RE: Parody of Science

Aaron Lynch (
Fri, 30 Jul 1999 13:25:58 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 13:25:58 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: Parody of Science
In-Reply-To: <>

At 11:08 AM 7/30/99 -0500, Aaron Lynch wrote:
>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)

The section in question is titled "Breast Fetishes," and focuses on the
(largely American) phenomenon of males vocally expressing preferences for
large breasts. (p. 85-85). Marsden's out of context quote of a sentence
fragment skips my main argument and mislabels the subject heading.

>>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)

Anyone mislead by these out of context sentence fragments can read the
masturbation discussion in the online introductory chapter at as well as the section in chapter 4.
Note that my phrase "commercial use" does not refer to use in
advertisements, but use on commercial media such as television and
radio--most famously "Seinfeld," on October 26, 1992, the episode titled
"The Contest" (David, L. 1992).

>>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)

The last sentence is a falsification, and one of many I did not have space
to discuss in my forthcoming reply in JASSS. The actual statement from p.
57 reads "Seeing other women enjoy comfort and attachment from a real baby
heightens the desire still further, to a point sometimes called "baby lust"
in contemporary America." Note also that the section in question is not
about why women want children, but one titled "Baby Dolls for Girls and
Hero Dolls for Boys." (p. 56-58) No part of that section is offered as the
explanation of why so many women want children, or even as well-developed
look into memetic factors. Rather, the sentence I just quoted was made to
assure readers that I was NOT saying that experience with baby dolls was
the whole story. Marsden's sentence "This is what lies behind the
phenomenon of "baby lust" is quite contrary to what _Thought Contagion_
actually says. Again, anything said about _Thought Contagion_ in Marsden's
"review" must be checked for accuracy by reading the book itself.

>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."


David, L. 1992. Seinfeld: "The Contest" #04-0411. Beverly Hills, CA: Castle
Rock Entertainment.

--Aaron Lynch

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