virus: Proof, Truth, and Conviction

Reed Konsler (
Wed, 17 Sep 1997 11:43:39 -0400 (EDT)

>Date: Tue, 16 Sep 97 10:25:55 -0400
>From: "Wade T.Smith" <>

>And OK, then, my question is, has anyone attempted to experimentally
>determine the existence of memes to anything close to the degree of the
>experimental determination (the proof) of genes?

Actually, molecular biology is beginning to move away from "genes"
as an atomistic theory. DNA isn't encoded like a text's probably
more like an engine. Whatever is going on it's much more complicated
than the "gene" theory proposed in the neo-darwinian synthesis.

Now, in saying that, I'm not trying to evoke anything
mystical or to say that "genes" aren't useful THEORETICAL constructs.
Certianly organisms appear to develop and act as if there were strings of
pop-it bead genes in the genetic material. When you EXAMINE the genetic
material directly, though, you find that it's own structure/dynamic is
understood better, perhaps, by not thinking about "genes".

The question becomes: what are you studying? If you're studying evolution
then "genes" are good enough in the sense that Newtonian mechanics is good
enough to build a bridge. If you look very closely at gravity you find it's
structure/dynamic is understood better, perhaps, by not thinking in a
Newtonian way.

>Others on the other memetics list (strangely quiescent recently) have
>asked the same question. To me, all 'memetic engineering' is useless
>without the mechanism, and more than futile academic hand-waving until
>such mechanism is actually found. Like some of us have all said, until
>then, it's marketing, advertising, brain-washing, politics, etc.... Until
>we have a rose to call a rose, whatever it is goes by some other name...

Well, you could have made the same criticism of Darwin before they dug
up Mendel's experiments. And the "mechanism" of gene evolution is still
being studied, having only really become a serious pursuit in the 1960's.

Memetics is speculative. It seems overconservative to criticize it for that

One cannot divide theories into "white" scientific and "black" unscientific.
The funny thing is that the "grey" areas of fringe and pseudo science
ought to be the MOST interesting to scientists, not the least.

Besides, it's kind of fun to think about. Over these past years I've begun
to wonder if the most aggressive of the fundamentallists aren't the scientific


Reed Konsler