Re: virus: "father" of "memetics"

From: Jonathan Davis (
Date: Fri Jul 26 2002 - 04:13:31 MDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Anthony" <>
To: <>
Sent: Thursday, July 25, 2002 3:59 PM
Subject: virus: "father" of "memetics"

> On 25 Jul 2002 at 12:53, Jonathan Davis wrote:
> > > Has anyone noticed that academics think memes are are stupid
> > > idea? Has Dawkins?
> >
> > Perhaps you could give us a few examples?
> Ask any academic familiar with the idea.

Like who for example?

>Memes are part of Dawkins' popular literature.

What do you mean by this? He coined the term and represents one shrinking
segment of current thinking on memes. I hope you are not suffering for the
misapprehension that memes and memetics are limited to Dawkins utterances on
the topic.

> Others" is a good book of scientific quality in this area. Of course, it
> doesn't cover memes, since that isn't a scientifically validated concept.

I have not read this book, but it is a tome on Evolutionary Psychology -
one of the competitor theories seeking to explain cultural replication.

> > I would also like to see
> > some reasons why you (or these 'authorities') think memes are stupid
> > idea?
> Me? I like the meme idea - I like ideas.

Very good. Now for those reason....

> Funny how you dismiss academics by calling them "academics". Does a
> who doesn't agree with a widely sold and easily digestable idea no longer
a scholar?

Ahem...the reasons why "academics think memes are stupid idea" please. Names
please. Examples of their denunciations please. In short, back up your

You were appealing to authority by claiming that "academics" - every one of
them no less - think memes are a "silly idea". I would like you to back up
you claims.

> > It would cheer me to hear that 'academics' thought memes are a stupid
> > idea. These are after all probably the same people who believe in
> > transgressing the Boundaries towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of
> > Quantum Gravity.
> How strange.
> How is it Dawkins thinks that scientists can talk about sociological,
> political, philosophical and
> psychological ideas - outside of their own expertise - whereas social
> scientists and artists cannot
> discuss scientific ideas outside of their fields? What gives scientists
> ability to do this?

I am not sure what has inspired this tangent. You may be confusing this
discussion with the anti-Postmodernism discussions elsewhere. As for you
question, I advise you to ask Dawkins 1. If he does indeed believe what you
say he does 2. If he does, then why.

> This is why "meme" is not a respected idea - the popular scientist
> is speculating outside of his own field, just as the pomos do theirs.

This is where I can see that this discussion is doomed.

Firstly you base your criticism of a subject you appear to know little about
on a pair of fallacies - the ad hominem that Dawkins was not qualified to
comment or speculate about replicators and the straw man that memes are
limited to Dawkins formulation.

You are 20 years behind the cutting edge on this topic. Dawkins merely
coined the term and posited a question: What if there was another
replicator - other than genes - operating in the world? He has done
virtually nothing on memes ever since.

Some of your criticism are correct, but for the wrong reasons.

Memetics does need to make the grade as a science, but strenuous efforts are
underway to do just that. I strongly recommend The Electric Meme by Robert
Aunger ( ) as both a primer and a way of seeing just
how far memetics have come from Dawkins aside.

Here is a primer on Memes by Susan Blackmore that you might find interesting
and educational:

> At least, this is how many academics (or "academics"?) see it.

I do not know how you can speak for all academics. This is especially true
considering you have given no examples to support your claims.

> Personally, I think it is good for both "sides" to makes such speculations
> and be informed by the
> other "side" - just as the pomos are and just as Dawkins and his
> followers should be.

The good old two cultures, but this time between so called hard and soft

> The humanities and th sciences must come together. The split between them
> dangerous. Our
> understanding must be holisitic. The idea is to bring the sciences and the
> arts/social sciences
> back together again, into a dialogue, where they can learn from each
> The urgency of this
> is evidenced by the fact that no member of the US congress has an
> postgraduate scientific
> qualification - yet, many of the science issues they have to deal with
> require PhD level
> understanding. How can they legislate? They don't. They rely on their
> moralities.
> The failures to unite this gap between scientific, low-level, explanations
> and high level
> humanities explanations has problematic political implications. This is
> evidenced postmodern
> theories as discussed, or by the common notion that nation-states are
> separable, not part of a
> unified biosphere, which leads to disastrous policies regarding pollution
> control.

I broadly agree with you on this. The questions is, how does one unify?
Which one adapts?



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