Date: Tue, 6 Jul 1999 20:28:18 EDT
Subject: Re: Astrology
In a message dated 7/6/99 2:18:02 PM Central Daylight Time,
>> I can't say I'm terribly impressed with the "contagion" analogy, simply
because it virtually obliterates the human as willful agent.<<
I don't think that it has to, but lately amongst memeticists it has tended to
be unnecessarily taken to do just that.
>> 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.<<
This sounds a little incoherent to me with the rest of what you are saying.
We have biological viruses and computer viruses, both of which you are
willing to call "viruses" and memes fall "somewhere in-between," -- and you
therefore are not willing to call it a virus? Or even discuss it in terms of
contagion? That seems odd. If you have two prime examples of a category,
and something falls between those examples, rather than outside, then it
sounds like it is likely part of that category. Just trying to understand
what you are saying vis a vis your other two accepted "viruses." and why
memes are not.
>> 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.<<
If it lends understanding, then we SHOULD speak metaphorically.
Understanding generally precedes knowledge, not the other way around. That's
why good teachers use metaphor a lot.
>> Biologists shouldn't use language that way in describing natural
selection; it is a Lamarckian holdover that misinforms. A "memeticist" should
be even more careful with his/her language concerning "cultural selection."<<
I think mostly we should just remember that it is a metaphor -- that will
inoculate us from excessive misinformation while allowing us the crucial
understanding that metaphor brings. Blackmore has called this Campbell's
Rule which simply reminds us that memes are not genes and that culture is not
biology -- even though that is the initial point of metaphorical
understanding. The extent to which Campbell's Rule applies to memes
describes the degree to which the metaphorical entailment is not applicable,
and therefore also the degree to which it is.
>> 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
I don't see why we can't consider both aspects instead of choosing one to the
exclusion of the other. You seem to be wanting to make the same cognitive
maneuver as those you criticize -- only in reverse.
>>Anyway, those are a few memes of someone just getting his metaphorical
feet wet in this area.<<
Glad to see you in the wading pool!
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