virus: The logic of memetics (form. virus digest 116)

Schneider John (
Fri, 20 Dec 1996 03:51:38 -0500

XYZ, your post is very beautifully put together. Allow me to
provide constructive comment.

You first discuss logic and the scientific method, and then
state the following:

> Logic, together with the scientific method, make an unbeatable
> combination in determining the accuracy of any statement concern-
> ing the knowledge and understanding of reality.

I agree that no better approach has yet been found. I would like
to point out, however, a result of pure logic, called Godel's
Incompleteness Theorem. IT says: For any formal system for deter-
mining truths, there will be truths which it cannot determine, and/
or falsehoods which it thinks are true.

A result of this theorem is that the scientific method, that
formal system for determining truths about reality, will not
determine all truths about reality. Period. Pure logic.

Nonetheless, I do agree that the science/logic combination is
the best approach we have yet to come across.

Later, you have:

> To say the memetics was a science, and yet not even understand
> the method or concept of it, was blasphemous and outright stupid.

I think everyone here has agreed to that. At least, nobody has
argued the point, and some have even made it a point to state
their agreement.

> You may wonder why I would use such harsh words and not be a
> little more diplomatic in my dealings with the people who over-
> reacted to my posting and I'll tell *you* why. Because people
> who have been brainwashed are unable to comprehend new ideas
> unless you get their immediate and undivided attention.

That is an assertive statement:
1) You are assuming that people on this list are brainwashed.
I do not think it is proper of you to assume this.
2) You are assuming that the best way to deal with brainwashed
people is via harsh indiplomacy. (Actually, I wouldn't know,
so could you reference a scientific study which shows this to
be the case?)
3) This also suggests that you think that people out here are
unaware of the scientific method. Please note that nobody
has argued your point about memes not being hard science.
NOBODY has argued the point.

Given this, I see no reason, none whatsoever, for your harshness
of language. It is based on the assumption that you're talking
to stupid and/or uneducated people, and you've no right to make
that assumption. Even so, I still fail to see why one cannot
employ lighter, perhaps even humorous at times, language in
educating the unedcated.

Later, you have:
> John S. still doesn't realize his blunder in saying that DNA
> contains genes instead of the other way around.

While I agree that genes contain the hereditary information
pertaining to DNA itself, I say that DNA contains genes in the
same way that a building will 'contain' a book, even though that
book will itself 'contain' the plans for building the building.
(Where: DNA = bulding, Gene = page in book.) Hopefully this
clears up our misunderstanding. (I would like to think that
neither of us is stupid, and that all we have is miscommunica-
tion and perhaps misinformation in some areas. If I am still
misinformed, even in the above analogy, please do not dub me
stupid yet again, rather explain the 'real' information.)

> Some of these people have over-reacted to my initially harmless
> post about the "science" of memetics to the point that they have
> done what many of the superstitous and backward-thinking people
> of the Dark Ages did, and that is to "kill" me (or literally
> "killfile" me). They are the real losers because they have shut
> off their minds to ideas they don't like (they *all* said I was
> intelligent, so stupidity had nothing to do with it), and they
> are confining their memes even more tightly into their own
> little world of make-believe. At least they didn't close the
> door before I could plant at least a few seeds of reason (read:
> memes of reason). They didn't even know what I was doing to
> them, did they?
Some people come to memetics because they first see the inade-
quacies of science. Refer to Godel's theorem above. However,
I agree that it may be 'sensationalism' to think that memetics
is 'better' than science. It is actually a result of science,
even though it hasn't attained the status 'scientific theory'
as of yet.

> But at least I accomplished my goal, which was to reduce the
> unproductive components of this email list to a minimum, since
> it obvious who is here to really take a serious look at memetics
> and who is just going along with the meme crowd just to look cool
> or sound intellectual to their friends.

Why not just come out and say: "I would like to take a very
scientific approach to this memetics stuff; sensationalists need
not apply......." and then proceed to start a discussion thereon?
Let us put this all behind us and do just that. I am, after all,
a scientist at heart, and little would please me more than to be
a part of turning memetics into something better resembling hard

> If we boil away all the sensationalism behind the current think-
> ing behind memes, we will be left with a valuable nugget of facts
> that can be used to build up something more valuable.

Agreed. Let us get to work.

> You will never be able to do that if you remain skeptical of
> scientific reasoning.

We may think scientifically, and be skeptical at the same time.
Skepticism is expected of scientific thinking.


One comment.... this email list is actually part of the "Church
of Virus", and part of its purpose has been to sensationalize,
in order to plant memetics in the minds of the very religious
thinking folks you mentioned. Perhaps it has been successful
in that endeavor and anyway, this may explain the focus on
sensationalism that you have seen.

But I agree - let us try to be somewhat scientific as well.


OK then: let us call out for suggestions on:
- How can we work to make memetics have greater appeal to the
purely logical, scientific thinker?
- How can we do this in such a way as to not lose the (supposed)
appeal of CoV to non-scientific thinkers? Possible?

- JPSchneider