Re: virus: The "science" of memes?

XYZ Customer Support (
Thu, 12 Dec 1996 15:32:05 -0700

>From: Schneider John <>
>In reply to: XYZ

>You could say that one of the primary uses of memetics is
>'brainwashing' etc... but that does not make the /idea/ of memes any
>less valid. You can also say that the building of nuclear bombs is
>a practice of vile unhumanity, but that does not make nuclear
>physics any less valid. Memes are not yet well understood, and may
>just end up a nifty curiosity, but they can be a useful tool at
>times, when one wants to under- stand the behavior of others (or
>even one's own behavior); and science never discards useful tools.

But memetics is NOT used in brainwashing and your point does not make
the idea any more valid. The only way to validate anything is with
evidence and I just wanted to know what evidence there is that memes
is a valid science or a passing fad. Memes may be a useful tool but

>>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.

>Well, perhaps we now have two succesful methods. And, of course
>it would never work, according to "professional deprogrammers".
>They would be out of jobs if they admitted it worked!

So what people have been succesfully deprogrammed by memetic
scientists? I would guess none. Well, "professional deprogrammers",
may not want to admit that memetics work but why wouldn't they? I
don't know of any deprogrammers that aren't willing and open-minded
enough to try anything to help their customers. That is what they are
being paid for and there is no professional pride to prevent them
from accepting any method so long as it works for them.

>Anyway, I think you fail to realise that the scientific method,
>the idea of 'thinking for oneself', and the notion that one should
>avoid logical fallacies are just memes. Those are the memes that
>you think are 'good' (good = will help humans to better survive in
>the 'human pool').

Have you ever heard of "JW speak"? Jehovah's Witnesses are given a
whole new vocabulary just as a method to indoctrinate their followers
even more effectively. What you are doing is "meme speak". The
scientific method is not a meme and it is not good.

>>Richard makes a common mistake in forgetting that evolution is
>>not the evolution of individuals, but of a species.

>No. It is evolution of genes, and please point to where Richard
>suggests that evolution is of 'individuals'.

No, it is not the evolution of genes either. It is the evolution of
the species. Richard Brodie's whole chapter on evolution suggests
that evolution is of individuals. His examples of things replicating
with a little bit of infidelity amongst individuals is just not
realistic nor is it supported by science.

Let me explain this to you. Genes don't evolve. Genes change in
reponse to evolution. They don't cause it. They are a byproduct of
evolution. They replicate what information evolution dictates to it.

When a species evolves, it isn't that one animal happened to
accidentally make a useful error in it's replicating process. When
evolution happens, many many individuals mutate in response to the
specific demands imposed by their environment. It is approximately
simultaneous and widespread. It is never localized to the point of
one individual.

>Wrong, but not entirely. Your genes are not unique to you, so
>your genes could still outsurvive my genes. It could even be the
>case that people closely related to you outsurvive people closely
>related to me. However, your particular conglomeration of genes,
>your exact strand of DNA, is unique to you, and it dies with you,
>just as mine dies with me. Neither of our DNA outsurvives any-
>thing. As far as species, we are both the same species: homo

My point exaclty. We, as unique individuals do not evolve, our
species do. You have just said the same thing but in a roundabout

>>If evolution were a random process, Richard would be correct,
>>but evolution is not random.

>Proof? I happen to think it's random.

You need to do more research then. The problem with this thinking is
that events aren't observed to happen more or less "randomly". All
natural processes behave in a predictable fashion. The evolutionary
process is no exception to this observation and, in fact, it has been
observed to be very specific. Evolution is about the Specific
Adaptation to Imposed Demands or the SAID principle.

>So? Is there a conclusion? I think you'll find that every
>memeticist you talk to will think of that as a very nice example
>that supports randomness. For all intents and purposes, 'sudden
>disasters' are random.

Is there really such a thing a "memeticist" or are you making that
up? Can you name a few "memeticists" who are known in the scientific
community as being such?

Disasters can be random, evolution cannot. I don't see how you could
miss that obvious conclusion. The other conclusion was that greater
number of individuals in a species does not mean they will have a
more numerous chance of surviving. Serving my DNA therefore couldn't
mean having tons of kids. It would mean having a more "fit" kid(s).

>>Speaking of "serving my DNA", I also noticed that Richard has a
>>fondness for Richard Dawkin's pet theories. Actually, theory is
>>a misnomer, since what Dawkin's is really doing is speculating.

>Correct. And you've just given support to Richard's theory that
>theories are just theories. Their 'truth' is of no import, rather
>their 'usefulness' is what really counts.

That isn't a theory, that is just plain and simple logic. Of course
theories are just theories! I never agreed or disagreed on that
point. But one thing you don't seem to realize is that any theory, no
matter how useful, well-established, or long-held, cannot stand in
the face of one relevant, contradictory fact. Richard's (and yours)
theories must be discarded as irrelevant due to at least one
relevant, contradictory fact such as I pointed out.

>>Speculation is speculation, no matter who does the speculating.
>>The scientific method says that "argument by appeal to authority
>>is of no value whatever, even if the authority happens to be

>You're appealing to an authority, (the scientific method), with
>that very statement. I happen to agree, but not because you've
>associated it with the 'authority' of science, but just because
>it has been useful for me to reject authorities, in general,
>when I'm trying to reach my own understanding of things.

The scientific method is not an authority, but a method. Hence the
name "Scientific METHOD" and not "Scientific AUTHORITY". Methods are
not authorities, they are just ways of doing things. Logic is
wonderful method that eliminates many illogical and contradictory
falsehoods. Since thinking is necessary for you and I to exist in
this world, wouldn't it make logical sense to do that thinking in a
logical way? The scientific method is the most logical method known.
Do you have any better ones?

>>Dawkins may be an authority and he may be right about what he
>>speculates but that in no way makes it a fact. It doesn't even
>>make it a hypothesis much less a theory. Dawkin's has nothing to
>>back up what he says and much of what he says is illogical when
>>compared to the actual evidence available.

>Good grief! Have you read /The Selfish Gene/? The book is one
>example after another. (However, please note that is the only
>book of his that I've read; but it does offer ample supporting
>evidence for the 'Selfish Gene' theory.)

Examples are not evidence.

>>How many authority figures believe in God? Will that statistic
>>that make that belief true or false also?

>Oops! There's that "truth" vs. "false" thing again. Remember,
>Richard isn't concerned with that. I think you'll find that it's
>useful from time to time to ignore the 'truth-value' of some
>statements, and to just concentrate on their usefulness. I
>personally have little use for God, and that's the end of the

Richard may not be concerned with true and false, but logical
thinking is. Either the description of reality fits the reality or it
doesn't. True or false. Go or no go. Just concentrating on a theory's
usefulness is a sure-fire method to kill progress. You can't have
progress if you don't question the validity of everything at least
once in a while.

>Anyway... in the end, I'll agree that memetics sure as hell ain't
>physics, and doesn't seem to follow the scientific method all that
>closely. But I still think it is a /very/ interesting theory,
>that does a good job explaining stuff around me, so I am not about
>to relegate it to the dung heap of useless theories just yet.

It is interesting and that is why is enjoys so much popularity. This
is much like the popularity that alein abductions is enjoying right
now (but within a different crowd then memes). Just because a theory
sounds interesting is no reason to consider it. There are literally
thousands of "theories of everything" on the Internet right now, and
they ALL explain reality within their own realm of internal logic,
but that doesn't make them useful. Science does discard useful tools
and these theories of everything are good examples. If they can't be
validated with evidence, they are simply falsehoods.

Try looking around at
for examples of falsehoods in action.