Re: Parody of Science

Paul Marsden (
Sat, 31 Jul 1999 11:57:04 +0200

From: "Paul Marsden" <>
To: "memetics" <>
Subject: Re: Parody of Science
Date: Sat, 31 Jul 1999 11:57:04 +0200


>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.



"The [baby dolls for girls] meme may also have emotional effects lasting
girlhood, the baby doll provides a source of comfort and make-believe
attachment. 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 desire for a real baby."

Aaron Lynch 1996, paperback TC - p57.

This is a causal argument. You explicitly say in the section describing the
"baby doll for girls" meme"" that this meme may cause an increase in women's
desire to have babies. Therefore a reason why women may want to have babies
is because, according to you, they have been exposed to the "baby doll for
girls" meme.

As I said in the review, there is nothing wrong with such speculations. In
fact, I find some of them intriguing. But unless they are logically sound
are theoretically and empirically informed, they are of no import. The
underlying memetic stance, that I think we both share, is radical and quite
exceptional when viewed from within the normal social scientific framework.
Exceptional claims require exceptional evidence. At the very least, they
require an exceptional attention to the logical structure of the arguments
that we make; either making explicit weaknesses in non-memetic approaches,
and/or making explicit the logical imperatives that follow from
non-controversial memetic domain assumptions. Otherwise, the term memetics
will be viewed as John Wilkins views it, a liability. In fact, the central
message of my review
echoes John's commentary on Why the thought contagion metaphor is retarding
the progress of memetics.

"I'm of the view that the term memetics is now a liability, at least until
it can be rehabilitated with some actual research instead of conjecture and

That REsearch, whether it is theoretical or empirical must, I suggest,
antecede memetic speculation if the enterprise is to be progressive. In
short, my programmatic claim is that memetic speculations must be
theoretically and empirically informed if memetics is not to be dismissed as
a jumble of half-baked largely recycled bad ideas. Maybe history will prove
me wrong.

Paul Marsden
Graduate Research Centre in the Social Sciences
University of Sussex
ICQ 35642304
Tel (44) (0) 958 733 414

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