RE: virus: The "science" of memes?

Richard Brodie (
Thu, 12 Dec 1996 12:32:32 -0800

>Well, I just finished reading Richard Brodie's book, "Virus of the

Thank you.

> and it is just as I suspected.

Things often turn out just as you suspect, don't they? I wonder why?

> Meme is just a metaphor for
>something else more familiar.

Oops! Didn't you read the part where I warned against coming to that
conclusion? Of course you're free to do so anyway, but you will have
missed the point.

> That something else is called
>brainwashing, propaganda, and persuasion.

Memetics explains those things to a degree certainly, but those are
tactics and techniques, not functional explanations.

> Therefore memetics is not a
>science but an art.

I won't disagree much. But in addition to the art of memetic
engineering, there is a baby science here which I would like to see
fleshed out.

> It reminds me of a book I saw in the New Age
>section titled, "The Science of Numerology". Science? If it truly
>were a science, then it would do more than rename something else more
>familiar...unless renaming it would give new insights into the
>subject which memetics does not.

I'm truly sorry you didn't get any new insight. That doesn't mean
there's none to get. I encourage you to keep working on it.

> There is no scientific research on
>memetics and no college courses are being offered on it.

"Virus of the Mind" has been used in at least three college courses that
I know of. There are a handful of memetics researchers around the world.
Hans-Cees Speel is one of the most prominent. You can reach his web page
from Meme Central.
>The only known method for "disinfecting" a person who has
>successfully succumbed to a brainwashing session is a thing called
>deprogramming. For propaganda and persuasion, it is simply learning
>to think for yourself, avoid logical fallacies, and learning the
>scientific method. Richard's suggestions for disinfection would never
>work according to professional deprogrammers and I personally think
>that it would make matters worse instead of better.

Who told you that? Actually, the brainwashing I've been involved with
typically makes great use of the "avoid logical fallacies" meme to
cantilever people into behaving against their best interests.
>Richard makes a common mistake in forgetting that evolution is not
>the evolution of individuals, but of a species.

I'm amazed that you could read my chapter on evolution and come away
with that misconception. Evolution centers around replicators, not
individuals. Both individuals and species are vehicles for the spread of
selfish genes.

> Any one of you out
>there could have a 1000 children and I none, yet it could still be my
>DNA that outsurvives yours. That's because my DNA is in my species
>and it is my species that evolves, not me. I will still contribute to
>the evolutionary process of my species, although not in a direct way.

Yep, we share a lot of DNA.

>Does "serving my DNA" mean contributing to the overpopulation and
>reslutant suffocation of my species? have some unstated assumptions in this question. Why do you
believe that we are headed for suffocation? Do you really think that
your personal decision to have children will have a tangible effect on
>If evolution were a random process, Richard would be correct, but
>evolution is not random. Sure, if a sudden disaster were to strike it
>would seem that the more numerous species would have a more numerous
>chance of surviving. But more numerous does not mean more fit. All I
>need to do is mention the triolobites, and that fallacy is easily put
>to rest. Despite being a world-wide species, not a single living
>trace of them remains today, despite the survival of far less
>numerous species that coexisted with the triolobites.

I really don't understand what you're getting at here, X. It seems you
have a point, but it's failed to emerge.
[Snip Dawkins disparagement]

Scientific theories that model eons-long processes are problematic in
that it's difficult to conduct experiments. On that basis, you may lump
the whole field of evolutionary biology into the realm of philosophy.
But Dawkins has plenty of examples of the consistency of his theories.
Read "The Selfish Gene."
>Richard Brodie +1.206.688.8600
>CEO, Brodie Technology Group, Inc., Bellevue, WA, USA
>Do you know what a "meme" is?