RE: socially selected memes

Gatherer, D. (
Fri, 30 Jul 1999 09:03:18 +0200

Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 09:03:18 +0200
From: "Gatherer, D. (Derek)" <>
Subject: RE: socially selected memes
To: "''" <>


If problem context determines the possible solution space, as I argued
in my essay in Biology and Philosophy, then there is no sense in which
we can say that science *as a whole* advances absolutely, although we
can say, and this is not often observed, that it makes progress within a
problem space locally and relative to a research program or discipline.


Yes, I don't dispute the possibility of local advancement. Intellectual
environments, like ecological ones, can remain fairly static for
considerable periods of time, so there is often ample scope for honing
theories to get the maximum explanatory power necessary for, say, a current
set of problems.

This I suppose is where Lakatos comes in, and we have to think in terms of
research programs. Now, to what extent, then, is memetics a healthy
research program, in the Lakatosian sense??

A science journalist once argued with me that disciplines only really come
of age when they generate new technologies. There is something a bit
verificationist about this, admittedly - eg. I verify molecular biology by
doing a bit of genetic engineering. The blue mouse produced by genetic
engineering is a potent argument for the soundness (overall, if not in
detail) of the underlying theory. After all, how could such a feat be
achieved if molecular biology was essentially in error? Likewise nuclear
warheads for atomic physics. In those cases Lakatos would have to say 'Yes,
healthy research program....'

Anyway, as you said, Friday morning musings....

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