# RE: Astrology

Aaron Agassi (agassi@erols.com)
Tue, 6 Jul 1999 20:46:05 -0400

```From: "Aaron Agassi" <agassi@erols.com>
To: <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: Astrology
Date: Tue, 6 Jul 1999 20:46:05 -0400
```

> -----Original Message-----
> From: fmb-majordomo@mmu.ac.uk [mailto:fmb-majordomo@mmu.ac.uk]On Behalf
> Of Thomas McMahan
> Sent: Tuesday, July 06, 1999 8:25 PM
> 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.
Apriori, I must agree that all analogies, save Tautology, break down. Has
this happened? And if so, how?
>
> "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.
There can be shades of gray, yes. But sometimes malice a for thought is very
distinct indeed. Or do you disagree?

>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?
As a person offended, discovering the innocence of the intention might very
well make every difference in the world, to me, for a number of reasons. But
as a question of transmission, and mutation, which certainly applies to
rumors of all kinds, a legitimate question arises:
Are there any differences in transmission patterns? How do specialized
vector networks arise?

>
> "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.
I suppose I'd have to agree. It is only by stretched metaphor that memes,
like viri taking control of the host, to then become proactive in their own
agendas.

>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)
Again, I tend to agree.

>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,
But communication is compared to infection.

>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.
Quite.

>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> 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
> > 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
> > > > > 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.)
> > > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > >
> > > > > > 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
>

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