RE: Parody of Science

Aaron Lynch (
Fri, 30 Jul 1999 11:08:17 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 11:08:17 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: Parody of Science
In-Reply-To: <000d01beda50$680bdf80$e157ac3e@paul>

At 07:57 AM 7/30/99 +0200, Paul Marsden wrote:
>Here are three of Aaron's specific claims made in TC and summarised in the
>JASSS review: If these are misinterpretations - check out the book
>directly, or perhaps Aaron will put us right by explaining what he did mean
>in one of these *specific* cases, and actually engage in debate of
>substance. Anyhow, why not pick one of these claims and discuss its
>theoretical and empirical merit?
>Why do men talk more about/prefer women's breasts than posteriors? "Indeed,
>young males may feel inhibited from discussing female posteriors because it
>reminds them of anal sex and homosexuality ..." (p. 86)
>Why is masturbation "prime material for commercial use"? Masturbation is a
>"prime material for commercial use" because it can make "... people pay
>attention long enough to hear a commercial, and then improve recall of the
>commercial by "downloading" it to an aroused audience." (p. 91)
>Why do women want to have children? "As the girl grows up, she learns that
>she is too old to play with dolls anymore. But the desire for comfort and
>attachment remains, and translates into a desire for a real baby". This is
>what lies behind the phenomenon of "baby lust". (p. 57)

As I have said before, any book can be made to look utterly silly by
picking out sentences and sentence fragments out of context. Threads based
on such out of context pieces might make great polemics for those who
angrily assert that memetics cannot study how beliefs spread, but again, I
recommend reading the book rather than following such threads based on
pieces of an extremely misleading "review."

Further evidence that Marsden knows of people who take hypotheses from the
book seriously comes to me from Marsden himself. I normally keep private
correspondence private, but when it exposes such seriously misleading
statements and is not agreed to be "off the record," I must make an
exception. Just over 3 months before his "review" came out, Marsden and I
had some correspondence in which he explained that he had landed "a
contract with an advertising agency working for the UK government regarding
designing an infectious meme to increase appropriate reactions to the
Millennium Bug." Then he said "BTW, the agency found your paper on the Net
on this and loved it - so thanks, and they've now got a shiny new copy of
TC in their research library." However, that paper (Lynch, 1998) uses
hypotheses about how apocalyptic beliefs spread that were first expressed
in Thought Contagion. Readers might therefore consider the possibility that
my "Millennium Contagion" paper competes with Marsden’s contract work, and
that perhaps his real problem is with the fact that people significant to
his business effort do take thought contagion memetics seriously. In any
event, there is at least the potential of business-related conflict of
interest that should be disclosed here.


Lynch, A. 1998. "The Millennium Contagion."

--Aaron Lynch

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