Re: virus: The "science" of memes?

XYZ Customer Support (
Thu, 12 Dec 1996 20:09:55 -0700

>From: Richard Brodie <>

>>Well, I just finished reading Richard Brodie's book, "Virus of the
>>Mind" and it is just as I suspected.

> Things often turn out just as you suspect, don't they?

No, most of the time they don't. This time it did.

>>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.

The point is that you were setting me up so that if I came to the
right conclusion, you could conteract that logical thought by saying
you came up with it first and it is the wrong thought. No really. It
is the wrong thought. Trust me!!!

>>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.

Not very good. If you look at the real science behind brainwashing
et al, you will see that there is more to this then tactics and
techniques. The branch of psychology that deals with conditioning and
preconditioning has covered everything that memes has to say and
much much more.

>>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.

What science?

>>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.

Yes, my faithful follower! You are at fault! You have commited the
serious sin of not getting any new insight!

>>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.

My mistake! I didn't mean college courses, I meant how about
university courses? I've seen colleges offer everything from UFOolgy
to witchcraft.

I will check out Hans-Cees Speel though.

>>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.

Avoiding logical fallacies is not a meme. Very few people even know
anything about logical fallacies (unfortunately). Logic says if you
contradict yourself or say something that contradicts facts, then
what you say cannot be considered reliable evidence for anything. It
can be something that can be safely ignored then.

As for who told me that, no one told me that. Any standard textbook
on Abnormal Psychology will tell you that. Any book on Hypnotism will
tell you that. And there are specific books on conditioning and
preconditioning, I just don't have any titles on hand with me at the

>>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.

Evolution is not about replicators and since the evidence shows that
individuals do not evolve, then individuals cannot be vehicles for
imaginary selfish genes. Replicating is not evolving.

>>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.

How can selfish genes share?

>>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 overpopulation?

Deductive reasoning. Overpopulation has always lead to the
suffocation of species in the past therefore there is no reason to
suspect that it won't continue to do the same to us. Each person that
decides that they "must" have more and more children in order to
propagate their "selfish genes", is contributing to the
overpopulation of the world. As evidence, just look in an Almanac at
population statistics for the last twenty years. Overpopulation isn't
helping the selfish genes in India or China (just to name two).

>>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.

I'm truly sorry you didn't get the point here. That doesn't mean
there's none to get. I encourage you to keep working on it.

HINT: The point has something to do with the illogicalness of selfish
genes going to all the trouble to selfishly choke themselves to death
by over-reproducing. It is survival of the FITTEST and not survival

>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."

Examples are not evidence. Dawkin's has no evidence. He wrote a book
and not an abstract...why do you think he did it that way? Publicity?