virus: Richard Dawkins? I... have, erm... a... a q-q-q-question...

Dave Pape (
Mon, 17 Feb 1997 22:58:14 GMT

Listen people, I don't want to seem jumpy or anything, but I've only got 3
days to prepare for the slight possibility that I may get an opportunity to
ask Richard Dawkins a question about memetics.

And look: he's spouting anti-memes bollocks! TAITOR! [This is me desperately
trying to whip up a response]

>Is Science a Virus
>No. Not unless all computer programs are viruses. Good, useful programs
>spread because people evaluate them, recommend them and pass them on.
>Computer viruses spread solely because they embody the coded instructions:
>``Spread me.'' Scientific ideas, like all memes, are subject to a kind of
>natural selection, and this might look superficially virus-like. But the
>selective forces that scrutinize scientific ideas are not arbitrary and
>capricious. They are exacting, well-honed rules, and they do not favor
>pointless self-serving behavior. They favor all the virtues laid out in
>textbooks of standard methodology: testability, evidential support,
>precision, quantifiability, consistency, intersubjectivity, repeatability,
>universality, progressiveness, independence of cultural milieu, and so on.
>Faith spreads despite a total lack of every single one of these virtues.

The bastard!

Of COURSE science spreads via memes, just like faith... so of course science
is as viral as faith...

But woe! What chance do I have against Him? He's so fcken smarmy, and so "Oh
yes I'm Richard la-de-da bloody Dawkins, and you're just some skinny geek in
Doctor Marten's and a beaten up army-surplus coat, I will put you down
intelectually in front of 40,000 screaming science fans", that if I go out
there, on stage, man, like, WITH RICHARD DAWKINS, the inventor of the word
"underpants", like y'know, Kurt Cobain, even he didn't invent the word "rock
and roll", y'know?

I'll be up there with Him, right, and what if I'm not ready? My only chance
is to say something that (1) He hasn't thought up Himself yet, and (2) is
about so fcken head-meltingly fcken cool that His brain falls off at the stem!

Then He won't have the last Word, and will come up to me afterwards and say,
"Hey, great question, Kid, have a job at Oxford University, studying in the
grey concrete tiered pyramid of the Oxford University Zoology and Psychology
Department, with the shared entrance, and the stairs of Psychology in front
of You, walled with modern art, with the lecture rooms and the underground
libraries with huge pictures of forest at the back, Psychology, where You
were a student 9 years ago and didn't do it properly, pissing around with
comedy magazines and silly shows... come back now You're MEANT to want to
write funny shows, but all You really want to do now is think about memes,
those things I was reading and writing about in, what, maybe the next
fucking /office/, but which took 3 more years to become autocatalytic in
Your personal area of Hamming timespace..."

And then I could be Dave Pape, Oxford University Department of Memetics.

Go on then, either gimme some evidence to hit Him with, or object to what
you think I might tell Him on your behalf!


"Oh, sorry sir... didn't the Box Office contact you? Yes, cancelled, yes...
/very/ poor ticket sales, you see. ...Not much /call/ for science in Henley.
Refunds at the till."

Dave Pape
Ran out of sig. ideas.

Phonecalls: 01494 461648 Phights: 10 Riverswood Gardens
High Wycombe
HP11 1HN