carry
with it evolutionary factors with ramifications to success and
survival"?

At this point, yes I am denying that, because I don't think memes "find"
consciousness, permeable or otherwise. I think consciousness "finds"
memes. Until this idea is fleshed out much more philosophically, until
finer techniques are developed linking the cultural action of language
(language is the key here, after all, because if memes exist and evolve
and can be transmitted from agent to agent, they are being transmitted
via the vehicle of language) to the physical inner workings of the
brain, I refuse to treat memes as anything more than a kind of thought
experiment (a very good one I think) and not something discrete or
concrete like viruses. Even if memes are another valid kind of
replicator, they almost certainly will not behave exactly like other
types of replicators; remember, the analogy is to genes anyway, not
viruses, and I don't believe that we should necessarily go around
assuming that memes behave just like genes either, because they almost
certainly will not. I certainly understand making analogies to get an
idea going, but don't get so caught up in it that you lose sight of the
fact that it is, after all, just an analogy.

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 6:56 PM
> > 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.
> Do you deny that infection tends towards the most suitable vectors first?
>
> >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,
> I dealt with malicious gossip, specifically. Perhaps I should have put it
> more strongly, and specified character assassination.
>
> >getting to your
> > specific analogy, including people of conscious and intelligence, and
> > whether or not the gossip is malicious or evil is completely subjective
> Even when it's calculating and deliberate? Or are you saying that never
> happens?
>
> > 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.
> Do you deny that a personality can be defined by which sorts of memes will
> find the consciousness permeable? And, indeed, does this not carry with it
> evolutionary factors with ramifications to success and survival?
>
> >
> > 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
> >
>
> ===============================================================
> 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