RE: virus: Re: virus-digest V1 #120

Schneider John (
Fri, 27 Dec 1996 02:18:06 -0500

XYZ: please be careful that you properly distinguish what I wrote,
and what Stephen wrote. A good portion of your post is actually
response to stuff that Stephen wrote.

> > > I agree. And I see that memetics is already doing something. It
> > > isaffecting the way media are perceived by people who know
> > > about memetics.
> > > This is changing the way people use media.
> How has it been *directly* responsible for that?

Kinda hard to prove, ain't it? 'Memes' are rather abstract...
not quite as simple as electrons.

> > > In fact, I would venture to say ( without trying to sound self
> > > important) that the poeople best equipped to use memetics are
> > > those involved in creating content for media-- those that write
> > > cultural texts and make it their life's work to be aware of how
> > > those texts interact and influence individuals and cultures.
> Science only discovers and is up to businessmen,
> artists, TV evangelists, the military and so on to find practical
> uses for it.
> Hehehe!

Me: no comment.

> > I have a feeling that XYZ would dismiss that by categorizing it
> > under some already-known branch of knowledge... but it directs
> > me to wonder the following:
> No, not dismiss. If most (or even all) of memetics falls under one
> or more other scientific disciplines, then the knowledge uncovered
> by those other disciplines can help us to more throughly understand
> what it is that we are supposed to be worshipping here in the
> church of the virus.

I suppose it's good to hear that you do not dismiss memetics

> > I've yet to see an argument directed at XYZ (so I'm hoping s/he
> > reads this) which simply states that: memetics is a useful
> > paradigm. It is a way of looking at culture "from the idea's
> > (or meme's) point of view". Memetics is a language that was
> > devised in order to help us more easily discuss our ideas, our
> > own memes, when we're utilizing this paradigm.
> Paradigms are a shift in thinking and not a way of thinking.

Me: Agreed. The above statement remains valid: memetics
represents a shift in thinking.... from thinking about how
culture affects ideas to how ideas give rise to culture.

> > > What's sensationalist?
> > I suppose: pretending like the theory is more powerful than it
> > really is. For instance, Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" was
> > discussed a bit at the time, and we all said, "Great book!",
> > even though the book sensationalizes NLP by suggesting that we
> > might be able to program people by just flashing the right image
> > in front of their eyes. In a certain sense, all of science
> > fiction is sensationalist.
> Sesationalist as used by journalists, is when something is
> portrayed in a false light, merely for the effect it have from
> pushing the audience's buttons and selling papers or TV time.

Me: Agreed. Nice example. But 'applied memetics' (don't hack away
at the term, please) is largely about pushing buttons. It should
hardly be surprising that you see it as sensationalist, then. Your
buttons, have, in fact, been fairly well pushed, too.

> > > There is a sensationalist body of baroque art that relies upon
> > > 'soft porn' images to portray the visions of St. Teresa and the
> > > rapturous beauty of heaven.
> I am sorry about that John. I forgot that you are an artist and
> that there is a different definition for "sensationlist" for
> artists than there are for journalists or psychologists.

Me: Stephen's the artist; I'm the math/physics/computer guy.

> > > My hackles got up when I read posts that (literally) said that
> > > work such as mine is worthless unless it meets the approval of
> > > one person's value system-- and a value system that is poorly
> > > defined to boot. I am not a gullible sensationalist. If what I
> > > do is not scientific by your's or another person's definition
> > > then you have a right to express that opinion.
> Memes are not art. They don't exist anywhere outside of our own
> minds. But that doesn't mean that the expression of those memes
> can't be art or that memes aren't valuable. If memes weren't
> valuable, we wouldn't have people fighting to the death over
> ideas behind such things as racism, religion, or memetics. Hehehe!

I think we've been trying to tell you that all along.

> > > But to assume that "nothing is being done" and to take the job
> > > away and get some "real men in here who can" is well, kind of
> > > hard to take. I spend a lot of my free time on this list and I
> > > come to it with a genuine interest. I don't want to have to
> > > leave it thinking that I have nothing to contribute because I
> > > am not a scientist. -- even though XYZ suggest I can become
> > > one.-- maybe I don't.
> The first step of all scientific disciplines is to gather data.
> Your input about memes or your perception of memes or your reaction
> to memes, scientific or not, is always valuable to a real
> scientist. Even art is valuable to a scientist and that is why
> some scientists even refer to art as "brainprints" (-- an allusion
> to fingerprints).

Me: no comment.

> > XYZ desires a 'more scientific' understanding of memetics, and
> > I am not opposed to getting a better understanding of it along
> > those lines either. Your statement above (about how teaching
> > memetics to art students may make them less gullible to
> > advertising) could be turned into a scientific study without
> > too much difficulty.
> Expressing memes is not the same as knowing memes.

Me: Agreed. I was getting carried away in the 'usefulness of
memetics' once again. I'm open to suggestions for how to show
'scientific support' for memetics, or memes. Although, I'm
beginning to see the distinction that Stephen saw initially...
In 'meme-speak', I simply note that the meme-complex 'scientific
method' is forcing you to look for scientific verification of
memetics, regardless of its usefulness, while the meme-complex
'memetics' is causing us to conclude that 'scientific verifica-
tion' of memetics is besides-the-point of memetics.

> > > But XYZ does raise a good question with, "Where are the
> > > results?" That's why I refrain from dubbing memetics
> > > 'science'.
> > Well, maybe it is a philosophy then. Existentialism has results.
> > Post modern theory has results. Both have radically changed a
> > technology we use every day-- language.
> But language is a fad also.

Me: Agreed. We're using the English language, an addition to
'meme-speak', and 'science-speak'. No wonder our communications
are so erratic.

> > > language. Granted the technology is not as materialistic as
> > > "a better rocket engine" and as far as "putting someone on the
> > > moon goes"--- well that has to do with what you consider to be
> > > a sense of place. The moon is a place, surely, but are there
> > > not semantic "places" as well?
> Semantics is the study of fads.

Me: Well, then Memetics is very similar to semantics.

> > > XYZ has every right to every word s/he has written. S/he also
> > > has every right to the flack it has garnered. The art of good
> > > arguement often requires one to see things from another
> > > person's perspective. If someone uses the tactic of blocking,
> > > absolutely, another perspective-- well, does one need to go
> > > further?
> Very good point!
> > Well, I'm a theorist, so I'll just suggest the experiment, and
> > then wait for the experimentalists to come back with the results
> > (har). Anyway, take your above discussion of where you're using
> > memetics for a class. That could be made scientific by having
> > two large groups of students, all Pepsi drinkers, all kept
> > unaware of the experiment; only one of which is taught about
> > memetics in your course. Bombard both groups with Coke
> > advertisments at every opportunity. Then see if their is any
> > statistical difference in consumption of Coke by students in
> > either group. (A crude experiment, to be sure, but I'm more of
> > a physicist than a psychologist; maybe someone else around here
> > commonly runs this sort of experiment, and can provide comment.)
> This is not a memetics experiment. This experiment has already been
> done and it doesn't prove anything about memes but it does prove
> that people are suggestable and can be preconditioned. Let's come
> up with an experiment that can ONLY (or mostly) be explained by
> memes.

Me: Agreed. Your turn to suggest something. :-)

> > > Well, I'm sorry if I have done this. But to my perception, you
> > > were jumping through XYZ's hoop.
> Wow! I have such control over people in this email group...and I
> didn't even know it!!!!! Hehehe!

Me: Er, it was, of course, merely his perception.

> > I think one of the most destructive behaviours in any group is to
> > introduce elitism. It is a divide-and-conquer tactic. Many people
> > turned on Richard when he introduced "Level 3", thinking of it as
> > an elitism. Those that agreed that they could "see" the three
> > level model were accused of "calling themselves Level 3" and
> > holding themselves up above the rest.
> Maybe it was only the *way* he presented it and not the concept
> that elicited knee-jerk buttons labeled "elitism".

Me: That is exactly what Stephen said.

> > In a certain sense, memetics just labels 'scientific method' as
> > a meme-complex, and we might wonder: is XYZ chaffing at what s/he
> > sees as an elitist tactic? And now here you are chaffing back
> > when XYZ touts science in a way seeming almost elitist? Who's
> > right?
> Whoever holds the facts.

Me: That is science's answer. You are doing 'science-speak'.

> The scientific method is not a meme-complex but rather, it is an
> innocculation against ideas (read: memes) that have no place in
> reality. The scientific method is a test, a checklist of logical
> questions, the demand for evidence and proof, of any idea.

Me: Well spoken 'science-speak'. But this is a board primarily
for 'meme-speak', which might say something like this: "science
only exists because it is incredibly and consistently useful".

> > Memetics: the scientific method is a meme-complex.
> > Science: memetics is an offshoot of social/behavioral science.
> > I think these are both true (and useful) statements;
> They are both useful but only one is true.

Me: 'science-speak' again.

> > they are just spoken in two different languages.

> Now you are encouraging elitism. The scientific method is just
> plain english while meme-complex is meme-speak.

Me: No. Two languages. 'science-speak' and 'meme-speak'.

> > No worries; (I really have a degree in physics and I really do
> > like science... so - next time I get excited about science on
> > the board, you'll know it's my level 3 nature, a reulst of my
> > consciosness of purpose - that purpose being "understand things
> > scientifically whenever possible". Oops! Now I'm sounding like
> > a level 3 elitist... ;-) Ain't the 'elitist' meme grand?
> You just described the definition fof level 2 and not level 3
> thinking. Sorry to burst your self-eliting bubble! Hehehe!

Me: No bubble at all; it was only humour; ( part of my level 3
consciousness of purpose involves living happily... ;-)

> John, maybe someday we will get into that topic about the collapse
> of wavefunctions, the superposition principle, and how it reveals
> a weakness in science (Oh your God! You mean the scientific method
> has a weakness?) and not in reality, but let's tackle one subject
> at a time here first.

Me: Oh, so after all, you do understand the limitations of science?

- JPSchneider