RE: virus: The "science" of memes?

Schneider John (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 04:12:28 -0500

Well, here is my last post on this string. The jibes and insults
are tiring and proof that, to borrow from Iron Maiden drummer
Nicko McBrain, XYZ is "not fuckin' into communication". (I'm sure
he'll enjoy my reference to such a stellar 'authority'.)

So here goes.

XYZ wrote:
> Well John, you seem to be a legend in your own mind. I'm going to
> give you that opportunity to prove that either you really are a
> legend or not. For example...

Since I have no interest in becoming a legend, shall I ignore
your entire post?

> >Did it ever occur to you that QUALITY might include quantity?
> >It was a RANDOM disaster that did the trilobytes in...I will
> >wager that very same disaster also finished off some other
> >lifeforms which reproduced under different strategies - hence
> >NOT preferring one method over the other. (Please note! I
> >could be wrong: maybe every other species BUT the trilobites
> >survived. I sincerely doubt it though.)
> All you have to do to end any part of these discussions John, is
> just quote *some* evidence. Find a reputable book on the subject
> and quote from it.

In other words, appeal to authority? I thought you were against
that sort of argumentation.

> It is a very easy thing to do. But all you have done throughout
> this thread is assert your make-believe faith in memes and false-
> hoods about evolution and the scientific method without giving
> evidence that you know what it means to think in ogical and
> rational terms. Unless memes can be validated (which is all
> I've been asking all along) you are just spouting dogma and
> dogma is the realm of blind-faith gullible type of people.

Memetics is at a point of speculation. That is why I have admitted
(repeatedly!) that it hardly qualifies as science. You are simply
going to have to wait and see if any speculation here ends up lead-
ing to testable predictions. Until it does, it remains speculation,
which I think everyone here, except you, is well aware of. You are
the one carping on and on about blind faith. Has anyone at all on
this list made an assertive statement, in which they were willing
to brook no argument whatsoever? Actually, Brodie comes close,
with his level 3 stuff, and he gets a lot of gripe for it, too.

> Are you or are you not one? Here is your chance to show that you
> are not:

(By the way: You have blind faith in science.)

> What random disaster "did the trilobites in"? What makes you
> think it was a disaster and that it was random?

I thought we had already agreed upon that. If you propose to
change your stance now, then please explain why you think whatever
caused the extinction of the trilobites was not due to the random

> What other lifeforms disappeared along with the trilobites? Since
> that question is irrelevant to this discussion, I will leave that
> as a optional question. What is relevant is that despite the
> supposed greater probablity of quality trilobites existing amongst
> the great quantities of trilobites existing at that time, there
> were no quality trilobites able to survive. The extinction of the
> great quantity of trilobites makes it very plainly obvious that
> quantity does not equal quality. I rest my case.

I never said it did. "Includes" is not "equals".

> Your lame attempt at logical reasoning is laugable as well, John.
> Show me any textbook or scientific abstact...hell! even a National
> Enquirer article that claims that the trilobites survived and every
> other species died! You can't and I rest my case, again.

I never suggested anything of the sort. In fact, since it is
so laughable, I have assumed it is NOT the case. (Reread what
I wrote, please.) The (assumed) fact that it is not the case
argues strongly that QUALITY does not exclude quantity, which
is all I'm saying.

> You could have at least tried to read or look up something some-
> where so you wouldn't make such plainly obvious blunders, John!

It is your inability to accurately read what I'm saying that is
causing the most problems here. You always seem to add to what
I say, and then condemn this addition, which I did not even say!
Then you call me 'stupid' and/or 'illogical' to cap it off! Is
it any wonder I'm ending the discussion!?

> If you cannot respond with evidence or facts for these four
> questions, I will call your bluff and offer this as evidence
> that you are no smarter than those who believe in God(s) or UFO
> abductions.

A very scientific approach to determining a 'truth'. Yep.

> >(Please note that I myself am rather a newcomer here, and I also
> >thought memetics was a crock just a few months ago.)
> It is obvious John that you are a newbie not only to memes, but
> to common sense reasoning and logical thinking.

Aha - there's that cap-off I referred to above.

> Look, I am here because I find the concept of memes interesting.
> I've seen hundreds of articles on it in various magazines and
> books. People use it to try and explain everything from how the
> mind works on a neurobiological level to the evolution of socie-
> ties and cultures. Now just because I come along call everyone's
> bluff and says "the sky isn't falling chicken little!" is no
> reason for people to get their feathers all ruffled up. Why do
> you act that way, John?

Nobody claimed that the sky was falling. They have used a consis-
tent theory to explain facts. I have agreed with you several times
that it is a stretch to call memetics a science, because new test-
able predictions are not being made (to my knowledge), based on the
theory. You have not acknowledged my reasonableness in admitting
this, but still claim that I am ruffled, illogical, stupid, have
blind faith, etc... and you wonder why I'm ruffled? You aren't
willing to admit that I'm even capable of agreeing with you on
anything. You just want to argue, not learn or teach. Sorry,
but I'm not here to play Devil's Advocate for you any more,
primarily because all you see is the Devil, not the Advocate.

> I couldn't do that in a email list about polymer science...there
> is just too much *hard evidence* instead of only having just mere
> explanations to believe in like you do.

You mistake speculation for belief. And did I not admit repeatedly
that memetics is not hard science? That horse died a long time ago!
Quit kicking it!

> Isn't the purpose behind Richard's book, Virus of the Mind, to
> question the validity of *all* ideas? Including his?

Yes. Didn't he say so before the first chapter even began?

> Isn't that exactly what the scientific method teaches us also?
> So why aren't you putting it into effect? When you start
> challenging people's blind-faith, like I have, people respond
> with anger and by cussing and calling names...just as you have
> done.

You have blind faith in science, and have been intemperate to
memetic's "attack" (as you evidently perceive it) on science.

> I also do that but only after I have been called names first.
> My philosophy is "tit-for-tat" so if you don't like the way I
> respond to your email, it is because you don't like yourself.

Who called whom 'stupid', 'illogical', 'irrational', 'know-
nothing', 'gullible', 'one with blind faith', etc... first?

> I only mirror what I am shown.

You see no value in memetics, and have said nothing of value
about it. True enough. But simply because you see no value
in it, does not mean it has no value. It means only that you
are blind to its value.

> Look at all of my posts and all the queries to them and all the
> replies. I have always responded back in the same way I was
> addressed.

Arguable. See above.

> If you don't like the way I respond, then that means that *you*
> are the one who must change. You are looking into a mirror John
> and I am a reflection of you. How do you like that meme?

If you wish to see the value in memetics, I think it is you who
must change. Wait: you just asked, "How do you like that meme?"
I like it very much, if I may take your use of the term as an
indicator that you are coming to accept that memetics is in fact
a useful tool.

> As a common courtesy to other in this email list, I am not going
> to respond to the rest of your nonsense dribble in this post.

Translation: you're unwilling to admit that you know nothing of
quantum theory or oncompleteness, so you are calling my discussion
of them "nonsense dribble" and ignoring it altogether. How very
scientific of you. (This is, of course, speculation; maybe you
were planning on writing up another post. I doubt it, though.)

> > Well...maybe one more comment (I can't resist, sorry!).
> >>If replication were inexact, there would be no such thing as a
> >>science of heredity since whether an organism inherited a trait
> >>or not would be random and not predictable. Mendal and his
> >>genetic experiments proved you wrong many years ago.
> >Replication of DNA is inexact in some lifeforms, and exact in
> >others. Did Mendal show this to not be the case? (This may,
> >once again, be our mix-up in DNA vs. genes)
> What is a gene John (use a dictionary please to keep it simple for
> yourself)? What is the difference between a gene and DNA?

What, don't you know the answer to these? Sheesh!

> Why do you think that Mendal was called "the father of genetics"
> and not "the father of DNA"?

Did Mendal improve our understanding of DNA by improving our
knowledge of what it contains? Maybe in addition to "father of
genetics", we may call him "architect of DNA"?

> Why do you think that geneticists refer to genes and not DNA
> when discussing inheritance?

The gene is the smallest unit of hereditary information. To have
the most control, we work with the smallest unit, hence the gene.
But the gene is contained in the DNA so the geneticists should
know a thing or two about it.

> You said that replication (and evolution) are inexact or random.
> Then what is it that causes replication to be exact in some
> lifetimes and inexact in others?

That is random. There is no law that said the original replicators
in the primordial goo had to replicate exactly or inexactly. But
the simple laws of chemistry that governed it all are statistical
and random. This explains why there is no good particular reason
why some species replicate exactly and others inexactly. Evidently
natural selection did not choose either one in such a forcible
fashion as to cause the other to become extinct.

> What forces replication to be non-random in some lifetimes and
> random in others?

I think that in inexact replication, it's always random.
(Note! Speculation: I said "I think that ...". This means that I
do NOT have blind faith in what I say. Please do NOT assume I do.)
It is natural selection which is not so random. The environment
dictates which genes will be successful and chooses those genes
to be passed on to further generations.

> This is such a blatant contradiction and wrong-headed specula-
> tion on your part John, that it is laughable.

Speculation, I can live with. I fail to see the "blatant contra-
diction", though.

> Hehehe!

I'm giving you the last laugh, since I will not respond to your
next post in this strain. Enjoy your giggles, and be sure only
to address the topics in general. Do not ask direct questions
of me, since they will not be answered, (at least, not by me.)

- JPSchneider