The Catastrophic AGW Memeplex; a cultural creature

The hypothesis for a single, simple, scientific explanation underlying the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW

Guest essay by Andy West

Whatever is happening in the great outdoors regarding actual climate, inside, truly inside, in the minds of men that is, overwhelming evidence indicates that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is a self-sustaining narrative that is living off our mental capacity, either in symbiosis or as an outright cultural parasite; a narrative that is very distanced from physical real-world events. The social phenomenon of CAGW possesses all the characteristics of a grand memetic alliance, like numerous similar structures before it stretching back beyond the reach of historic records, and no doubt many more cultural creatures that have yet to birth.

Having painted a picture of CAGW from a memetic perspective in fiction last December, see the post:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/15/wuwt-spawns-a-free-to-read-climate-sci-fi-novel/

I realized that many people instinctively sense the memetic characteristics of CAGW, and typically express this in blogs or articles as relatively casual comments that cite memes or religion. Yet these folks appear to have no real knowledge of how truly meaningful and fundamental their observations are. Hence I have provided a comprehensive essay which attempts to fill in this knowledge gap, and indeed proposes that the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW is dominated by memetic action, i.e. CAGW is a memeplex.

Note: a ‘meme’ is a minimal cultural entity that is subject to selective pressures during replication between human minds, its main medium. A meme can be thought of as the cultural equivalent to a gene in biology; examples are a speech, a piece of writing (‘narratives’), a tune or a fashion. A memeplex is a co-adapted group of memes that replicate together and reinforce each other’s survival; cultural or political doctrines and systems, for instance a religion, are major alliances of self-replicating and co-evolving memes. Memetics101: memeplexes do not only find shelter in the mind of a new host, but they will change the perceptions and life of their new host.

Because the memetic explanation for CAGW rests upon social and evolutionary fundamentals (e.g. the differential selection of self-replicating narratives, narrative alliances, the penetration of memes into the psyche causing secondary phenomena like motivated reasoning, noble cause corruption and confirmation bias etc.) it is not dependent upon politics or philosophies of any stripe, which tend to strongly color most ‘explanations’ and typically rob them of objectivity. Critically, a memetic explanation also does not depend on anything happening in the climate (for better or for worse). CO2 worry acted as a catalyst only; sufficient real-world uncertainties at the outset (and indeed still) provided the degree of freedom that let a particular ‘ability’ of memeplexes take hold. That ability is to manipulate perceptions (e.g. of real-world uncertainty itself), values, and even morals, which means among other things that once birthed the CAGW memeplex rapidly insulated itself from actual climate events.

Homo Sapiens Sapiens has likely co-evolved with memeplexes essentially forever (Blackmore), therefore they are a fundamental part of us, and indeed no characteristic of CAGW appears to be in the slightest bit new, quite the contrary. Underlining this ancient origin, one class of memeplexes folks are familiar with is: ‘all religions’. Yet these fuzzy structures are by no means limited to religion; science has triggered memetic themes before and extreme politics frequently does so, and there have even been historic memeplexes centered on climate. This does not mean CAGW is precisely like a religion, but being similarly powered by self-replicating narratives creates the comparable characteristics that many have commented upon.

Using a great deal of circumstantial evidence from the climate blogosphere and support from various knowledge domains: neuroscience, (economic) game theory, law, corporate behavior, philosophy, biological evolution and of course memetics etc. the essay maps the primary characteristics of CAGW onto the expected behavior for a major memeplex, finding conformance. Along the way, contemporary and historic memeplexes (mainly religious) are explored as comparisons. The essay is long, book-sized, because the subject matter is large. I guess an essay describing all of climate science would be very long, so one exploring the entire memetic characteristics of CAGW plus I hope enough context for readers to make sense of that, is similarly so.

The context is extremely broad, ranging from why pyramid building evolved in Egypt to a passionate cry against kings, priests, and tyranny in a radical women’s journal of the early nineteenth century. From the impact of memeplexes on the modern judicial system courtesy of Duke Law, to the ancient purpose of story-telling and contemporary attempts to subvert this, along with a plot analysis of the film Avatar. From the long and curious tale of an incarnation of ‘the past is always better’ meme currently rampant on the internet, to the evolutionary selection of fuzzy populations in biology and the frankenplex multi-element cultural creature that is CAGW. From the conflict related death-rates in primitive tribes versus modern states, to analysis of corporate social responsibilities after the Enron and banking sector crises.

From memetic chain letters that stretch back to the hieroglyphs (Letters from Heaven), to the analysis of social cross-coalitions via game theory within the perspective of economics. From the concept of ‘the Social Mind’ courtesy of neuro-scientist Michael Gazzaniga, to pressure upon religions by aggressive atheism as promoted by Richard Dawkins. From modification of theistic memes in the Old to the New Testament, to notions of Gaia and telegraph wires and wing-nuts. Plus memetic sex, witchcraft, cults, Cathars, concepts of salvation, Communism, hi-jacking altruism, Lynsenkoism, lichen, psychologizers, National Socialism, de-darwinisation, that ugly term ‘denier’, and much more.

The reason for this huge breadth and depth is that memeplexes are deeply integrated into both our psyche and our societies; this level of vision and historical context is necessary to uncover the entities, to identify their actions with as much distancing from what remains of ‘ourselves’ as can be achieved.

In counter-weight to this very broad context the essay is richly laced throughout with quotes from many of the main players and commenters in the climate blogosphere (plus from newspapers and other publications too), much of which will be pretty familiar to followers of the climate debate. These quotes cover luke-warmers, skeptics and Consensus folks, plus politicians, philosophers, psychologists and others as regards their views on CAGW, yet all are chosen and brought together for their focus on the memetic aspects of the phenomenon. There are also plenty of deeper topics specific to the sociological aspects of CAGW that most denizens of the climate blogosphere will recognize and can get their teeth into, some contentious. For instance a look at Richard Dawkins’ immersion within a rampant memeplex (while this would seem to be both controversial and ironic, when one realizes that we’re all immersed to some extent in several memeplexes, irony tends to morph to introspection). A brief view of a different Stephan Lewandowski paper (i.e. NOT either of the ‘conspiracy ideation’ ones) in which he highlights the very type of inbuilt cultural bias that has then led him blindly to produce those very challenged and troubled works!

An exposé of memetically induced cultural bias in a recent paper on ‘Professionals’ Discursive Construction of Climate Change’, that in my opinion undermines the objectivity of the work and robs the conclusions of any real meaning. A very interesting take on Mike Hulme’s stance as revealed by the memetic perspective. A glimpse of the ‘shall-we shan’t-we dance’ tentative cross-coalition between the Christian and CAGW memeplexes. The constant references to grandchildren within CAGW advocacy texts. Both the laudable and the lurking memetic content in philosopher Pascal Bruckner’s essay ‘Against Environmental Panic’. Numerous views of sociological comment by atmospheric scientist Judith Curry or at her blog Climate Etc from a memetic perspective. Plus a delve into one of pointman’s very interesting climate related essays, strong language and classic climate quotes explained via memetics, and more…

While CAGW skeptics might at first blush celebrate the possibility of a single, non-climate related, non-partisan, science-based theory that explains the whole complex range of CAGW’s social characteristics, acceptance of this theory also requires acceptance of a couple of pretty uncomfortable truths, and the ditching of at least one touchstone used by many (but by no means all) climate change skeptics. These issues are all expounded in the essay, but I summarize here:

  • Acceptance of the memeplex explanation requires us to rethink what ‘self’ means, and how our opinions, perceptions, and even morals are formed and maintained, with an implication that our ‘self’ is much more about the societal groups we’re immersed in than about what’s intrinsically inside our heads. The fact that we don’t really ‘own’ ourselves, is challenging.
  • Acceptance of the memeplex explanation requires a rejection of the ‘scam’ or ‘hoax’ theory as a root cause of the CAGW phenomenon, and as a primary motivator for the vast majority of CAGW ‘adherents’. (Note this does not rule out the fact that scams / hoaxes and other negative social phenomena may be attached to the memeplex as secondary structures – this is in fact common for major memeplexes). The essay spends quite some length saying why this is so.
  • Whatever downsides are observed to stem from the social phenomenon of CAGW, memeplexes in general often contribute major net advantages to their host societies, sometimes very major. The balance between positive and negative aspects of a major memeplex are not easy to determine except long in retrospect and with access to the ‘big picture’ (all attributes and all impacts across all of society). Hence we cannot yet know the balance of this equation for CAGW. The positive aspects are not typically intuitive.
  • As already mentioned, the memetic explanation is virtually independent of actual climate events. Hence dangerous climate scenarios are not ruled out. It simply means that no scenarios are ruled out, from the very dangerous to the utterly benign, and it is very much in the memeplex’s interests to keep the situation that way. Memeplexes wallow in uncertainty and confusion.

Many commenters in the climate blogosphere have written to the effect that: ‘it isn’t and never was about the science’. I happen to agree, very little of the CAGW phenomenon is about the science. The memetic perspective reveals why this is; not in terms of political or financial motivations but in the objective terms of the underlying social mechanisms, which are independent of (and enable) all such motivations.

Despite the essay’s length, I hope you will take the journey to acquiring a memetic perspective. There is a very distilled summary of each section of the essay below this text, and below that the list of references, in which a few regular contributors might find their names. Please note that the work is not a ‘paper’, containing no proofs or supporting mathematics, excepting a couple of references to Game Theory and the Price Equation. And merely for convenience, I have written as though the memeplex hypothesis is true, i.e. that CAGW is a memeplex and that this characteristic dominates the social effects. It is just extremely cumbersome throughout hundreds of references to make them all conditional – so I haven’t. Yet by no means does that mean the hypothesis is true, or at least wholly true in the sense that the memetic effects are dominant. Readers must form their own opinions regarding that, no doubt which opinions will be colored by the memeplexes they’re already immersed in J. I think most folks will find it an interesting and enjoyable ride though. The essay is here: http://wearenarrative.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/cagw-memeplex-us-rev11.pdf (Note: this Post text doubles as the essay Foreword, so you can skip that J).

Andy West.

P.S. while I intend to issue further Revs of the essay with some extensions plus feedback / corrections applied, in practice this may only happen on a very long timescale, or possibly not at all as my time is extremely pressured. Please keep an eye on www.wearenarrative.wordpress.com for any up-Revs or additional information. Note: the novella Truth from the WUWT post above is now available (free) at Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/273983 or within the anthology ‘Engines of Life’ also at Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/334834, or at Amazon here.

Summary of Content for Essay ‘The Memeplex of CAGW’ : (find the essay here)

Foreword

Essentially a repeat of the above pointer-post text.

1) Introduction. (~900 words)

The short introduction punts out to the Internet and Appendices regarding background material on memes and the definition of a memeplex, plus other terms / concepts in memetics. It then moves on to an initial look at the very many comparisons in blogs and articles of CAGW with religion, which arise because both are memetically driven.

2) Religious memeplexes. (~1200 words)

Religions are a class of memeplexes that have long been studied by memeticists. A list of 12 characteristics of religions is briefly examined regarding commonality with CAGW. To understand the similarities and differences, we have to know more about what a memeplex is and what it does. The section provides tasters regarding explanation at the widest scope, before moving on to the rest of the essay for detail.

3) Collective-personal duality. (~3500 words)

This section and the following two provide a first-pass characterization of memeplexes. The most perplexing area is covered first, that of a memeplex as an ‘entity’ and its constraints upon the free will and action of its adherents.

Introduces the collective-personal duality model and a symbiotic relationship with interlocking collective and personal elements. Uses this to enlighten regarding both the religious list above and CAGW, especially on self-identification with the memeplex, and cites circumstantial evidence including the actions of Peter Gleick and Michael Tobis. Looks at the fractious peace between the Christian and CAGW memeplexes. Backs the collective-personal duality model via the concept of The Social Mind from neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga (see refs).

4) What memeplexes are not. (~2800 words)

This section explains why CAGW (and any memeplex) is not a conspiracy or a delusion, which notions are themselves are memetic replicators. The section draws on evidence from other memeplexes both religious and secular, plus statements from David Holland, Richard Lindzen, and from the climate blogosphere, plus the anomalous position of Richard Dawkins wrt CAGW and his aggression towards religions. Section quote: The very act of separating out religious memeplexes for special treatment betrays the principle of objectivity. This gets way too close to ‘I favor my memeplexes and not yours’, which while no doubt completely inadvertent, also amounts to calling out your [memetic] bias, but hiding my [memetic] bias.

5) What memeplexes might be. (~2600 words)

An examination of the link between (religious) memeplexes and the catalyzing of civilization, plus the spawning of major construction projects within cultures driven by a major memeplex. Evidence from ancient Egypt and Sumeria. Memeplexes as emergent (naturally selected) and hugely (net) beneficial phenomena promoting co-operation. Despite sometimes severe downsides, are memeplexes the conveyor belts of civilization? This has huge implications for a dominant modern memeplex like CAGW.

6) Memetic-north. (~1500 words)

A useful model to visualize how memeplexes perform an alignment of societies, and “…alignment will tend to converge onto certain ‘attractors’. Or in other words a memetic-north can’t be arbitrary, it must fulfill certain psychologically attractive criteria.

7) Salvation substitutes within CAGW. (~3700 words)

Religious memeplexes almost always feature a salvation schema (e.g. the pious go to heaven), highly useful for attracting and keeping adherents and thereby sustaining the memeplex. Secular memeplexes, especially those that are spawned by science, may not have a sufficient degree of freedom to blatantly offer salvation for adherents, yet typically they have one or more substitute schemas, which offer the nearest alternatives to direct salvation that each memeplex is able to sustain. This section examines two salvation substitutes within CAGW, one weak and one strong, using quotes from many scientists writers and politicians (see refs below for all these) within the social domain of climate change, which is practically filled to bursting with memes propagating these substitutes.

8) A memetic explanation of CAGW uncertainty issues. (~2200 words)

The apparent paradox of strong consensus against a backdrop of multiple major uncertainties (both real and imagined), is a classic fingerprint of a memeplex, and results from the entity’s engineering of society. But how and why does a memeplex ‘engineer society’? As to the ‘why’, those social narratives that create conditions more beneficial to their own survival will prosper more, and rampant uncertainty forms an ideal medium in which a memeplex most easily achieves maximal replication within daunted and confused minds. This section goes on to explain the ‘how’, which involves the great weight of memetically created orthodoxy keeping the ‘uncertainty monster’ trapped out of sight beneath, resulting not only in little work on real uncertainties but a tacit acceptance (orthodoxy prevents scientists from saying “we don’t know”) of all sorts of highly unlikely disaster scenarios loosely underwritten by ‘the science is settled’. Many of these scenarios are vague and conflicted, with disputed timeframes, and some require major spending. So from a policy and planning point-of-view this amounts to a nightmare level of fantasy uncertainty with a consequent flood of public insecurity, a mud-wallow that the memeplex must just love, and actively attempts to maintain. Martin Brumby (quoted) commenting at Bishop Hill is one of many skeptics who has perceived this switcheroo of uncertainties.

9) ‘Differential belief’ and self-awareness. (~4600 words)

Memes lodge in the psyche as a permanent phenomenon, retransmitting by pushing hot buttons in our minds. They also restrict an individual’s world-view and make taboo certain types of argumentation / development, plus block normal negotiations, eventually causing ‘encapsulation’ (Valenčík and Budinský, see refs), and a differential belief system (a super-set term covering a range of phenomena such as motivated reasoning). Examples of differential belief and comment upon it are legion in the social sphere of climate change, and many such are quoted (see refs). It is even noted from within the climate community (Professor Hans von Storch is quoted, and he also acknowledges memetic content via the invocation of religious metaphors). Differential belief can miscue skeptics into the false explanation of a scam or hoax, itself a memetic form; this is briefly explained. The surprising fact that people can be fully aware of the holistic cultural nature of CAGW and yet simultaneously still fully immersed in it and exhibiting differential belief, is examined, with Mike Hulme as the main example looked at in detail. The section finishes with a warning that differential belief cannot be spotted without relevant context, and this is a major problem for those who don’t possess the context.

10) Trusting ‘The System’. (~600 words)

This section is largely a placeholder to be expanded later. It does have a little starting material with short quotes by James Annan, Judith Curry, ‘pokerguy’ and ‘sunshinehours1’.

11) Personal Responsibility. (~4500 words)

This section deals with the issue of what level of personal responsibility and potential punishment is applicable to those who have engaged in dubious behavior in the name of CAGW, getting there via the broader topic of ‘The Law as a defense against invasive memes’, and also covering Corporate behavior in the name of CAGW or other environmental concerns.

Part 1 draws heavily on a Duke Law paper: The Implications of Memetics for the Cultural Defense by Neal A. Gordon, and concludes that the law must be used to help determine memetic fitness, i.e. to encourage the cultural traits we want and discourage those we don’t want. Gordon recommends we deal firmly with the wrong-doing influenced, albeit the emphasis should be on deterrence and rehabilitation rather than retribution, else the power of the law is undermined. So the ‘culture’ of CAGW is not an excuse for arbitrary breaking of the law, and folks attempting this must be responsible for their actions. However, to correctly defend regarding the memeplex of CAGW one must regard this entity as an invasive memetic culture in the first place, and not just a ‘science subject’ or an environmental program. Right now the public, or the law, or governments either come to that, do not recognize CAGW as a ‘culture’ in and of itself. This is despite some of the immersed themselves (e.g. Mike Hulme) heavily advertise the holistic cultural aspects. Hence the law is blind to any potential threat, and longer term once a memeplex takes hold it can in any case cause the law to change in its favor (examples are given).

Part 2 draws on the paper The Psychology of Corporate Dishonesty by Kath Hall of the Australian National University, plus a view from the inside of climate science by Lennar Bentsen (see refs). Given that the memetic cultural drive and aligned personal motives behind CAGW are more ‘idealistic’ and as strong or stronger than the profit motive, the conclusion is that similar techniques used to combat corporate dishonesty in say, our banks, need to be implemented within organizations working on Climate Change issues. Otherwise, negative cultural evolution in such organizations will spiral out of control and cause dramatic failures of responsibility.

12) The ultimate ménage. (~4000 words)

The intelligent and accidental modification of memes, a look at some ancient baseline memes: the past is always better (with ancient and modern examples), we are special and our times are special. The modification of theistic memes in the Christian canon. A brief comparison of memes with primeval genes. ‘Silent acknowledgements’ of memetic action by modern participants in the debate about CAGW (economist Rupert Darwall and psychologist Daniel Kahneman).

13)They and Us and Arguments against Memetic Tyranny. (~3500 words)

Although skeptics do not belong to a uniting major memeplex, many of their arguments also have memetic content, some which is very obvious and avoidable (liberal conspiracy, it’s all about tax, they’re all lying, etc), but some of which is more subtle. Philosopher Pascal Bruckner’s short essay at The Chronicle of Higher Education is examined in detail for memetic content, finding the classic memetic device of the ‘mysterious they’ (who are likely us in fact), as is evidence of common memes such as our times are special and we are special. Despite the presence of such memetic forms, a useful cry against the tyranny of a major memeplex (CAGW / Ecologism) is made, and it is noted that there is commonality of such cries against other memeplexes down the ages. An example from 1832 in which the Editress of The Isis rails against the religious memeplex of the era is given. However, a common problem with such apparently reasoned protests is that the authors are generally semi-immersed themselves, resulting in an attack on the agents of the memeplex (e.g. depending on the memeplex: priests, judges, politicians, NGOs, media, consensus police, liberal elite or just the ‘mysterious they’ – which means ‘fill in your own imagined baddies’), and not the (unrecognized) process, which is the ultimate ‘enemy’. Professor Curry’s similar rail against memetic tyranny (with the same issue), is noted (see refs).

14) Defense mechanisms in memeplexes. (~7400 words)

Starting with a list of standard defense systems (or ‘vaccimes’) for memeplexes, i.e. conservatism, orthodoxy, radicalism, ‘new age’ etc. it is shown that most of this list is deployed by the CAGW memeplex, but that different defenses are deployed by different component parts of the memeplex, yet at the same time a common core narrative ties the entire memetic creature together, the whole evolving together in a manner similar to complex colony creatures (loose biological parallels are drawn). Some length is spent explaining which organizations (IPCC, NGOs, academia etc) deploy which components, the tension between the different defense messages and the common-core messaging, and comparisons are drawn with religious bodies historically deploying similar defenses and subject to the same tensioning (e.g. the Jesuits). Along the way it is noted that flat facts and therefore ‘true’ science harms the replicative ability of memeplexes, yet co-opted or ‘immersed’ science may assist. Support is drawn from quotes by Rupert Darwall, David Deming and others (see refs). A defense scenario involving the CAGW memeplex versus Christopher Monckton is explored, as is the memetic power of the ‘denier’ word, the inadvisability of the skeptics’ ‘scam’ tactic, and the fact that the whole cultural landscape is shifted for the heavily ‘immersed’. Further support and synergy is noted within Craig Loehle’s article on WUWT about Categorical Thinking in the climate debate. It is noted that the root motivation within CAGW belongs to the memeplex and not to any of its adherents. However, it is an emergent agenda resulting from selection and so not agential. In exploring the ‘straw-man delusion’ defense, the skeptics who unwittingly play to this defense, and positions outside of the memeplex, there is consolidation and more detail on earlier material, plus various further quotes (see refs).

15) Macro Social Leverage. (~2700 words)

Inhomogeneities in society and the evolution of social cross-coalitions allows a few memeplexes to spread rapidly and achieve global dominance. Discussion of this draws upon an article from the domain of economic game theory: Redistribution Systems, Cross-Coalitions among them and Complexes of Memes Securing their Robustness, by Radim Valenčík and Petr Budinský. The article also emphasizes the penetration of memes into the psyche, which is consistent with an ultimate root for noble cause corruption, confirmation bias, and motivated reasoning; the last of these is briefly examined. The historic persistence of memetic systems that deploy consensus cultures and amplify the perception of social problems, is noted, as is the convergence of parts of the climate blogosphere and academia on memetic issues, which despite misunderstanding and blindness in cases, is I think progress.

Their quote below written by the above authors before Climategate, and from a field of study not directly related to climate science (i.e. economic theory, specifically redistribution systems analyzed via game theory), characterizes with uncanny accuracy what was and still is going on regarding CAGW, which is essentially a social and memetically driven cross-coalition (a memeplex).

The typical signs of memes active during the formation of cross-coalitions are: the formation of a picture of the enemy, non-critical adoration of some authority, tendency towards solutions based on strength, the consideration of some statements as all-explaining or indisputable, the granting of a right to something for only a few chosen ones, a catastrophic vision of the world, expectation of brighter tomorrows [Andy West: conditional on catastrophe avoidance!], relativization of morality as well as rationality, use of double standards, creation of a feeling of being threatened by something, etc.

16) Material alignment. (~2000 words)

The taxation demand of memeplexes is briefly explored: ‘The demand that the host contribute time, energy, or money to the meme complex and its organization. These resources are needed by the organization for the purpose of competition against rival meme complexes.’ Material alignment (financial / infra-structure) to CAGW or indeed to memeplexes in general, is not about group conspiracy to extort or the rampant self-interest of individuals.

17) Summary and Recommendations. (~7800 words)

In addition to briefly summarizing the material thus far, this section adds topics I couldn’t fit elsewhere, including: The ‘sense of urgency’ memeplexes promote to maximize their replication. Psychologists who seem to have been completely co-opted by the type of invasive (memetic) culture that they themselves warn about, i.e. CAGW, with a paper by Stephan Lewandowsky cited as a specific example (NOT the ‘conspiracy ideation’ ones). The memetic entity of ‘belief in witches’, which caused the death of 35,000 innocent citizens and was leveraged to exterminate ~1 million Cathars. Modern quotes comparing belief in CAGW to belief in witchcraft and magic (see refs). The line between a ‘responsible’ wrong-doer and a gullible victim re the memetically influenced. The sweeping aside of law and a brief comparison with similar effects in the grand-memetic-alliance of fascism, anti-Semitism and eugenics in the 1930s.

Amid modest recommendations to tame an out-of-control memetic entity are ‘counter-narratives’: It is perhaps unfortunate, but we need a wolfhound to defend ourselves from the wolf.

18) Postscript: The Big Picture. (~9000 words)

Memetic characterization of CAGW in an essay by regular commenter ‘pointman’ (see refs); Rousseau, Avatar, the false back-to-nature meme and narrative breakouts, all revealing the age and psychic penetration of memeplexes. The endless war of narratives: Memeplexes as an expression of the communal ego, ‘heroes’ and the ancient story-telling defense against rampant memeplexes. Memetic commonality in historic climate scares and CAGW. Speculation on the future of memeplexes in the context of social de-darwinisation. Memetic hi-jacking of major attempts to ‘consciously’ steer society. Left-right political oscillation as an evolved control-mechanism for less conscious steering that utilizes memes. CAGW as a fully recorded modern memeplex, and a call for memeticists to take up the challenge of analysis.

Appendix 1) Definitions of a memeplex.

From multiple sources. Memeplex structure and a link to a compact reference site regarding memes and memetics.

Appendix 2) Critique of memetics.

Short, but for balance links to some critique from a reference source, and leads into the following Appendix as partial offset to that critique and a wider evolutionary context.

Appendix 3) The evolutionary process in genetic and memetic domains.

This Appendix and the following one provide a modern perspective on biological evolution (i.e. in the genetic domain) that demonstrates support and overlap with similar principles in cultural evolution (i.e. in the memetic domain). Until the sheer scope of biological evolution is appreciated, along with its fuzzy boundaries and plethora of overlapping simultaneous processes, parallels between the two domains (and therefore support for cultural evolution / memetics) are not generally appreciated either. Support for group and multi-level evolution, essentially required for the theory of memeplexes.

Appendix 4) Background on the ‘Editress’ of The Isis.

Section quote: In her fight for women’s rights and place of women, Sharples took on memetic giants (‘superstition’ and ‘the church-state monopoly’), yet at the same time fought from within the boundaries of the Christian memeplex (radical Christianity). When memeplexes are very dominant, as CAGW is within the environmental domain, it is extremely hard to see out of them, and those completely outside (in the case of CAGW, skeptics) often have no power-base from which to fight. Hence the ‘enlightened immersed’ from within the memeplex often carry the main fight.

Appendix 5) Religious characteristics list reframed as memeplex benefits.

The list from Section 2 reframed as benefits to the memeplex, plus mapped to the structure list in Appendix 1.

Appendix 6) Tables of theistic meme selection, Old to New Testament.

Concerning the virgin birth and Joseph as the father of Jesus. Short backup to section 12.

Appendix 7) Pre-disposition to religion.

Short backup to sections 5 & 6 via an Oxford University media release (see refs). Pre-disposition to religion implies pre-disposition to generic memeplexes, including those like CAGW.

Appendix 8) A detailed example of ‘The Past is Always Better’ meme.

The novella ‘Meme’ is fiction, but explores in intricate detail the workings of a real and specific branch of ‘the past is always better’ meme that is currently rampant on the Internet. The story is highly informative about how such apparently simple structures can be so powerful, can fool us so easily, and have such a long history and such complex effects that in fact challenge our understanding of evolution in this domain (and the fiction format makes it enjoyable too J). A grasp of memetic action at this level is extremely helpful to understanding the incredible power of a major memetic alliance like CAGW. Pay and free links to the novella are provided. At the time I wrote the story (2006), there were about 25,000 hits on Google for the featured meme; there are now 427,000.

Appendix 9) Videos of Immersion.

Immersion in the CAGW memeplex, that is. Curious and interesting, but with a health warning.

Appendix 10) An example of memetically induced cultural bias in academia.

And pretty fatal bias at that. An examination of the paper Science or Science Fiction? Professionals’ Discursive Construction of Climate Change by Lianne M. Lefsrud and Renate E. Meyer. Section quote: So, by isolating a narrow (climate-change ‘resistive’) sector completely from the context of the wider narrative competition, the authors have thus succeeded in changing a relatively firm metric that surely we all knew about anyhow (i.e. older males dominate org leaderships), and one that is neutral wrt climate narratives, into a storyline that is not neutral wrt climate narratives, and is deployed within their CAGW supportive frame to try and morally undermine those who are leaders in the petro-chemical sector (so the implied storyline is: ‘those bad old dudes are harming the climate for self-interest; dudettes and younger dudes are way cooler than those stuffy old types anyway’). This storyline is a recurrent meme within the CAGW memeplex, and indeed within other memeplexes that foster radicalism and seek a change to the current regime, sometimes attempting to frame that regime in terms of an ‘Ancien Régime’.

Appendix 11) Andy West on the web.

Including my home site: www.wearenarrative.wordpress.com

and Amazon US page: http://www.amazon.com/Andy-West/e/B004TSI73G

and Greyhart Press publication Engines of Life at Smashwords , and at Amazon for Kindle (an anthology containing the skeptical cli-fi / sci-fi novelette Truth, and the novella Meme).

Essay References

Section 1: Memes at theumwelt.net, Memetics 101, UK MP Peter Lilley at The Huffington Post, and commenters John Bell and ‘Justice4Rinka’ (the latter citing Michael Crichton), both at Bishop Hill. Section2: Cultural Selection by Agner Fog. Section 3: commenter ‘BetaPlug’ at Watts Up With That, Resisting the Green Dragon, Paul Krugman at the New York Times, Katherine Hayhoe at the blog climatebites.org, Michael Tobis at planet3 blog, MP Peter Lilley in a letter to Prof. Kevin Anderson at Bishop Hill, and psychologist Michael S. Gazzaniger’s book Who’s in Charge. Section 4: David Holland at the Times Higher Educational Supplement, commenter ‘karmatic’ at The Huffington Post, professor Richard Lindzen at the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Michael Tobis at Planet3blog, commenter ‘lolwot’ at Climate Etc. and then The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Section 5: A Short History of War by Richard A. Gabriel and ‎Karen S. Metz, Peter Turchin, Vice President of the Evolution Institute. Section 6: Cultural Selection by Agner Fog, Daily Express, WUWT, Forbes, Discover. Section 7: Blurb on James Hansen’s book at Amazon, Professor Micha Tomkiewicz and ‘Eli Rabett’ at the former’s blog Climate Change Fork, Amy Huva at the Vancouver Observer, from a letter sent by Dr Willis to journalist James Delingpole and published in the latter’s Daily Telegraph blog, Bob Inglis via an adaptation of his words by the blog Boomerang Warrior, Greg Laden at Before It’s News and Anthony Watts in answer to Greg at Watts Up With That. Section 8: Judith Curry’s testimony to Congress 26th April 13, Tommy Wills of Swansea University, via Climategate email 1682, and Martin Brumby at Bishop Hill commenting on the Royal Academy of Engineering’s report Generating the Future. Section 9: R. Valenčík and P. Budinský paper on Redistribution Systems, Cross-Coalitions & Meme Complexes Securing Robustness, Cultural Selection by Agner Fog, commenter John Shade at Bishop Hill, the Greenfyre blog regarding a Michael Tobis post, Professor Hans von Storch and cultural scientist Werner Krauss regarding their book launch (via Bishop Hill), Stephen Schneider and Mike Hulme. Section 10: James Annan, plus Judith Curry, ‘pokerguy’ and ‘sunshinehours1’ on Marcott and Shakun. Section 11: The Implications of Memetics for the Cultural Defense by Neal A. Gordon, via Duke Law Library, The Psychology of Corporate Dishonesty by Kath Hall of the Australian National University, Bishop Hill regarding questions about statistical significance raised in the UK parliament, and an essay by Lennart Bengtsson in Die Klimazwiebel. Section 12: Anonymous writer, Kish, 3500BC, Paradox verses by Bob Moorehouse, Donna Laframboise, Bill McKibben and Van Jones via nofrakkingconsensus, Mutation, Selection, And Vertical Transmission Of Theistic Memes In Religious Canons by John D. Gottsch and published in The Journal of Memetics, Daniel W. Van Arsdale on chain letters, Rupert Darwall, Daniel Kahneman. Section 13: Pascal Bruckner’s essay at The Chronicle of Higher Education, from Bishop Hill regarding Pascal Bruckner’s book The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings, and the Editress of The Isis, Number 19 Volume 1, Saturday 16th June 1832. Section 14: Rupert Darwall (from his speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation), Tony Press (University of Tasmania) and Joanne Nova regarding Christopher Monckton’s antipodean tour, Bishop Hill (aka Andrew Mountford) regarding sociologists Dunlap and Jacques, Piers Corbyn of Weather Action at the Daily Telegraph blog, Craig Loehle’s article at Watts Up With That entitled Categorical Thinking in the Climate Debate. Section 15: R. Valenčík and P. Budinský paper on Redistribution Systems, Cross-Coalitions & Meme Complexes Securing Robustness. Section 16: Paul Driessen’s essay at Watts Up With That entitled: Our real manmade climate-crisis, US Secretary of State John Kerry. Section 17: Piers Corbyn and commenter ‘rw’ at the Daily Telegraph blog, Brumberg and Brumberg’s essay on The Paradox of Consensus at Watts Up With That, commenters ‘dbstealey’, ‘jbird’, and John West at Watts Up With That, Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. regarding errors in Marcott et al, Donna Laframboise regarding the ‘urgency’ pushed by Greenpeace, the Biased BBC blog, Tim Black at Spiked Online regarding the non-scientific origins of CAGW, and reference to the controversy about and papers by psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky. Section 18: An essay by ‘pointman’ entitled Some thoughts about policy for the aftermath of the climate wars, at his blog, ‘Agouts’ and Mike Jackson at Bishop Hill , The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker, plus Darwin and International Relations by Bradley A. Thyer. Appendix 1: the lexicon and definition of memes from an ex-page at the reduced site http://intraspec.ca. Appendix 2: Critique of memetics at theumwelt.net. Appendix 3: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology by Chris Colby at the TalkOrigins Archive, Stephen Jay Gould, wiki on Group Selection, Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection by Peter Godfrey-Smith, frozenevolution.com, Cultural selection, by Agner Fog, Susan Blackmore. Appendix 4: PhD thesis: ‘POETESSES AND POLITICIANS: GENDER, KNOWLEDGE AND POWER IN RADICAL CULTURE, 1830-1870’ by Helen Rogers. Appendix 6: Tables from Mutation, Selection, And Vertical Transmission Of Theistic Memes In Religious Canons by John D. Gottsch. Appendix 7: An Oxford University media release: Humans ‘predisposed’ to believe in gods and the afterlife. 13 May 11. Appendix 8:‘Meme’ by Andy West in Engines of Life from Greyhart Press and originally published at Bewildering Stories. Appendix 9: Video links from Bishop Hill and Watts Up With That. Appendix 10: Science or Science Fiction? Professionals’ Discursive Construction of Climate Change by Lianne M. Lefsrud and Renate E. Meyer, and from Stephen Mosher at Climate Etc. Appendix 11: Andy West links including home site: www.wearenarrative.wordpress.com.

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277 thoughts on “The Catastrophic AGW Memeplex; a cultural creature

  1. Minor nit: species’ scientific names when written are style written with the genus capitalized but all specific and sub-specific taxonomies written without capitals, and where available, the whole name is italicized. This is good practice for non-scientific authors to learn – it lends a degree of credence to your writing. To wit: Homo sapiens sapiens.

  2. “The memetic perspective reveals why this is; not in terms of political or financial motivations but in the objective terms of the underlying social mechanisms, which are independent of (and enable) all such motivations.”
    Oh, no – not the “grand memetic alliance” defense:
    “But, but, … I couldn’t help myself. I was trapped in a grand memetic alliance.”
    I can see Michael Mann all over this.
    🙂

  3. @JohnWho
    Lots of great things can come from this. “Memetic Alliance Disorder”, or MAD. The Synod of The Grand Memetic Alliance who will dispense things like awards such as the Order of the Grand Memetic Alliance, in which one becomes a Loyal Fellow of the Grand Mimetic Alliance, or the Memetic Alliance Saviour of the World Fellowship, or the annually awarded Mimetic Alliance Peace Prize, awarded to the Fellow who has commanded the greatest grant funding in a year to further the work of the Grand Mimetic Alliance. Wow, out of breath from the possibilities and run-on sentences!

  4. “Acceptance of the memeplex explanation requires us to rethink what ‘self’ means, and how our opinions, perceptions, and even morals are formed and maintained, with an implication that our ‘self’ is much more about the societal groups we’re immersed in than about what’s intrinsically inside our heads. The fact that we don’t really ‘own’ ourselves, is challenging.”
    Andy West’s frankness is rare. Early in his introduction, he tells us that he buys into the Marxist position that an individual’s “self” meme is caused by the societal groups that we’re immersed in and not so much by what is intrinsically inside our heads. Fortunately for science, the great contributors to science have tended to stand apart from their “societal groups.” For example, Newton had others read his papers at the Royal Society and kept his invention of calculus secret for ten years. After becoming president of the Royal Society, he ruled with an iron hand. Countless “memes” suffered an early death at Newton’s hands.
    The “meme” meme is very old. If you read the important philosophers in the Western tradition, you will find all of them talking about “concepts” until the creation of modern logic by Russell and Whitehead around 1900. Descartes often asks if a particular thing is conceivable? Inigo Montoya, anyone?
    Thomas Kuhn’s work is based entirely on a belief in “concepts” and the power of concepts to control, at least partially, those who “have” them. At the end of this road lies Marx and social determinism of thought.
    There might be a place for a sociological approach to Alarmism but Andy West is attempting to carry out that project using a theory about human thought that takes us away from science and modern logic.

  5. Theo Goodwin says:
    November 2, 2013 at 7:38 am
    Hi Theo. You seem to have me completely backwards. I am extremely far indeed from Marxism and not particularly close to socialism even. And I am trying to take the explanation away from vague politics and philsophiocal argument, and towards a science (cultural evolution and memetics) that has decades of development and understanding behind it, and is built on mathematical models and evolutionary fundamentals. I came from a degree in Physics and many years in computer engineering; my view is that if you don’t understamd something, you can’t fix it. The aim here is to understand it, using the most relevant science tool we have, which is currently memetics.

  6. @Theo Goodwin
    “There might be a place for a sociological approach to Alarmism but Andy West is attempting to carry out that project using a theory about human thought that takes us away from science and modern logic.”
    _______________________
    Jokes and humour aside, “a theory about human thought that takes us away from science and modern logic” doesn’t seem as far-fetched (to me) in the 21st century as may be believed. Witness CAGW and the rise of influence of a certain archaic religion. I’m not at all sure that the degree of entrenchment of science and modern logic is as secure as we’d like to believe, in the present. 10 years ago, I would not have thought that “modern man” would have fallen so far off rational thought as he appears to have.

  7. Wow Theo. McCarthy much? “Social determinism of thought?” Lewandowsky has a survey he wants you to fill out.

  8. andywest2012 says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:00 am
    So, why did you not introduce the “meme theory,” or whatever you want to call it, by presenting the well confirmed hypotheses about memes? Are you going to introduce them? I bet not.
    “Memes,” however understood, are nothing but concepts. The history of concepts is well known to anyone who has cared to study it. Concepts give us disasters such as “postmodern science.”

  9. Matt Skaggs says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:10 am
    “Wow Theo. McCarthy much? “Social determinism of thought?” Lewandowsky has a survey he wants you to fill out.”
    “Ad Hominem” much? Obviously, yes.

  10. Theo Goodwin says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:24 am
    The essay contains references from various scientific fields, including memetics, see the essay itself, or at least get a feel from the block of references at the end of this post (although the web ones are not clickable in this block.) I go wherever the science takes me; while it displays explanatory power I don’t much care who produced it or whatever consiracy theory may or may not be attached to it. If it seems not to display explanatory power (on the relevant topic), I look for some science that will help better. If you don’t want to trawl through the whole essay, please read the mini-digest in the second half of this post. Do you think it sheds light on CAGW? If you don’t think so, I for one would be more than happy for you to say so on the merits (or otherwise) of the text. By the way, I’ve enjoyed your many comments here over the years.

  11. Paul Coppin says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:10 am
    “I’m not at all sure that the degree of entrenchment of science and modern logic is as secure as we’d like to believe, in the present. 10 years ago, I would not have thought that “modern man” would have fallen so far off rational thought as he appears to have.”
    I do not expect people to stand at attention and salute when I refer to science and modern logic. At this time in history, science and logic are struggling to preserve their integrity. These periods have occurred before and will occur again. Lysenko was a great challenge to science and logic. At this time, government policies that reward pseudosciences such as Climate Alarmism are the main threats to the integrity of science. So there is hope for science. If we reach a point where there is no hope for science then I can spend most of my time at the beach.

  12. The idea of a memeplex is new to me but, on the assumption that it stands up to analysis, it makes sense that a memeplex, dependent on uncertainties, would benefit society by “promoting cooperation” and community, and that religion would be a big part of it. We’re talking about values, and community depends on distinctively shared values. The point is, that values can get pretty precise, but one tends to see them as involving subjectivity, uncertain factuality, and so on. Values are general likings, or standards of liking, standards capable of considerable logical structure. But for all that logic, one still, for example, naturally states likings in interrogative and semi-interrogative forms: “Isn’t it great?!”, “How sweet it is!” etc. (This tendency is not confined to English.) Hence, some of the uncertainties on which some memeplexes depend seem unlikely to be eliminated in the foreseeable future. The uncertainties of what really is good are due not only to questions de gustibus (“of tastes”) but also to questions of unintended consequences, conflicts of values, etc. – hence the evolution of logical structure in values. These considerations about uncertainty support the claim of a beneficial role for memeplexes, including religions, especially ones that learn to avoid blinding people to establishable facts and becoming the kinds of things that Charles Mackay called extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds.

  13. Back when T-Rex walked the earth and I was in college, we used to refer to “the power of ideas”. There is wonderful, encyclopaedic work about this: “The Making of the Modern Mind”, which catalogs the development of many of the “mental furniture” that most of us take for granted.
    Ideas do have a power not unlike living organisms, but I think this best left as an analogy.
    Terminology aside, what is obvious is that bad ideas can have just as much influence as good ideas, and that the only way to limit the spread of bad ideas is to diligently train young minds with good ideas, and to keep doing it until they can confidently recognize a bad idea and be completely immune to it.

  14. memes- we are trapped in endless circles of confirmation bias of our own making? There is no way out? Truth is relative to our perspective and belief? No. As best we can tell it has not warmed for 17 years. CAGW is falsified. We can reason and know facts and assert the truth.
    No memes required.

  15. JIMMY says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:56 am
    Indeed fact short circuits memes and the development of memeplexes. But how do you transmit them against a far larger traffic from a dominant memeplex, which will also counter with evolution. For instance against your 17 years not warming, is not now the maintstream response ‘the deep oceans’.

  16. Meme rhymes with theme. It’s all just the man as villian thing started by Felix Salten when he wrote Bambi. Pop culture that enthralls a bourgeois consumer society which turns away from its barnyards so it can peer at an imaginary place called Nature and thereby arriving at a self hating place.

  17. I’d like to suggest the existence of memes that are alternatives to CAGW including lukewarmism. CAGW and the other memes share the properties of: a) making arguments that are isolated from actual events and b) being propagated through applications of the equivocation fallacy.

  18. Many of us who draw parallels between religion and CAGW would also include Memes in to the comparison. Popper rejected Marxism because it’s Historical Determinism could explain “everything”. So to does religion and CAGW. How many times have we been told that CAGW causes droughts & floods, snow & lack of snow, a greater number of hurricanes of lesser intensity & fewer hurricanes of greater intensity, etc. etc.
    Be wary of any any idea (in this case memes) which claims to explain everything and therefore cannot be falsified. Theo has it right. Memes are concepts. However granting them the power of self-perpetuation is rather fuzzy and non-scientific thinking. How would you disprove this hypothesis?

  19. This is going to take me days, maybe weeks , to digest. Thanks for publishing the essay and perplexing me.

  20. @HankHenry says:
    November 2, 2013 at 9:08 am
    ….. It’s all just the man as villian thing started by Felix Salten when he wrote Bambi. ..
    Err…I think you will find that the Romantic Poets got there first. They were talking about “dark satanic mills” around 1800…

  21. Memes are powerful roadblocks to perceiving reality. As Robert Bolton wrote ““A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.”
    When I was researching the bogus claims that the Emperor Penguins would soon go extinct due to global warming, the temperature data from the British Arctic Survey showed there was absolutely no warming at the Dumont D’urville station (or DuDu as the locals call it) adjacent to the penguin colony. This is the same colony featured in the delightful documentary “March of the Penguins”. The penguin colony had been disturbed by researchers flipper banding penguins in the dead of winter during the 1970s. That caused many penguins to abandon the colony. That decline was then recently hijacked by CO2 alarmists to suggest imminent extinction. A penguin expert who I highly admire, fell victim to the warming meme. He published on his website lessons for teachers and students about how warming was killing penguins. He had a graph with a rising arrow depicting ever warming temperatures superimposed on the declining Emperor penguin population.
    I asked him how he could justify that false graph and sent him the real data for DuDu where there had not been any increase in temperatures during any season for the past 50 years, and superimposed his “rising temperature arrow” on top of the real data as illustrated in the link below. He apologized and immediately removed the false warming graphs, saying he thought warming was happening at the time. He was another scientist who fell victim of the prevailing bias meme. Normally he does impeccable research, and absolutely believe he had no intent to deceive other.
    http://landscapesandcycles.net/image/77061763.png
    As Mark Twain wrote, ““In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second hand from others.”
    The same holds true for scientists.
    A more blatant example of how a meme undermines science is the case of the chemists who claimed to have developed cold fusion. They gave a presentation to a group of physicists before they published their findings. The physicists pointed out that their energy peaks were in the wrong place and therefore the observed heat was not from nuclear fusion. Pons and Fleischmann argued it was a careless mistake when they hurriedly put together their presentation. When their cold fusion paper was published, the energy peak was now in the correct position to validate fusion. But MIT skeptics revealed they had falsified the data. Pons and Fleischmann could not possibly have thought they could have fooled the world, because if cold fusion was to have any value, their methods would need to be thoroughly replicated. Pons and Fleischmann simply believed they had discovered cold fusion and they would be proven correct in the future, so they altered their data to fit their beliefs and cold fusion became one of science’s greatest fiascos.
    The whole history of fusion is littered with false claims and I recommend reading Seife’s book “Sun in a Bottle: The strange history of fusion and the science of wishful thinking.” If physicists in highly controlled laboratory settings where experiments are easily replicated can be so easily fooled, imagine how easy it is for climate scientists. Their hypotheses require a century before it can be verified, and the chimeric global average obscures the various local climate dynamics. The meme is kept alive due to false fears. Instead of the “science of wishful thinking”, climate scientists rely on the age old apocalyptic vision used by cult leaders for millennia.

  22. Even the intro was a bit lengthy for me, however I think this approach is essential. It has to be understood as a sociological phenomenon, there is no longer any point in arguing/discussing the science.
    AGW is not a science based movement (despite its constant pretence and appeal to authority), it’s a belief based cultural phenomenon.
    My background is science not sociology, so my stomach for this sort of thing is limited.
    However, I congratulate Andy on this mammoth work which probably is the way to understanding CAGW.

  23. Jim S says:
    November 2, 2013 at 9:13 am
    “Many of us who draw parallels between religion and CAGW…”
    Yes, because you see the memes within CAGW which are similar to religious memes. Whole bunch of the essay looks into this comparison.
    “Memes are concepts. However granting them the power of self-perpetuation is rather fuzzy …”
    Religious memeplexes have lasted thousands of years…
    “How would you disprove this hypothesis?”
    I guess if we all fry after all, it wasn’t a memeplex 😉

  24. Meme scheme, This appeal of this CAGW thing ties into that age old game called “sacrifice.” Control of one’s emotions by self medicating one’s angst through self denial. It’s the hope that by denying oneself the creature comforts of modern life, an imaginary deity called Nature will be appeased and ones confusion will lessen. CAGW is indeed a meme if the word meme implies a notion not completely thought through. Beyond that the “catastrophic” in CAGW compliments patterns of human behavior and thought that are just too ancient not to have a emotional and thereby biological basis. When one thinks of doom just remember that the word didn’t come from nowhere. Others have imagined it in contexts so different it makes me laugh. For example look to the so called “burning embers” diagram of the IPCC third assessment report. All this is not to say that the environment doesn’t need safeguards. It’s just that the safeguards will come as engineered solutions and equitable compromises. It’s up to our own enlightened selves to save ourselves from the fiery furnace.

  25. Andy West;
    If you want an interesting read to augment your already excellent research, I recommend business to business sales books such as Changing the Game by Larry Wilson. I’m not sure if it is even in print anymore, there are probably all sorts of derivative works likely on the shelves though.
    Large business organizations and entire industries develop and maintain their own memes. Business to business sales frequently involves breaking through those memes, and in many cases, the cultural memes are so dominant that no business case, no matter how compelling, can prevail.
    As an example, the quartz watch movement was developed in Switzerland which, in that period of time, was totally dominant in the watch industry. Every watch company in the country rejected the quartz movement because it just wasn’t the way watches were made. The technology was eventually sold to Seiko, and the Swiss watch industry mostly went bankrupt.
    Similarly, Addressograph-Memograph once dominated the calculator market with their mechanical adding machines. All they had to do to maintain their near monopoly was to bring out electronic versions when that technology became available. But that wasn’t how calculators were made in their minds, so TI and HP blew them out of existence. The executive of 3M consigned the yellow sticky to the dust bin because they could see no practical use for it. Only a revolt by their own executive assistants who had been part of the test group saved the product. Detroit for decades equated high quality cars with size. It never occurred to them that anyone would want a high quality small car until Toyota, Datsun and others had grabbed half their market share. No one was ever gong to need more than 640 kb of ram (Microsoft), no one was ever going to want a computer on their desk top (Digital Equipment) and the world wide market for commercial mainframes was less than 10 per year (IBM).
    In hindsight, these memes seem obviously ridiculous, but the fact is that entire companies and industries have repeatedly succumbed to their own cultural memes. I think we’ll one day look at CAGW as being just as absurd as the notion that quartz watch movements would never catch on… but an entire CAGW industry has been built around just such an absurd meme, and it will stubbornly fight to preserve itself until outside forces push it to financial extinction. The outside forces in this case will be the continued rise of 2nd and 3rd world economies that force the 1st world to abandon their idiotic climate policies in order to remain competitive and keep their economies vibrant. It is happening in Europe already as countries like Spain abandon their massive subsidy regimes, not because they have ceased to believe in the CAGW meme, but because they are faced with bankruptcy if they don’t. Bankruptcy is also a meme, and tomorrow’s bankruptcy trumps next decade’s global warming.
    The science at end of day will have nothing to do with the death of CAGW. Only economics can kill it. Hopefully not in the same way that it killed the Swiss watch industry or Addressograph-Memograph.

  26. I believe that Richard Dawkins invented the term ‘meme’ (to rhyme with gene) in one of his interesting books, and discussed how they started and spread.
    It’s amazing how the term has caught on – there must have been a need for such a concept.

  27. Thank you, Andy. This angle is the most interesting to me and your bizarre introduction to a 100+ page essay had me chuckle. I’ll take a look at it later.

  28. Thanks Dodgy. “Started” was the wrong word. It probably even need rephrasing. I had to do a little work with Google to figure out who was ultimately responsible for Bambi and got lax. The post I did after that needs even more editing.

  29. Well all this memplex talk seems to try to explain the CO2AGW hysteria as an emergent self-amplifying neo-pagan religious phenomenon.
    I disagree entirely; it is a POLITICAL religion, i.e. it is fabricated from start to finish, using controlled opposition (NGO’s, see Maurice Strong, Stockholm 1972 conference on the environment), controlled media, and the strategy switch by the UN from using force (Katanga 1961, 100,000 dead) to using deception (Limits To Growth , Club Of Rome, Maurice Strong) is well documented; censorship in the media is also well documented. (BBC futerra Richard Black)
    Financing of the NGO’s by the EU commission is well documented.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2xmZXYiHvI&feature=player_embedded

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjvrHm9-wGE

  30. Thanks , I will have to read that again and digest.
    1st take, you can’t fix stupid and none are so blind as those who will not see.
    Belief clouds our vision, the scientific method being a tool man invented to cut the fog of memes.

  31. If CO2AGW is such an infectious meme, why is it that I can’t be infected and that even in arch-warmist Germany none of my acquaintances (who are politically apathetic) and only a minority of colleagues TRY to infect me (which they never manage because they just don’t have the scientific arguments to make a remotely convincing case).
    In practice, all the warmist propaganda that keeps the apathetic Germans in lockstep rains down from above; politicians, media, all the time, nearly all parties (and most definitely ALL parties that are allowed into the Bundestag).
    See GLOBE international to find out WHY ALL Western parties are warmist (yes, even the GOP-RINO’s , not so much the Tea Partiers of course).

  32. “The hypothesis for a single, simple, scientific explanation underlying the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW”
    Uh yeh, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it failed at simple. And I disagree that there’s anything complex about basic features of social interaction.
    Short version: People believe stuff. Lots of stuff people pick up, and repeat, they don’t believe. People tend to believe things they don’t know, told to them by others they trust. People tend trust people in authority; even when the authority wears funny clothes, say stupid things, or has no clothes at all. If you aren’t someone wearing no clothes, you have to pretend — for graces — that your neighbor’s aren’t naked. They sincerely believe it, and humiliation is more a cause of murder than anger ever has been. In the best you aren’t invited to tea parties and are deprived of scones since you didn’t voice agreement with people that are absolutely quite certain about their eschatlogical beat poetry and the proper moral place of man.
    And no matter what you say, they will trot out an idol, nugget of iconography, or relic to prove the thing. It used to be that such things were human remains and bits of wood. But after the iconoclasty of Islam, everything tends to geometric. Little lines that ‘go up’.

  33. Here’s a certain climate changers article from OZ, courtesy of LexisNexis academic. MODs if I’ve violated copyright, please do delete. Don’t want to get anyone in trouble.
    CLIMATE CHANGERS ALL HOT AIR
    TERRY McCRANN
    CCA are keepers of the modern-day climate cringe
    MEET the fantasists of the Climate Change Authority — an institution spawned by the deal between former prime minister Julia Gillard and her climate change minister Greg Combet with former Greens leader Bob Brown; and, hopefully, to be as short-lived as its fellow blot on the public policy landscape, the already terminated Climate Commission.
    The CCA’s nine members are slightly less horsemen, and women, of the coming Climate Apocalypse, and somewhat more, judging on their draft drivel — apologies, draft report — issued during the week, keepers of the modern-day climate cringe.
    The 177 pages that led to the conclusion that we should at least triple our target for cutting emissions of life-enhancing carbon dioxide by 2020 from 5 to 15 per cent, could be distilled down to one simple, and that word is used advisedly, argument.
    If we didn’t, in echoes of the original cultural cringe of the mid-20th century, “they” — the elites of the true metropolitan world, principally Europe — would think the less of us. We wouldn’t be doing “our share”.
    The nine, led by former prime minister Paul Keating’s former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser, Gillard’s chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb, former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s favourite business lobbyist Heather Ridout, Dr Lynne Williams, John Marlay, Elana Rubin, and anchored by the trio of professorial climate hysterics Hamilton (Clive), Karoly (David) and Quiggin (John), apparently live in an alternative universe.
    In that universe, the 40,000 free-loading CO2-spewing climate main-chancers who descended on rapidly warming — actually, as I pointed out at the time, absolute brass monkeys frozen — Hopehagen aka Copenhagen, back in 2009, did not slink away, deflated, from Copenfloppen.
    The “absolute last chance” to strike a binding global deal to cut CO2 emissions has gone. Despite the best efforts of then PM Rudd and his caravan of 119 Down Under summiteers.
    With the same sorry result, except sans Rudd, due to “other events”, at every succeeding global climate conference — COP (Conference of Parties) 16 at Cancun, Mexico; COP 17 in Durban, South Africa; COP 18 in Doha.
    With COP 19 now approaching just as pointlessly — except for the benefit of the global CO2-spewing climate change free-loaders — in a couple of weeks in Warsaw, Poland.
    With all those conferences reduced to an “agreement” for individual countries to nominate in 2015 what they “promise” — hand on national heart — to cut future CO2 emissions by.
    No, in the alternative universe that the CCA nine inhabit, at least in their shared and individual delusions, the entire world must have joined hands, the Chinese lion lain down with the American lamb, to agree, somewhere in all that, to cut CO2 emissions.
    Never mind that the only thing that has happened since Copenfloppen is exactly the same thing that happened before it: global emissions, led by of course China, just keep going up.
    In 2009, according to the US Energy Information Administration, global CO2 emissions were 30,236 million tonnes. By 2011 they had risen to 32,578 million tonnes. And last year they added about another 1000 million tonnes.
    In short, since 2009, total global CO2 emissions have increased by around six times our total CO2 emissions. That is to say, by around 120 times what our 5 per cent cut would deliver; still 40 times what a 15 per cent cut would deliver.
    No, everyone’s promising to cut, unfortunately Augustinean-style. So there, we’d better get with the program quick smart, according to the CCA fantasists.
    Never mind that we have the highest price on CO2 emissions, bar none. Never mind that our carbon tax, designed by Gillard-Combet-Rudd and now Shorten-style, to morph into an emissions trading scheme, is the most pervasive across the economy, again bar none. Including in the home of climate insanity, Europe.
    Never mind, most of all, that our seemingly puny 5 per cent cut is actually extremely punitive on a per capita basis, given our very rapid population growth — versus a Europe where population growth is static or even falling. There’s an interesting, largely unidentified, depressing and ultimately damning link between the two most disastrous policies ever initiated by an Australian government: Rudd’s National Broadband Network and Gillard’s carbon tax.
    They share a central lie. In the case of the NBN, it’s a lie to claim its rollout a “success”.
    In the case of the carbon tax, it’s purported validation.
    To prove its success in spooling out the fibre, NBN Co continually detailed statistics on the basis of the number of homes passed where construction had been completed or “commenced”.
    Now, it was already misleading enough that a “home passed” couldn’t necessarily connect to the fibre; in the NBN version of spin-speak, many such homes were “service class zero”.
    But as Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull found out this week, “construction commenced” included areas where only a plan had been formulated. It was almost a case of: let’s “think” about cabling an area of, say, 100,000 premises; and, hey presto, construction to that many premises had thereby “commenced”.
    Similarly in the climate change space: from top — (former) PM and (former) climate change minister — to bottom, the nine fantasists of the CCA and their siblings at the CC, a “promise” to cut emissions is a delivered emissions cut.
    This was never more striking that in the case of China, the CO2-spewing elephant in the climate change room.
    So China’s promise — actually more just a feel-good target — to cut emissions intensity by 40-45 per cent by 2020 — is cited as proof it was “stepping up its efforts to cut emissions”.
    No it doesn’t. Even if delivered, it would still mean China increasing its actual emissions by anywhere between, best case, “one Australia”, or by as much as “10 Australias”. And it almost certainly won’t be delivered.
    The same goes for all the other claimed cuts. At no point do the CCA nine engage with the central contradiction — between the wave of claimed cuts and the absolute refusal by those countries to commit to binding cuts.
    One would need an equivalent 177 pages to deal with all the lies and simple stupidities in the CCA report; along with the other inanities of the last week, such as the economists who told Fairfax an ETS was best.
    Let me note two where the CCA nine exposed their particular failure. They argued that aggressive CO2 cuts would do minimal damage to the economy.
    Yet they showed no comprehension that a China that did actually cut its emissions — the justification for our cutting more — would be wreaking havoc on our economy by cutting back its buying of our coal and iron ore.
    Similarly, the nine believe that we’d be able to buy emission permits relatively cheaply in the global marketplace.
    Not understanding that the only reason they are so cheap is because no one (except us) is taking CO2 cuts seriously.
    If the world really did get with the CO2 cutting program, everyone would be after suddenly scarce as hen’s teeth permits; their price would rocket.
    But I wax too cynical. I should regain the faith by absorbing the dedication of Gillard and Combet.
    They’ve both put their money where their climate change mouths were; both buying sea-side properties. One can only presume to watch at first hand as the warmed waters rise.
    Along with, I might note, the former alarmist-in-chief Tim Flannery. Presumably they will now be joined by one or more of the CCA nine.

  34. Robin Hewitt says:
    November 2, 2013 at 10:30 am
    “In hindsight, these memes seem obviously ridiculous, but the fact is that entire companies and industries have repeatedly succumbed to their own cultural memes. I think we’ll one day look at CAGW as being just as absurd as the notion that quartz watch movements would never catch on… but an entire CAGW industry has been built around just such an absurd meme,”
    Notice that you just managed to demolish the “memeplex” argument yourself by observing that it is simple economic interest of rent-seekers and cronies of the regime that keeps the warmist propaganda alive – not some irresistible attraction of human brains to the CO2AGW meme but cold hard Dollars Gold.

  35. Theo Goodwin says:
    November 2, 2013 at 7:38 am
    ++++++++++++++++++
    davidmhoffer says:
    November 2, 2013 at 10:35 am
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    One of my required “options” while an engineering undergrad at the University of British Columbia was to take “The Philosophy of Science” based on Kuhn’s work. I wrote a term paper back in 1970 or 71 on the “Theory of Great Machines” which is not too different from the use of “memes” to describe how ideas and processes get ingrained in business and public mind sets. As a result, other ways of seeing and doing things become obfuscated because of the “current” meme. CAGW fits the case perfectly. It has grown so large that even if there are hundreds of proofs that it is wrong, like turning an aircraft carrier, it will take some time to change course due to the inertia in the system and the billions of dollars involved, real or imagined. I wrote about certain industries that were in trouble due to their “memes” in that 1970 term paper and it has taken close to 40 years for the survivors to get turned – and many are still only part way through the turnaround. I would guess the catastrophic CO2 crowd will be selling the idea for a very long time even after much better climate change theories are confirmed. They have invested too much time and energy into their beliefs. And interestingly facts to the opposite will only STRENGTHEN their resolve. See: http://io9.com/the-backfire-effect-shows-why-you-cant-use-facts-to-wi-1443792942
    It seems that when people are presented with FACTS that contradict their beliefs, they tend to harden their beliefs rather than consider the facts. The old quote: “When the facts change, I change my mind.” seems to only apply to the few people out there with open minds willing to consider ideas that do not fit in with their beliefs. And that is the problem with CAGW. We all know climate changes but I doubt anyone knows ALL the reasons why since there are so many contributing factors.
    Well, time to go shovel snow and put the winter tires on my truck. One thing I know, the predicted AGW isn’t reducing the amount of wood I have to put up. 😄😄😄😄
    Wayne Delbeke,
    Faraway, Alberta, Canada
    Greetings from the Great White North

  36. Pat Frank says:
    November 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Here’s a certain climate changers article from OZ, courtesy of LexisNexis academic. MODs if I’ve violated copyright, please do delete. Don’t want to get anyone in trouble

    Yep. You violated copyright.
    @hunter
    Open link in private window.
    https://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&gl=ca&tbm=nws&authuser=0&q=Climate+changers+all+hot+air+the+australian&oq=Climate+changers+all+hot+air+the+australian&gs_l=news-cc.12..43j43i53.2613.15927.0.19910.15.1.0.14.0.0.75.75.1.1.0…0.0…1ac.1j2.G7Q94bW1UQ0

  37. The evidence Andy West provides for regarding CAGW as a Memeplex is fairly convincing but CAGW seems to be more deliberatly dishonest than most memeplexes. And the amount of damage CAGW has done in terms of wasted time, energy and money is far greater than most memes. It has to carry a large degree of responsibilty for the sorry state of the world’s economies. And the damage it has done to the landscape with hideous wind farms is inexcusable.
    Given that CAGW is indeed some kind of memeplex, Andy Wesr needs to write a follow-up essay on the best way to cause a memeplexes to come crashing down. Given the massic amount of damage CAGW has caused and continues to cause the sooner it is forced/coaxed into its death throes the better. Any guidance as to how to precipitate this would be incvaluable.

  38. DirkH;
    Notice that you just managed to demolish the “memeplex” argument yourself by observing that it is simple economic interest of rent-seekers and cronies of the regime that keeps the warmist propaganda alive – not some irresistible attraction of human brains to the CO2AGW meme but cold hard Dollars Gold.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I suggest you read through it again.
    Wayne Delbeke;
    The old quote: “When the facts change, I change my mind.” seems to only apply to the few people out there with open minds willing to consider ideas that do not fit in with their beliefs.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Yes! That is why the incumbent supplier will win the sale the majority of the time, even against a superior, more cost effective product. There is a balance between the prevailing meme and fear of change. The stronger the prevailing meme, the more compelling must be the business case to get minds to consider the facts. When the meme is exceptionally strong, the facts will not prevail unless exceptional circumstances arise which provide what we in sales call a “compelling reason to act”.

  39. Ted Swart: “Andy Wesr needs to write a follow-up essay on the best way to cause a memeplexes to come crashing down. ”
    Ridicule them mercilessly. Lots of good things for that, but Bertrand Russell is always a good one:
    “Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, …”

  40. DirkH says:
    November 2, 2013 at 11:40 am
    Very well said, Dirk. I am glad to see that there is one more person on this blog who is at peace with his “self,” “conceptual scheme,” “world view,” or whatever some social theorist might want to call it. Just a word or two on propaganda.
    The most important tool of Nazism and Fascism was the newly popular radio. Propaganda has been the most powerful force of the Twentieth Century. To say that the IPCC and their many co-minions are not willfully engaged in propaganda is to underestimate them and, thereby, to make them more powerful.
    Of course professional propagandists are good at “framing” and appealing to the “popular unconscious,” but they are no better than popular song writers. Let us not substitute a triviality for the very real threat from “Big Green.”

  41. Mr. West: Bravo on this undertaking. I love this stuff and I’ll read it with sincere and critical attention. (and try to avoid choking on the incredible number of incomplete sentences like this one would have been had i left out the verb….lol) Thank you for sharing.
    Theo Goodwin says: Bravo on perspicacity. He does seem unaware of the underlying premises that color his interpretations.

  42. I can’t agree with the meme argument for CAGW. In the case of simple minded trolls yes but the people who started the whole CAGW thing it was a deliberate attempt to force a crisis and then transfer wealth especially away from the middle classes.

  43. clipe,
    Interesting article. The issue I have with those sorts of articles as that at least by implication they acceptt he AGW premise: That CO2 reduction has some sort of direct impact on ‘climate’ and that this impact can be measured in improved outcomes for humanity or the environment.
    The reality seems to be, from the evidence, that climate’s manifestations, “weather” is not influenced much by CO2. And certainly not in ways that justify the all in costs of CO2 taxation/reduction. The only realistic positino is one that challenges the massive over funded parasitic AGW industry at every opportunity. Challenges the AGW rent seekers to provide real evidence of their mad claims. Exposes the waste fraud and moral hazard the AGW promoters engage in. Demonstrates for the public how AGW inspired policies waste our resources. Emblodens more politicians to stand up to the AGW political machine.

  44. “Whatever is happening in the great outdoors regarding actual climate, inside, truly inside, in the minds of men that is, overwhelming evidence indicates that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is a self-sustaining narrative that is living off our mental capacity, either in symbiosis or as an outright cultural parasite; a narrative that is very distanced from physical real-world events.”
    With a very first sentence (above) like this, I’m guessing English is not Andy’s first language….

  45. For what it’s worth . . . . this is nothing but phsychobabble which fogs the issue of CAGW. Sorry.
    For me, It’s a bit like sitting through a Shakespeare play and then having the courage to admit that I didn’t understand a word of it. Unfortunately, all the warmists understand every line of ‘Hamlet’. To me, it is a load of drivvle. If Global Warming were a Ben Travers play, it would make sense.

  46. Steve B says: November 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm
    Steve – there is no distinction.
    I used to spend a lot of time in #ED which was devoted to creating and disseminating memes like Rick Rolling, Caturday, Anonymous.
    Once somebody understands the nature of memes, the more creative monkeys do it for fun cuz they can.
    They are not self replicating, though; they all require a vector for infection. They recruit.

  47. Andy West says:
    “Yet we are all “absurdly gullible” when it comes to being assimilated by a memeplex”
    We may all be gullible to some degree but I have to disagree that we’re all “absurdly” gullible. There’s a difference between buying into alien abduction, 9/11 truth, pole (physical, as in axis of rotation) shift, hollow earth, etc. and buying into cholesterol being the dominate factor in heart disease, land bridge explanation to transcontinental geologic features (as opposed to continental drift), Piltdown man, etc. Some things are just more plausible than others even if they are wrong.
    If “Catastrophic” (in CAGW) is defined as acid oceans boiling away effectively extinguishing all known life in the universe then, yes, that belief would require being absurdly gullible.
    On the other hand, if “Catastrophic” (in CAGW) is defined as cost in significant excess of mitigation costs then that belief while still wrong in my opinion is still plausible and doesn’t require nearly the level of gullibility as the “end of the world” believers.
    I was once accused of being a techno-optimist on RC. I confessed. I am a techno-optimist. The awesome creativity and adaptability of humanity has proven itself time and time again. It has saved NYC from being buried in manure (automobiles), saved us from running out of forests (fossil fuels), and saved us from running out of wild game and forage (agriculture) just to name a few. Perhaps I am gullible to have bought into this particular narrative considering past performance does not guarantee future results, but it is certainly plausible.
    Ok, so with that out of the way, your paper has certainly given me a lot the chew on, (nice work) not the least of which is the recommendation to cease and desist referring to CAGW as a hoax, scam, etc..
    On a previous thread Richard Courtney implored us to stop using the word hoax in regard to CAGW arguing that it’s more accurately described as a bandwagon. I argued that while the grand majority of CAGW advocates did indeed most likely do so to be fashionable or “in”; that this did not explain the core members that communicated a confidence unsupportable with the available evidence.
    Since the limits of my respect for Richard Courtney have yet to be determined, I have been giving this a lot of thought since his comment. I think of a hoax as having two essential elements: 1) Intentional deception 2) for personal gain (fame or fortune).
    Certainly we can come up with a lot of excuses for people’s behavior that refutes intentional deception such as noble cause corruption and confirmation bias, but the core of my argument pertains to the confidence level being communicated. Daniel Kahneman convincingly negates my argument in his article in the NY Times as applicable to the scientists involved.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/magazine/dont-blink-the-hazards-of-confidence.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
    Also, Jim Steele pointed out how an honest mistake could be involved in making the temperature record appear to be more supportive of the “CAGW” meme(plex) than it otherwise would be:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/09/25/unwarranted-temperature-adjustments-and-al-gores-unwarranted-call-for-intellectual-tyranny/
    Ok, so I was wrong, but here’s the flaw that’s still in the slaw: Robert Brown points out how one-sided funding can influence results:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/08/22/how-global-warming-research-is-like-pot-research/
    So, perhaps the scientists are also victims of a “scam” perpetrated by those wanting a carbon market or tax that they could personally gain from its existence.
    It comes down to this: while y’all may have convinced me the scientists are not guilty of deliberate deception for personal gain I still couldn’t in good conscience describe Al Gore as anything but a charlatan.

  48. GeeJam says:
    Andy’s work is well worth reading because he is very intelligent and is using the finest cognitive tools. It’s worth reading if only to see the tools. I think it would be worth your while to become acquainted with them, at least. Psychobabble it is not.

  49. jim Steele says:
    November 2, 2013 at 10:17 am
    Well done on the penguin front, Jim. Fighting out of control memes is hard work and making the effort to write and correct folks is very commendable.
    davidmhoffer says:
    November 2, 2013 at 10:35 am
    Your ‘business culture’ angle is a very interesting, thanks. I’ll try and make some time to look into that a little more.

  50. gnomish says:
    November 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm
    Andy’s work is well worth reading because he is very intelligent and is using the finest cognitive tools. It’s worth reading if only to see the tools. I think it would be worth your while to become acquainted with them, at least. Psychobabble it is not.
    >>>>>>
    As usual, only the “intellectuals” are fooled.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychobabble

  51. “An examination of the link between (religious) memeplexes and the catalyzing of civilization, plus the spawning of major construction projects within cultures driven by a major memeplex. Evidence from ancient Egypt and Sumeria. Memeplexes as emergent (naturally selected) and hugely (net) beneficial phenomena promoting co-operation. Despite sometimes severe downsides, are memeplexes the conveyor belts of civilization?”
    While I agree with Theo Goodwin’s excellent analyses in his posts above, I find this paragraph especially telling.
    This view of history favors monumental structures, palaces, extreme luxury, and the enslavement of the manpower by a ruling class, which is necessary to sustain these monumental cultures and the opulence of the aristocracy. This is a highly skewed version of history. Many cultures, tribes, languages, and countries existed and thrived and became wealthy without leaving monumental structures or using a highly stratified class system. These were involved in active trade and economic activity all over the Mediterranean and Europe long before the classical era. Periodically Empires invaded, subjugating local economies through taxation and tribute. In the major Empires of the past, the classes are separated by having separate legal codes for separate classes, and by outlawing the possession of certain necessities, innovations, and conveniences for the lower class.
    If you think that describes “civilization,” you would be in agreement with Plato, Marx, Hobbes, and the current cabal of wealthy World Empire (“UN”) activists who believe their gift to the world is to take away technology, automobiles, large homes, and religious freedom from most people. World Empires have always been great demolishers of “civilization,” in favor of highly centralized, stratified societies. And yes, they are monumental cultures. But that is not what most of us really consider “civilized,” given some time to think.
    The author then proceeds to equate religious memeplexes with monumental cultures. Most (or many) religious texts, when you read them directly yourself, are dealing with man’s choices between good and evil. The afterlife is based on the actions, thoughts, and motives of the individual, and no riches or class distinction can ever shield you from reaping what you sow. For example, “Do not be deceived, whatsoever a man sows, that he shall also reap.”

  52. As a psychologist and avid student of cultural anthropology I look forward to reading all of this essay.
    However, in the meantime our president issued an executive order yesterday which I believe is meant to dramatically change our own culture here in the USA, based upon his supposed belief that we are in some kind of national emergency due to the possibility of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.
    Get ready; a lot of trouble lies ahead if we allow the current administration to change things by executive fiat. My guess is that the order is aimed at stopping fracking on private lands, although it does not specifically say that. I suspect that a new round of EPA rules will be released or that private lands may even be confiscated in order to control them for “environmental” safety.” These people are nuts and have no respect for our rights under the constitution. I put nothing past them See the link below:
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/01/executive-order-preparing-united-states-impacts-climate-change

  53. 3 Problems:
    1: What selects a meme of it is so good at resisting opposition to itself. It sounds immortal.
    2: How can a meme spread from person to person when everyone has a meme already? They ought to quickly eliminate weaker ideas at the speed of thought.
    3: None of this in empirical – it assumes that the real world means nothing. If the facts disagree then the meme should be refused by the observant. But this model of “memetics” doesn’t allow for that.
    Personally, I agree that memes exist. Theologically, the fact that the 1srt commandment is “I the Lord, your God is one. Worship no other God but me” acknowledges that the reality of memes has been known for 5,000 years. But they do not explain everything.
    Memes explain part of the aiming of motivations.
    Discuss motivations (grandchildren are a part of the key to motivations) before discussing memes. For that is what selects the memes.

  54. Remember, remember the fifth of November – the Honourable John Howard will present the 2013 annual lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London England:
    “One Religion is enough: How Alarmists have Hi-jacked the Climate Debate”
    http://www.thegwpf.org/honourable-john-howard-deliver-2013-annual-gwpf-lecture/
    This should cause a big bang in Parliament. Perhaps WUWT will consider reproducing this?
    Meanwhile down in Antarctica, for the crew of the Aurora Australis it looks like it is “Carmen on Ice”
    https://secure3.aad.gov.au/proms/public/schedules/display_sitrep.cfm?bvs_id=19258

  55. Ted Swart says:
    November 2, 2013 at 12:37 pm
    “Given that CAGW is indeed some kind of memeplex, Andy Wesr needs to write a follow-up essay on the best way to cause a memeplexes to come crashing down.”
    Now if I could do that, I really would count myself clever 😉 Skeptics are already doing some of the right things, for instance by continuously pushing the (real) science, because genuine facts short circuit the evolution of a memeplex. But getting real science heard against the massive memetic traffic of bias and alarmism, is a very long and hard and thankless task. What would work better, is a counter-narrative; in essence a new memeplex to fight the CAGW one, hopefully one that is a little more tame, a wolfhound to defend us from the wolf (as the essay says). But I don’t know what core memes would enliven our wolfhound, and also there’s the danger that it could slip the leash and become just as bad as CAGW…

  56. Theo Goodwin says at November 2, 2013 at 8:24 am

    So, why did you not introduce the “meme theory,” or whatever you want to call it, by presenting the well confirmed hypotheses about memes? Are you going to introduce them? I bet not.

    Well put.
    We disagree on much, politically, but the lack of coherent axioms to the meme concept is one we seem to agree on. Me, I think that you can grow a culture (pun intended) using memes – if you take a core belief as absolute. A creed as an axiom.
    But otherwise it is at best a “watch the pea” justification for castles built on sand.
    Worse, they never explain the mechanism by which memes are selected or reproduce. It looks like science but is merely a metaphor.
    Which is wasteful as there may be something real in there.
    It looks like science, after all.

  57. andywest2012: “What would work better, is a counter-narrative; …”
    Douglas Adams already has the counter-narrative for every strain of apocalyptica: Dont’ Panic!
    Which is terribly unsuitable for those clamorous of answers for life, the universe, and everything. For them the Socratic narrative of “I don’t know” is no narrative at all.
    And seriously, call narratives what they are: Fairy Tales.

  58. Once Skinner had laid down the essentials of psychology, there was virtually nothing fundamentally new for the psychologists to say- yet without distinguishing themselves somehow, they could hardly justify their existence. Repeating the known and proven would be unrewarding, financially – so they invented a lot of new words that, one way or another, rejected the extablished basics. The word psychobabble does not refer to the babbling of a psychotic but rather to the babbling of a psychologist.
    With the emergence of computers, computer terminology provided concepts that were transferred to the discussion of information processing by human brains – with a much better utility.
    Dawkins recognized the pattern of evolution and consciousness possessed analogous values, to wit: storage of information, mutability, reproducibility- only faster and better. He made up the word ‘meme’ to refer to the ‘atom’ of a conceptual entity (without a clear definition of the notion of ‘concept’, itself.) in the same way that Shannon invented the word ‘bit’ to refer to the ‘atom’ of information.
    Dawkins’ new terminology has some virtues but also hazards, as any analogy is NOT a definition and suffers incompleteness and fallacy because of that.
    Nevertheless, the parallels between genetic evolution and memetic evolution are clear and worthy of recognition. The terms have utility for making sense of the world.
    Even as the gold standard for evolution be ‘survival of the fit’, so it is that for a conscious organism, memetically, it is ‘persistence of truth’.
    Infecting a mind with a meme is easy and is based on the ‘law of threes’
    Simple repetition is what gives it currency. The first time you hear it, it’s random; the second time, you’ve seen it before and it is an entity; the third time, you are now familiar with it and it matters to some degree- you are likely to rehearse it, then, by thinking, speaking, writing, or acting on it.
    Rehearsal establishes it in your mind and may infect others.
    Refer to Skinner for how this works and what he showed about extinction of habits.
    Nothing much novel about it.

  59. Memes, schmemes! The Git undertook a philosophy of biology course 5 years or so ago at UTas. Most of the students taking the class were biology students. Most of the students and were not at all persuaded of the existence of memes despite considerable persuasion from the lecturer. This is not a put-down of the lecturer, Richard Corey BTW. He’s a first class philosopher as well as physicist.
    Ah, say the meme-believers, not-believing in memes is a meme. Oh, so invisible pink unicorns are memes, too no doubt. In fact, everything can be a meme. Even the Pompous Git! Hopefully others above have already pointed this out…

  60. For you “intellectuals” that crave psychobabble, enjoy this:
    “Only the most elusive counterproductive device, unknown to our imagination, serves the lacking vanity of the, still evolving, dance, whereas we can only entertain the residual compilation dedicated before us. Our proactive stance, self-serving as it appears, cornerstones the colorist aspirations in the telescopes of our structures. And, should we forget, the opaque transmission builds on a liquified listlessness of homogeneous tranquility, super-inflating the staid depression in our narrow vision of the future. But, lest we digress to the non-nutritive alternate scenarios, remember the edifice, so fought for, so edified, so emasculated that, heretofore, we remember, saving the spacial considerations, only appropriate in apolitical circumstances and solving none of the annoying postulations of the accelerating vexation.”
    (If you crave more, I am willing to set up a pay-pal account….)

  61. I suggest also, BTW, that CAGW is, in this model, an expression of a meme rather than the meme itself. The true meme has no easy name, but it is pervasive. The meme is that we humans are doing irreparable harm to our environment and ultimately ourselves, and something must be done to prevent it. In my lifetime, I have survived impending doom from:
    acid rain
    toxic rain
    ozone depletion
    oil reserve depletion
    fresh water depletion
    population explosion
    Y2K
    honey bee extinction
    killer bees
    ….and many more. In fact, I think I’ve survived impending doom from fresh water depletion at least twice, perhaps three times. One stops paying attention once you’ve seen the same meme recycled every generation or so. My point being that if one stops and takes a look at the alarm raised over the impending doom scenarios I’ve listed above, they were all propagated in the exact same way by the exact same rent seekers and power brokers and special interests that CAGW is. Second verse, same as the first, a little but louder and a little bit worse!
    In closing, let me make this observation. In this current incarnation of the “world is going to end unless we do something” meme, it is considered crucial to reduce our use of fossil fuels. The current meme sees only regulation and taxation as a means of achieving this goal. In the 1970’s however, in the midst of the oil shocks when the world was going to end due to oil reserve depletion, it was also considered crucial to reduce fossil fuel consumption, and hence America implemented a 55 mph speed limit across the country. No such action is being proposed today, it is a forgotten tactic because the rent seekers and power brokers are using the “world is going to end unless we do something” meme for a different purpose than it was put to in the 1970’s.

  62. Friends:
    I have read the article and the over 80 comments and I still have yet to learn the nature of a meme.
    Can somebody please explain to me in words simple enough for me to understand

    how and in what way is a meme different from an idea?

    An idea can be adopted and retained for logical and/or emotional reasons and/or as a method to join and unify a group.
    Ideas can continue long after their originators who may not be known. They can be formulated into religions, philosophies and constitutions which define peoples and nations. And they can be and often are defended at any cost up to and including death.
    So,

    how and in what way is a meme different from an idea?

    Richard

  63. Pat Frank said @ November 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Here’s a certain climate changers article from OZ, courtesy of LexisNexis academic. MODs if I’ve violated copyright, please do delete. Don’t want to get anyone in trouble.

    What a truly excellent read. Many thanks, Pat. were I the author, I’d be encouraging dissemination of this piece as far and wide as possible.

  64. In the pie-eyed world of prunes and prisms
    It’s paleo-psych and neologisms.
    Hence the root I would eagerly cream:
    meme-
    With apologies to Ogden Nash

  65. geran says:
    November 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm
    “For you “intellectuals” that crave psychobabble, enjoy this:
    “Only the most elusive counterproductive device, ”
    You are Beaudrillard?

  66. richardscourtney says:
    the word ‘meme’ is a synonym for concept
    a conceptual entity may have a physical referent or not.
    a concept about ‘concepts’ is distinguished by the term ‘meme’
    although it is not truly referring to an ‘atom’ of conceptual thought, the idea of an an idea having some irreducible form is what the word ‘meme’ is meant to signify.

  67. richardscourtney says:
    November 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm
    ” how and in what way is a meme different from an idea?”
    Easy. Just ask the wikipedia.
    “A meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”
    So; it can be an idea, a behaviour or a style.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme
    As CO2AGW is not a behaviour or a style, it is an idea; and you can now take the entire headpost, copy it into an editor, do a search & replace of meme against idea, and you’re there.
    Doesn’t sound as newfangled though.

  68. richardscourtney said @ November 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Friends:
    I have read the article and the over 80 comments and I still have yet to learn the nature of a meme.
    Can somebody please explain to me in words simple enough for me to understand
    how and in what way is a meme different from an idea?

    Only too happy to help out my friend 🙂

    1976 R. Dawkins Selfish Gene xi. 206 The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun which conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme‥. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’. Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.

    Dawkins also has made frequent reference to God as a meme. Pantheists entertain the religious belief or philosophical theory that God and the universe are identical (implying a denial of the personality and transcendence of God); the doctrine that God is everything and everything is God. Hence, everything there is must be a meme, though in The God Delusion Dawkins declares several deists and pantheists to be atheists.
    So, while ideas are memes, memes are whatever you want them to be up to and including the creator and knower of all things.

  69. richardscourtney says:
    if you will, a meme is a platonic essence, deprecated to fit a rational epistemological taxonomy…lol

  70. gnomish:
    Thankyou for your reply to me at November 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm.
    Unfortunately, I fail to understand in what way “a concept about ‘concepts’” differs from an idea.
    Any “concept” is an idea and unless it is a tenet it is about other ideas.
    For example, these are three examples of a concept about concepts.
    E-mc^2
    “the Word of God is true”
    the Marxist dialectic defines the future course of society
    I still fail to understand how and in what way a meme differs from an idea.
    Richard

  71. The Pompous Git:
    Thankyou for your attempt to answer my question in your post at November 2, 2013 at 4:55 pm.
    As I understand your quotation from Dawkins, a meme is any idea that Dawkins fails to understand.
    Perhaps so, and since Dawkins originated the word then probably so. But that does not make the word more useful than “idea”.
    Richard

  72. Agreeing (I think), with richardscourtney, I would say that I don’t think a meme has any explanatory power that an idea lacks. If this is true, it would make it redundant.
    I have multiple objections to the idea of a meme, chief among them:
    * memes are described as if they have intention or will, and
    * most importantly, memes “grease the skids” for the medicalizing of disagreement–an instrument which totalitarian regimes use to bring the mantle of humane, scientific “treatment” to the suppression of ideas and facts which threaten their power.
    By attributing somebody’s mistaken ideas to memetic influence, one may as well say that they are fevered, drugged, delusional, possessed by demons, in the pay of an enemy, etc. It is a vicious and deplorable thing to say, IMHO, because _the_accused_has_no_defense_.
    It may be fun to describe our opponents as mentally infected with something, but it is a place we just should not go.

  73. DirkH:
    Thankyou for your reply to my question that you provide at November 2, 2013 at 4:46 pm.
    So, if wicki is to be believed then a meme is merely a popular idea. But how popular? If the idea is spread from one person to only one other does it become a meme when accepted? If so, then the word meme doesn’t seem useful. Only its originator remembers an idea that is not accepted by anyone else.
    Richard

  74. wrecktafire:
    For purpose of clarity, I write to say that your stated suspicion is right and I do agree with your post at
    November 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm.
    However, I am open to be persuaded that I am mistaken that use of the word “meme” is Orwellian Newspeak, and that openness is why I asked my question and did not state an opinion. However, the answers I have so far obtained confirm your and my view in my mind. Indeed, the quotation from Dawkins (provided by The Pompous Git) which explains why Dawkins invented the word seems to say it is deliberately invented for the purposes you state.
    Richard

  75. MSM picks up new meme, but they don’t name or link to Donna Laframboise’s website:
    2 Nov: WCPO Cincinnati: AP: Seth Borenstein: Leaked global warming report sees violent, sicker, poorer future
    Starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease already lead to human tragedies. They’re likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change, a leaked draft of an international scientific report forecasts.
    The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will issue a report next March on how global warming is already affecting the way people live and what will happen in the future, including a worldwide drop in income. A leaked copy of a draft of the summary of the report appeared online Friday on a climate skeptic’s website. Governments will spend the next few months making comments about the draft…
    Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who wasn’t part of the international study team, told the AP that the report’s summary confirms what researchers have known for a long time: “Climate change threatens our health, land, food and water security.”…
    http://www.wcpo.com/news/science/leaked-global-warming-report-sees-violent-sicker-poorer-future
    2 Nov: CTV: AP: Leaked climate report predicts more war, disease with global warming
    http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/leaked-climate-report-predicts-more-war-disease-with-global-warming-1.1525469
    Revkin does name & link:
    2 Nov: NYT Dot Earth: Andrew C. Revkin: A Closer Look at Climate Panel’s Findings on Global Warming Impacts
    Updated, 1:02 p.m. | Justin Gillis has provided a look at the forthcoming report on climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation options from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, based on a leaked final draft (dated Oct. 28) that was posted on the blog of Donna Laframboise, a longtime critic of the panel. (You can also download it here.)…
    [Insert, 12:53 p.m. | On his Bishop Hill blog, Andrew Montford has drawn attention to an important footnote in the report:
    Attribution of observed impacts in the WGII AR5 links responses of natural and human systems to climate change, not to anthropogenic climate change, unless explicitly indicated.
    In discussions of impacts in the leaked draft, the distinction between human, or anthropogenic, and “natural” climate change is only rarely made. To my eye, this greatly limits the significance of many findings given that the big questions for society still center on how quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions…
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/02/a-closer-look-at-climate-panels-findings-on-global-warming-impacts/?_r=0
    Charlie gets the meme, ignores western support for AQ in Syria:
    29 Oct: Prince Charles warns of climate change at Islamic forum
    The Prince of Wales used his keynote speech at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum in London this evening to warn of the political and economic dangers of climate change, and used Syria as a “terrifyingly graphic” example of the adverse effects of climate change on vulnerable populations…
    “The tragic conflict in Syria provides a terrifyingly graphic example, where a severe drought for the last seven years has decimated Syria’s rural economy. Driving many farmers off their fields and into cities where, already, food was in short supply.
    “This depletion of natural capital, inexplicably, little reported in the media, was a significant contributor to the social tension that exploded with such desperate results.”…
    http://www.itv.com/news/update/2013-10-29/charles-warns-of-climate-change-at-islamic-forum/

  76. gnomish:
    re your post at November 2, 2013 at 4:56 pm.
    NO! I DO NOT SAY THAT!
    Please refrain from pretending to quote me as saying things I have not.
    Richard

  77. One of my favourite philosophers, David Stove, thought there was a lot in common between Dawkins and the 16thC religious reformer John Calvin. Just as Calvin made much of a cosmic conflict between God and the demons, Dawkins in like manner posits a conflict between genes and ourselves, According to Dawkins, we are the puppets in a game where the only players are our genes.
    Stove wrote in Darwinian Fairytales that Dawkins was unable maintain his puppetry theory consistently but makes passing contradictory nods in the direction of human choice while always maintaining his primary position that we are at the mercy of our genes.
    Of course, people have always wanted relief from responsibility. The child caught thieving accuses his mate, “He made me do it!” Men today are able to enjoy sex without making the commitment of marriage, “It’s your problem — get an abortion!” Puppetry theories such as The Selfish Gene are devised to offer them this relief.
    Stove tears into and makes mincemeat of Dawkins’s notion of “memes”. While genes have to do with evolution by the natural selection of specific characteristics, cultural evolution is the result of a battle among memes in our brains. While we might say we are taught certain things by human agents (parents, teachers, the magistrate, etc), Dawkins says the causal agents are not humans but memes at work in the brain.
    Stove observed: “Suppose someone says that human beings and all other organisms are just tools or devices designed, made, and manipulated by so-and-sos for their own ends. Then he implies that so-and-sos are more intelligent and capable than human beings.”
    Dawkins meme theory is merely the selfish gene puppetry theory reframed using different words. And puppetry theories go way back even before John Calvin. History is replete with them. They make for best-sellers. Books that tell us we must accept responsibility for our own actions don’t sell anywhere near as well.

  78. The Pompous Git:
    Thankyou for your informative post at November 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm .
    In my opinion, it needs to be read in conjunction with the also fine post from wrecktafire at November 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm.
    As I see it, those two posts explain opposite sides of the same coin.
    Richard

  79. wrecktafire says:
    November 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm
    “By attributing somebody’s mistaken ideas to memetic influence, one may as well say that they are fevered, drugged, delusional, possessed by demons, in the pay of an enemy, etc. It is a vicious and deplorable thing to say, IMHO, because _the_accused_has_no_defense_.
    It may be fun to describe our opponents as mentally infected with something, but it is a place we just should not go.”
    Though the post is just a summary and doesn’t go into all details, the essay argues for instance that a memeplex is *not* a delusion, as for instance Richard Dawkins says about religious memeplexes. We are all immersed in memeplexes to some degree; so I believe they are ‘normal’, although can have serious downsides as well as upsides. The latter in fact must dominate, in a net sense, else we would not still be co-evolving with them. And while of course folks are influenced by different cultures (whether one thinks in terms of memetic terminology or not) ‘the cultural defense’, is a well-recognised law strategy that *is* in fact a defense used by those who may be influenced by a memetic culture outside the mainstream for their envirnment. The essay quotes extensively from a Duke Law paper that discusses the use of ‘the cultural defence’ by such influenced folks, and the use of the law generally to maintain the memetic fitness of the host population whom the law serves.

  80. M Courtney says:
    November 2, 2013 at 3:07 pm
    “Worse, they never explain the mechanism by which memes are selected or reproduce. It looks like science but is merely a metaphor.
    Which is wasteful as there may be something real in there.
    It looks like science, after all.”
    Yes, exactly! How does one put together beliefs, ideas, behavior, utterances, terms and maybe other things to generate a meme? Is “Ho” a meme? The beginning of “Ho” was in “Gangsta Rap” and in Eddie Murphy’s comic skits on SNL. Everyone who watched SNL or who consumed “Gangsta Rap” music and self-promotion knows all about “Hos.” Have Madona, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus exploited the “Ho” meme? What’s next for the “Ho” meme? Is the “Ho” meme triumphing?
    Another question: if I introduce a meme and it catches on among everyone with an IQ below 90 but no one else, is it a real meme? What about an IQ below 60? What about an IQ above 140?
    Finally, an observation. Given that you have learned that Dawkins introduced the concept of meme, how has your estimate of Dawkins’ work changed?

  81. Richard, I cannot disagree with wrecktafire. Indeed, I believe he is entirely correct when he states:

    …attributing somebody’s mistaken ideas to memetic influence, one may as well say that they are fevered, drugged, delusional, possessed by demons, in the pay of an enemy, etc. It is a vicious and deplorable thing to say, IMHO, because _the_accused_has_no_defense_.”

  82. The Pompous Git says:
    November 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm
    Dynamite post. I must read Stove. Please read my post above and find my comments on the “Ho” meme. Your observations and criticisms would be appreciated, pompous as they might be.

  83. andywest2012: ” We are all immersed in memeplexes to some degree; … And while of course folks are influenced by different cultures ”
    Memeplexes are culture. Or specifically, the set of subcultures that an individual participates in. Not that a fershtubble your mentakerous choices of clear-muddyism in jargonal jabberworks; but part of defeating ‘memeplexes’ in the current context is? To call a duck a duck.

  84. FWIW, I have read, and I believe understood (if that’s the correct word) Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine. I quote from the OUP paperback published in 2000, p. 206:

    I have suggested that human consciousness is not the driving force behind the creation of language (or anything else for that matter)…

    and quotes Dennett:

    …a human mind is itself an artifact created when memes restructure a human brain in order to make it a better habitat for memes.

    As Stove so pertinently pointed out: memes would appear to be far more intelligent and capable than mere human beings.

  85. Dirk H / Richard C
    I think there is some getting bogged down in terminology here. If (as I think Dirk suggests) you want to use ‘idea’ as something that is replicated (e.g by publication, teaching, whatever), and that by virtue of some diversity and selection (over a period of time) evolves, plus ‘an ideology’ for a bunch of these that co-evolve, then I see no problem whatever with that. What matters is that they do evolve. Ideas that are closely tied to fact (for instance a scientific theory, that happens to be reasonably verifiable by experiment), have very little room to evolve; the facts tie them down. So they don’t. Vague beliefs, such as those that found religious movements, are not tied down at all, have plenty of room to evolve, so they do. Something in the middle, for instance a very speculative scientific theory, say eugenics when first spawned, may evolve arbitrarily and pick up some of the characteristics of ‘belief’ and unverifiable yet apparantly supported features, but only until later science catches up with it and kills it with facts. In that kind of case, and when the initial uncertainty is also large enough to allow for quite a long evolutionary period, the theory can indeed pick up an almost religious flavour, and belief can be so strong that it corrupts science, which then takes much much longer to catch up and kill the evolutionary process. Okay this is extremely brief and rather rough, the post and essay are much more accurate / explanatory, but the latter camp is where I figure CAGW is. The terms meme and memeplex are simply used because they emphaise the generic nature of the process and entities (a memeplex can be an ideology, a religion, an extremist political system), and are associated with specifically with the evolionary aspects, which the everyday terms don’t emphasise because they are way older than those concepts, and were not made to be exact scientific terms. Does that help?

  86. Theo Goodwin: “Given that you have learned that Dawkins introduced the concept of meme, how has your estimate of Dawkins’ work changed?”
    Not one bit. Dawkins remains the best proof that Atheism can be a religion in the normal sense; even if it need not be one in general. That said, the original notion of a ‘meme’ was to postulate a ‘unit of mutation and infection’ in culture. eg. Cultural Darwinism. Similar to but distinct from Social Darwinism in many respects. But the meme about memes is a high bit of ignorance. As a ‘unit’ of cultural infection is a ‘unit’ of culture. However you choose to define such a thing. But it’s largely ignorant in that it is a metaconcept about itself. That is, it is its own concept and metaconcept. Which is, in normal terms, picking navel fuzz over what ‘is’ is; by asking what ”is’ is’ is.
    Proving that the meme is valid is when the sycophants of Dawkins made the meme a meme of their own and ran off with it everywhere else. Which is why we no longer look at folks and sniff derisively about the over-the-top happy they have about the pet-rock fad. You can’t say ‘fad,’ dude, it’s outdated. And you’re harshing my meme. Which is part of the entire “Don’t Judge!” meme. Of course, this is all so farcically useless that the term ‘meme’ isn’t used much outside jokes at coffee houses. The proper new term for a ‘meme,’ as it existed before the meme became a meme, is ‘narrative.’
    Because ‘fad’ is patriarchal. Don’t judge me, prude.

  87. Theo Goodwin said @ November 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Dynamite post. I must read Stove. Please read my post above and find my comments on the “Ho” meme. Your observations and criticisms would be appreciated, pompous as they might be.

    The word “Ho” conjures up for me a Vietnamese gentleman who favoured Lucky Strike cigarettes and a satirical article I wrote back in the late 60s: “Wicked Uncle Ho and the Jolly Green Giant” that the censor deemed unacceptable. The Git even back then was a sceptic and refused to believe that North Vietnam posed any threat at all to either the USA, or Australia.
    I am certain that “Ho” conveys different meanings to different people; that’s what culture is all about. But the Git feels no pressing need to discover what this meaning is, though it just be a Google away. Please forgive me… 🙂
    However, just to make this absolutely clear if my prior posts were not clear enough: The Git finds nothing of use in the use of the term meme that is not better conveyed by more precise terms.

  88. andywest2012: “Does that help?”
    Ah… So you mean ‘meme’ and ‘memeplex’ as a metaterm about metabeliefs as separate from the Scientism memeplex that was last dignified, and re-undignified, under the notion of Positivsm. Despite that such cargo cult science is a central feature of the Climastrology memeplex.

  89. In a larger context couldn’t the CAGW meme itself be considered as an outgrowth of a zeitgeist?

  90. Wayne Delbeke says:
    November 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm
    Thanks for your interesting story. It seems to me that you were abused as a young college student. My heart goes out to you and to all who suffered at the hands of Kuhn’s “conceptual revolutions,” now being recycled as “memetic revolutions.” Kuhn taught that your concepts determine your thought up-to-and-including your judgments about what is true and what is false.
    To escape this Hell of mirrored walls, read Carl G. Hempel’s “Philosophy of Science” (out of print – find it used) or his monumental “Aspects of Scientific Explanation” still in print. Another excellent source is Israel Scheffler’s “Anatomy of Inquiry.” These are older books because the newer ones are becoming so technical that they are off-putting for the beginner.

  91. noaaprogrammer said @ November 2, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    In a larger context couldn’t the CAGW meme itself be considered as an outgrowth of a zeitgeist?

    I rather thought we could only have one zeitgeist at a time. Perhaps we could formulate a multiple-simultaneous-zeitgeist budding multiple CAGW-memes as hypothesis for a single, simple, scientific explanation underlying the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW qua CAGW.

  92. The Pompous Git says:
    November 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm
    “The word “Ho” conjures up for me a Vietnamese gentleman who favoured Lucky Strike cigarettes and a satirical article I wrote back in the late 60s: “Wicked Uncle Ho and the Jolly Green Giant” that the censor deemed unacceptable. The Git even back then was a sceptic and refused to believe that North Vietnam posed any threat at all to either the USA, or Australia.”
    Fascinating! No doubt the satire is excellent.
    Though you are not interested, I will remind others that the “Ho” meme that I am chasing is used in the context of the Jolly Green Giant because JGG is always saying “Ho, Ho, Ho.” The JGG’s signature expression is “used” as a pretend way of counting “Hos.”

  93. richardscourtney says:
    sorry, richard- we’ve had a misunderstanding due to my lazy failure to edit the copy/paste of your name as i have repeated above.
    i did not mean to make my reply to you to appear as a quote of you.
    do consider that synonyms have utility.
    if you argue against synonyms, per se, though, you will not be able to win by asserting redundancy- for synonyms carry shades of meaning.
    if you require concrete examples to understand this abstraction:
    a pile of tiny bits of metal may be called ‘swarf’ if they are produced on a mill, ‘filings’ if they are produced by a file, ‘shavings’ if they are produced by scraping, ‘fines’ if they turn up in your gold pan.
    though that pile of metal dust may be identical in all cases, the nominal synonyms are freighted with additional information – in this case concerned with the provenance; in other cases, perhaps, freighted with the speaker’s evaluation of their goodness.
    connotation is the word that applies.
    a rich language has plenty of synonyms and that is no fault. it increases the utility.
    the word meme draws attention to the nature of an idea as a metaphysical entity as it survives and mutates and evolves through time.
    you can use any word you want to use- and there can be no problem with communication from your choice – as long as you are prepared to define your terms.
    so if you wish to use the words ‘idea’ and ‘ideology’ rather than ‘meme’ and ‘memeplex’, feel free.
    on another occasion one might find that the words ‘concept’ and ‘metaphysics’ are more apropos.
    your quibble is purely an issue of your own semantic preferences and has no bearing on the utility of the terms. very accurate communication is accomplished with them.

  94. At some point someone thought that perhaps they could stop volcanoes from erupting by throwing virgins into them. That was an idea. At some point the idea became an accepted practice with no thought given to actual efficacy. It became a meme.

  95. andywest2012 says:
    November 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm
    “Something in the middle, for instance a very speculative scientific theory, say eugenics when first spawned, may evolve arbitrarily and pick up some of the characteristics of ‘belief’ and unverifiable yet apparantly supported features, but only until later science catches up with it and kills it with facts.”
    Eugenics was invented by a scientist, the acclaimed Francis Galton, cousin of Darwin.
    It fell into disrepute not because of anything sciency but because even the progressive socialists of the USA felt the need to distance themselves from it after Hitler put it into action.
    If you can live better with your strange idea about the history of Eugenics, then do so. It doesn’t change documented history.

  96. I’m with Richardscourtney on this: What in heck is a meme? Sometimes it seems to be a neutral term like “idea” and the game is to study how it propagates and how it affects those who assimilate it. Sometimes it seems to be a pejorative word that means a bad or at least unsubstantiated idea. Sometimes it seems to be about big stuff like a religion that seeks to explain important, large questions for the whole human race and sometimes it gets very small like believing that watches must be made out of metal gears. Is science itself a meme? At least it would seem any scientific theory is a meme as it can be falsified.
    Color me confused.

  97. Jquip says:
    November 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm
    Theo Goodwin: “Given that you have learned that Dawkins introduced the concept of meme, how has your estimate of Dawkins’ work changed?”
    “Not one bit. Dawkins remains the best proof that Atheism can be a religion in the normal sense; even if it need not be one in general.”
    Very interesting. I had not considered that possibility.

  98. pompous git:
    there is a distinction to be made between the hardware and the programming of a processor, whether it be silicon or carbon based.
    now, tell me – who is writing the comments that refer to you in the third person?
    pardon me while i chuckle over your conceit that mocks your every disputatious contention.
    so funny.

  99. Theo Goodwin says:
    Theo- as you are using terms that may not mean the same to me as they do to you- please define religion for me.
    remember, dear Theo, that the definition of a word is that it has a definition, which is the set of characteristics that distinguish its meaning from all other words and that if you can not define it, you can not be credited with any more meaning than a grunt.
    thank you in advance.

  100. gnomish says:
    November 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm
    I did not mean to raise a question about religion. Are you referring to my question about Dawkins? I need a bit more information if I am to respond to you.

  101. M Courtney says:
    November 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm
    “Discuss motivations” ….. AKA “I.N.C.E.N.T.I.V.E.S.”

  102. “Lysenkoism in extremis” while not a full analysis of the global warming inanity, is more accurate than Andy’s “memeplex” analysis and has the added benefit of being a many thousands of words shorter.
    “Acceptance of the memeplex explanation requires a rejection of the ‘scam’ or ‘hoax’ theory as a root cause of the CAGW phenomenon, and as a primary motivator for the vast majority of CAGW ‘adherents’. (Note this does not rule out the fact that scams / hoaxes and other negative social phenomena may be attached to the memeplex as secondary structures – this is in fact common for major memeplexes). The essay spends quite some length saying why this is so.”
    That right there is where Andy fails. Global warming may have started as a mistaken hypothesis, but it quickly became a hoax and this change occurred before 1995. I am not claiming that all or even most fellow travellers in the scam are aware of this, quite the reverse. However without a basic understanding that some of the core of the scientists pushing the pseudo science knew the hypothesis had failed before 1995 and made the very poor decision to push on anyway, then there can be no accurate analysis.
    Thomas Fuller has tried this type of “putting aside the issue of weather global warming is a physical impossibility or not, blah ,blah blah…” analysis before. It simply doesn’t wash. Future generations will not be reading those essays. They will be reading work that starts with “Given that AGW is clearly a physical impossibility, study of the the internet record shows much about the many motivations of those that sought to promote or profit by the hoax…”
    I would suggest that Pointman has a far better handle on the social and political aspects of the global warming delusion, and most importantly, the very ugly consequences for the fellow travellers who just lost the first information war in the age of the Internet.

  103. gnomish said @ November 2, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    pompous git:
    there is a distinction to be made between the hardware and the programming of a processor, whether it be silicon or carbon based.
    now, tell me – who is writing the comments that refer to you in the third person?
    pardon me while i chuckle over your conceit that mocks your every disputatious contention.
    so funny.

    Now how on Earth did I manage to become a MS Certified Professional and Solution Provider without knowing the difference between hardware and software?
    The Pompous Git is a nom de plume adopted more than a decade ago and is a very thinly disguised Jonathan Sturm:
    http://daynotes.com/index20041001.html
    Gnomish: “one of a species of diminutive beings, usually described as shriveled little old men, that inhabit the interior of the earth and act as guardians of its treasures; troll.” ‘Nuf sed…

  104. sorry, Theo- i mistakenly addressed my comment to you and it should have been addressed to jquip.
    however, i am aware that it amounted to trolling and i will disengage.
    there is no profit to be had by that – and i do have better things to do.

  105. Theo Goodwin said @ November 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Fascinating! No doubt the satire is excellent.

    It was my intention to deny that, but since the piece is long gone, I cannot. However, The Git was but a Gitling of age 16 when he wrote it, so it was probably utterly sophomoric.

  106. mr pompous – if you are able to use a dictionary, then you will have no need for anybody here to define the word ‘meme’ for you. is that not so?
    and referring to oneself in the 3rd person is just plain creepy.
    but i see i have touched a nerve and you outlash with such cringeworthy fellatiousness i cringe more than i can tolerate. you win all the internets, dewd.

  107. Ask an evolutionary psychologist & ancient warfare reenactor if you really want to get to the bottom of CACA:

  108. gnomish said @ November 2, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    mr pompous – if you are able to use a dictionary, then you will have no need for anybody here to define the word ‘meme’ for you. is that not so?
    and referring to oneself in the 3rd person is just plain creepy.
    but i see i have touched a nerve and you outlash with such cringeworthy fellatiousness i cringe more than i can tolerate. you win all the internets, dewd.

    Gnomish, you clearly failed to notice that The Git was the first to quote The Oxford English Dictionary regarding the word “meme”. See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/02/the-catastrophic-agw-memeplex-a-cultural-creature/#comment-1464692.
    No nerve touched, nor creepiness. It’s a bit difficult for someone to call Jonathan Sturm a Pompous Git when he has already self-declared himself to be one. The Git even tells people that he stole the idea (not meme) from Stuart Littlemore when the ABC budget-cuts led to Stuart becoming Littless and they got rid of the then reigning Pompous Git.
    BTW, the meaning of gnomish I discovered through a dictionary which I quoted verbatim:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gnomish
    It’s what you hide behind, gnomish. The bit of fun with my nom de plume does not hide Jonathan Sturm. Affectation? Certainly. Anonymous coward? Hardly. The Git also notes that while almost everybody misspells Jonathan, Sturm and even my middle name Philip, they never misspell Pompous Git. Well, hardly ever. Jill Barber spelt it Pompous Gid on the CD I purchased from her, but then she’s a Canadian. And a great singer 🙂

  109. BTW gnomish, it has been pointed out to me that you have accused me of “A sexual act in which the partner’s penis is sucked or licked.” What possible evidence could you have for this? While I am merely amused that you feel the need to descend to such calumnies, it’s not the sort of thing that one usually associates with civil discourse. I strongly suggest you desist. And bear in mind that what you state is both defamatory and baseless.

  110. So repulsive do I find the current misuse & abuse of the neologism “meme”, that I’ve refrained from commenting in this thread until Dutch-encouraged by infusions of Scotch & margaritas.
    Having in a sense been there at the creation repulses me even more. Dawkins, perpetrator of this sacrilege against at least three Indo-European languages, has himself, to his credit, disowned the present hijacking of the word, which he attributes ultimately to my former esteemed & beloved mentor Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, who productively applied biological evolutionary thought to language & culture.
    Since there is now little hope of “meme” being returned to the narrow straits from which it arose, the sooner its bastardized, metastasized mutation in general parlance can be laid to rest with a stake through its heart, the better. I’m sure that not only Dawkins but Dr. C-S would agree wholeheartedly, so to speak.

  111. Theo Goodwin says:
    November 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm
    DirkH says:
    November 2, 2013 at 11:40 am
    “Very well said, Dirk. I am glad to see that there is one more person on this blog who is at peace with his “self,” “conceptual scheme,” “world view,” or whatever some social theorist might want to call it.”
    Andy your essay presents an interesting idea and I think there may be some insights into the functioning and organization of the beast, but for me, I value this essay most for the privilege of getting to read Theo Goodwin and DirkH’s elucidating commentaries. CAGW is not a meme, it’s a manifestation of a symbiotic trio of certain misanthropic doomster psychological types, a frighteningly large population of unthinking, dissatisfied people who are attracted to this kind of stuff (useful idiots) and opportunists who play the scheme (think here governments wanting more tax revenue and control, universities and other institutions funded by governments, ideologue organizations like the UN, NGOs and the like). CAGW is just one in a chain of such movements stretching back into antiquity.
    Paul Ehrlich (“The Population Bomb”) a famous Malthusian, recently decorated by The Royal Society, was in the vanguard of the impending ice age and mass starvation “meme” of the 1970s which was CAGW’s predecessor. If Andy West is thinking it might be possible to undo the meme of CAGW, he is not reckoning that when it goes, the same kind of people will be active in the same fashion, buffered by a new generation who are oblivious to history, with some other earthly doom scenario – maybe the present indications of an imminent cooling period will once again revive the man-made ice age and an aging “I told you so” Ehrlich will be trundled out with his thumb in his mouth as an icon for the movement. You might as well seek a solution to the problem of left-handed people. There will, of course, be Theo Goodwins and DirkH’s to take up the battle against the new crop. (You know, I refused to join a fraternity in university, a student parliament “party” or the entreaty of an uncle of mine to join the Masons – maybe contrary folks like that are averse to meme’s – of course, with a fuzzy discipline like that, one can simply identify my propensities as a meme, I suppose, which guts the meaning all to hell)

  112. Gary Pearse says:
    November 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm
    “(You know, I refused to join a fraternity in university, a student parliament “party” or the entreaty of an uncle of mine to join the Masons – maybe contrary folks like that are averse to meme’s – of course, with a fuzzy discipline like that, one can simply identify my propensities as a meme, I suppose, which guts the meaning all to hell)”
    Yep. Find some relatively isolated society that loves its customs and is rather regimented and you will invariably find individuals or small groups who are standing on the fringe and looking in but all the while saying “What idiots they are.”
    If you want to add a moral dimension, keep in mind that MLKJr’s followers in Birmingham in 1964 were people on the fringe looking in.
    Also, the rare people like Newton tend to stand apart. But you don’t need Newton’s genius to stand apart.
    Thanks for the kudos. You are a fine contributor to this site and I am very pleased to have your praise.

  113. Gary Pearse said @ November 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Paul Ehrlich (“The Population Bomb”) a famous Malthusian, recently decorated by The Royal Society, was in the vanguard of the impending ice age and mass starvation “meme” of the 1970s which was CAGW’s predecessor.

    Karl Marx referred to Thomas Malthus’ essay …on the Principles of Population as “nothing more than a schoolboyish, superficial plagiary of De Foe, Sir James Steuart, Townsend, Franklin, Wallace” (in Das Kapital). Marx and Engels described Malthus as a “lackey of the bourgeoisie.” Socialists and communists believed that Malthusian theories “blamed the poor” for their own exploitation by the capitalist classes, and could be used to suppress the proletariat to an even greater degree, either through attempts to reduce fertility or by justifying the generally poor conditions of labour in the 19th century. Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Party and main architect of the Soviet Union was probably Malthus greatest critic in the 19thC.
    For some reason I find that in Malthus versus Marx, Engels and Lenin, I would prefer Malthus. YMMV…

  114. milodonharlani says:
    November 2, 2013 at 7:32 pm
    “Having in a sense been there at the creation repulses me even more. Dawkins, perpetrator of this sacrilege against at least three Indo-European languages, has himself, to his credit, disowned the present hijacking of the word, which he attributes ultimately to my former esteemed & beloved mentor Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, who productively applied biological evolutionary thought to language & culture.”
    Your mentor and, apparently, all the other mentors. Check out this:
    http://www.amazon.com/DARWINS-DANGEROUS-IDEA-EVOLUTION-MEANINGS/dp/068482471X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383447250&sr=1-1&keywords=darwin%27s+dangerous+idea
    Daniel Dennett jumped on the “meme” meme and went bananas. He is now godfather of a subculture of philosophers of science who have dedicated themselves to finding the evolutionary springs of all kinds of memes including those that organized the human mind. I should add that all members of this subculture failed to understand Quine’s “Word and Object” (1960) and the remainder of his writings. These thinkers are like a bunch of toddlers thrown into a sandbox that is well stocked with toys.
    By the way, I enjoyed Cavalli-Sforza’s older works on population genetics.

  115. The guy who coined the word “meme” now, and some time ago, wishes that he hadn’t. I agree with him(on lots of other things too).

  116. A more blatant example of how a meme undermines science is the case of the chemists who claimed to have developed cold fusion. They gave a presentation to a group of physicists before they published their findings. The physicists pointed out that their energy peaks were in the wrong place and therefore the observed heat was not from nuclear fusion. Pons and Fleischmann argued it was a careless mistake when they hurriedly put together their presentation. When their cold fusion paper was published, the energy peak was now in the correct position to validate fusion. But MIT skeptics revealed they had falsified the data. Pons and Fleischmann could not possibly have thought they could have fooled the world, because if cold fusion was to have any value, their methods would need to be thoroughly replicated. Pons and Fleischmann simply believed they had discovered cold fusion and they would be proven correct in the future, so they altered their data to fit their beliefs and cold fusion became one of science’s greatest fiascos.
    EXCEPTION! I know both Stanley Pons and Martin Flieschmann, NEITHER FALSIFIED ANY DATA, and their results were verfified by the ELECTRIC POWER RESEARCH INSTITUTE (see the work of Michael McKubre, et. al.)
    What EPRI demonstrated was that an incredible difficult “loading” of Pd with Dueterium is needed to achieve the effect. ALSO, using an ON LINE MASS SPEC, McKubre demonstrated a tracable amount of He4 to match the “excess heat” from active CF cells. (Going from zero He4, to above the 6PPM normal atmospheric amount, to over 20 ppm over several months..)
    NO METHOD TO SCALE THE REACTION HAS BEEN FOUND. And the reason that the “hot fusion” Tritium + Neutron or He3 + Proton are NOT the primary reaction paths, has no explaination either. (1 out of 10,000 hot fusion reactions go directly to He4, with an intense “balancing” gamma emission.
    I hope that the astute reader realizes that I know this field in detail, and I present THIS as an example of a “popular myth” that is promulgated because, again, a “paradigm” is violated. By the way, HOT FUSION research runs to the tune of almost 2 Billion per year, and has had substantial government money, since Eisenhower’s “atoms for peace” program was started in 1952.

  117. Ah well, I think this thread has devolved into a debate over the meaning of the word meme. Unfortunate because regardless of what word you use to describe it, the phenomenon clearly exists. Call it culture, call it anything you want, the point is that some types of thinking are not just easily accepted without factual evidence, but they spread and grow and take on a life of their own. Why that is and how it works is interesting. For a long time people thought you could diagnose diseases by the bumps on people’s heads, that you could cure many maladies by blood letting, that you could see things due to rays that shot out of your eyes, that you could stop volcanoes from erupting by throwing virgins in them…. call these ideas, theories, memes, story lines, they seem absurd today but were once widely accepted. The question is WHY is such obvious nonsense so easily accepted and spread among large groups of people. What name you give it doesn’t change the question.

  118. Apropos Cavalli-Sforza, it would seem that many of his ideas were based on averages of large populations (I’m thinking here of genes, rather than people). Now we can look at what is happening in individual cells, things look rather different. It’s a bit like the CAGWers carry on about global average temperature as if that meant anything, while Pompous Gits are far more interested in what is happening outside their back door!

    Ira Hall, a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Virginia who was one of the lead authors on the new study, was interested in whether DNA copy number variations were also prevalent in brain cells. “There was a really long-standing hypothesis that given the huge diversity of cell types in the brain, there might be [genetic] mechanisms . . . to generate [the] diversity,” Hall explained.
    But, for about a decade, Hall’s question had gone unanswered. In the early days, “the technology wasn’t really there,” he said. The problem was that if one sequenced the DNA of a given tissue, the readout was an average of all the genomes of a huge population of cells. “So even if there is lots of variation amongst those cells, you don’t see it,” Hall said. “It became clear that we had to find a way to look at single cells.”
    Hall got his wish. Thanks to a single-cell sequencing technique devised recently by scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York and their colleagues, Hall has been able to sequence the genomes of 110 individual neurons from the postmortem brains of three individuals. He found that a striking 41 percent of the cells contained one or more copy number variations. Most of these were sub-chromosomal alterations—either deletions or duplications.
    He and his colleagues also found similar copy number variations in neurons derived in culture from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Fred Gage and colleagues at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, who collaborated on the paper, studied 40 individual iPSC-derived neurons using a recently developed single-cell microarray-based strategy, and found that 13 of the cells had unique changes to their genomes.

    http://www.the-scientist.com//?articles.view/articleNo/38095/title/Genetic-Diversity-in-the-Brain/
    Grand Theories are all very well, but the devil so often lies in the details.

  119. @andywest2012: “Indeed I use ‘narrative’ a lot; avoids a lot of clutter that seems to have collected around ‘meme’.”
    Fair cop and no worries. I use ridicule to avoid a lot of clutter that’s collected around narratives.
    @gnomish: “remember, dear Theo [This guy?], that the definition of a word is that it has a definition, which is the set of characteristics that distinguish its meaning from all other words and that if you can not define it, …”
    Hmm… Short way to put it? It’s a memeplex in which notions are credited as being factually True despite being indemonstrable or revealed knowledge. Notably, this is shown not by speech acts but by acts of performance. Nicely separates trivia from personal stake holding.
    @davidmhoffer: “The question is WHY is such obvious nonsense so easily accepted and spread among large groups of people.”
    Because “I don’t know” doesn’t land you mates, dates, or pay rates.

  120. Theo Goodwin says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:13 pm
    It was population genetics of humans that endeared me to Dr. C-S & me to him, specifically my senior thesis concerning the then hot issue at Stanford of whether IQ differences between various groups were primarily biological or environmental. I adduced evidence for nurture over nature.
    But being a real scientist, I’m sure he’d have graded me as highly had I been able to support the opposite proposition.

  121. I’d like to see less meme and more of usus being promoted. One of the fist signs of phycosis is the lack of empathy.
    Here’s the 5 step process to every thought, First comes the THOUGHT it could come from anywhere 2 we wrap that thought with EMOTION this is where most people get stuck and can spiral a thought out of control and get stuck in meme. 3 If you can turn your emotions off you will progress a thought to SEEK&SEARCH This is where we can start to see a clearer picture and not think about things emotionally and paint yourself in the picture If meme jumps in at this point you will be thrown back into emotional thought and never be able to move to step 4 which is ACTION Only when we can see a clear piture are we able to move by saying or doing something that will add understanding and complete the process to every thought. If you have moved smoothly through the first 4 steps then what you are left with is step 5 KNOWLEDGE or knowing.
    1 Think
    2 Emote
    3 Seek & Search
    4 Ation
    5 Knowledge
    If your ever heard someone say they feel stuck What they are saying is they can’t escape the loop of think and emote and they need help to move into seek and search. Unless you see life like this most people only add more of their meme thought and block access to 3,4and 5
    If you can’t see this then your driving a auto and if you can, your able to change you own gears when required So would you like to be controlled by force or would self control be a better way to go?

  122. The Pompous Git says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm
    I’m impressed that Australia has produced opponents both of evolution & plate tectonics in the past few decades. Maybe had the Antipodes been settled by Europeans in the 17th instead of the 19th centuries, Australian scientists, philosophers & humorists might have been able similarly to challenge the germ theory of disease, the atomic theory of matter, gravity & the circulation of blood. Good on ya, mayt!

  123. davidmhoffer said @ November 2, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    The question is WHY is such obvious nonsense so easily accepted and spread among large groups of people. What name you give it doesn’t change the question.

    I’m with Stove that The Enlightenment is responsible for much of our whacky present-day “thinking”. Here’s a link to a review of his Demolition of fashionable fallacies:
    http://www.nationalobserver.net/2011/84-7-book-stove.htm

    Knowledge automatically leads to an increase in human happiness
    Between 1570 and 1770 there was an explosion in knowledge, but none of it made life happier for people. “Britain was transformed between 1770 and 1850 from a predominantly agricultural country into a predominantly industrial one” (p. 36). There were improvements in cotton mill machinery, as well as the production of iron and steel and steam energy, but the Enlightenment’s promise was not realised. Work was longer, harder and unhealthier, housing was worse, and all of this led to an increase of misery. Stove believes just two inventions (the internal combustion engine and electricity) are behind the easier and more comfortable lifestyle we now enjoy.
    Condorcet was one of the ideologues of the Enlightenment. “He was a philosopher, mathematician and aristocrat, and above all a ‘Friend of Humanity’: in short, an extremely dangerous man” (p. 60). His book Progrès de L’Esprit Humain was “the most perfect possible compendium of utopian-revolutionary absurdities. In other words, almost everything he wrote would now seem not only true but platitudinous, and the rest would seem reactionary, to the readers of the New York Times, the Guardian in Britain and the Sydney Morning Herald … Condorcet does not actually say the Enlightenment is going to cure wooden legs, though I think it would have pained him to have it denied. He does say that the length of human life will be indefinitely increased.… Malthus on the other hand, believed that human beings had been placed by God in a state of imperfection which that while [they] are on earth is altogether inescapable. He meant imperfection both as to knowledge and happiness. We cannot know nearly as much or be nearly as happy as we are apt to imagine we could” (p. 61).”

  124. davidmhoffer: I think one more item should be added to your “impending doom” list (perhaps appropriately with the upcoming anniversary of the JFK assassination) namely nuclear war, such as could have resulted from the Cuban missile crisis – that humankind had the means to self-destruct and was imminently on the point of using it (which seemed a very real prospect at the time).
    I don’t know where this takes us in the Dawkinsistic world of “memes” – which to me are essentially just ideas coupled with (a) some form of innate attractiveness/appeal and (b) some reproductive (or feedback) mechanism.
    My own analysis is that humankind has always been concerned (neurotic) about its own possible extinction – not without reason I would suggest – and CAGW is just the latest outing of this. It will all die away (no pun intended….) in time, but it does take time: the half-life life of these “we are all doomed from xxx…” neuroses is generally measured in decades.

  125. I forgot to post a link to a good starting point to understanding ones self http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton_H._Erickson
    If this was tought to everyone at state school level then we might not be so quick to give the power of belief away to memes so they can abuse us.
    Learn to understand yourself before trying to understand anything.

  126. milodonharlani said @ November 2, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    The Pompous Git says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm
    I’m impressed that Australia has produced opponents both of evolution & plate tectonics in the past few decades. Maybe had the Antipodes been settled by Europeans in the 17th instead of the 19th centuries, Australian scientists, philosophers & humorists might have been able similarly to challenge the germ theory of disease, the atomic theory of matter, gravity & the circulation of blood. Good on ya, mayt!

    According to the wiki-bloody-pedia:

    Samuel Warren Carey AO (born 1 November 1911 in Campbelltown; died 20 March 2002 in Hobart) was an Australian geologist who was an early advocate of the theory of continental drift. His work on plate tectonics reconstructions led him to develop the Expanding Earth hypothesis.

    How anti-tectonic can you get?

    David was a very great admirer of Charles Darwin. He believed that the theory of natural selection was an enormous contribution to science. He believed that it is overwhelmingly probable that humans evolved from some other animal. He further believed that Darwinism was, as applied to humans, an obviously false and, indeed, a ludicrous slander on human beings.
    David was an atheist. There is no solace for the religious in this book. (Indeed, it is rare to read a book so bluntly dismissive of religious claims.) He appreciates the power of the traditional argument from Design, which he thinks a very powerful argument. It is simply not true.
    The attack on Darwinism (note, not on natural selection) starts with the very first paragraph:

    If Darwin’s theory of evolution were true, there would be in every species a constant and ruthless competition to survive: a competition in which only a few of any generation can be winners. But it is perfectly obvious that human life is not like that, however it may be with other species.
    This inconsistency, between Darwin’s theory and the facts of human life, is what I mean by “Darwinism’s Dilemma”.

    In this first Essay (Darwinism’s Dilemma), he identifies three ways of dealing with the inconsistency. The Cave Man (human life used to be like that but, at some unspecified time, stopped being so); the Hard Man (actually, it still is, we are just deluding ourselves) and the Soft Man (we will just ignore the inconsistency). Both the first two responses are clearly false and last is obviously not a solution.
    If, at any stage, one is inclined to think that people don’t actually believe such things, he has plenty of quotes (notably from Charles Darwin himself) to show that they do (or, at least, say they do). Often at the start of the relevant essay. So, Essay I has Thomas Huxley …in the state of nature…[human] life was a continual free fight, Essay II Charles Darwin every single organic being around us may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers.
    I trust none of my readers will be in any doubt that both these claims are false, and egregiously so.

    http://erudito.livejournal.com/496167.html
    What could be more anti-evolution than to quote what evolutionists actually write?

  127. milodonharlani says:
    November 2, 2013 at 9:03 pm
    The Pompous Git says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm
    I’m impressed that Australia has produced opponents both of evolution & plate tectonics in the past few decades. Maybe had the Antipodes been settled by Europeans in the 17th instead of the 19th centuries, Australian scientists, philosophers & humorists might have been able similarly to challenge the germ theory of disease, the atomic theory of matter, gravity & the circulation of blood. Good on ya, mayt!
    —————————————
    That might have come across wrong.
    I mean that in the best tradition of genuine scientific skepticism.
    It’s just that tectonics & evolution by means of natural selection & stochastic processes are directly observable, so that skepticism about them falls under the rubric of perversion, as in Gould’s famous definition, “In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’ I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms”.
    I’ll grant you that the late, great Gould was a Marxist, so feel free to attack that view of “fact” in science. However, his commitment to science was such that he accepted a Christian fundamentalist grad student, who now wastes his life trying to figure out what is a Biblical “kind”.

  128. The Pompous Git says:
    November 2, 2013 at 9:22 pm
    There is no such thing as an “evolutionist”. There are only scientists & anti-scientists.
    “Evolution” means two things in 21st century science. One is the observation that life forms change (or don’t change) over time. In the early 19th century, when the fossil record showed this to be true, this observation was called “development”. That this has occurred is a scientific fact.
    “Evolution” also now means the body of theory explaining how this observed change (or lack thereof) over time occurred. During the 20th century, two main schools of thought emerged. One was the old-fashioned, ie 19th century, idea that natural selection was the dominant force in evolution, ie the observed fact of change in organisms through the depths of geological time. The other was the more modern, less “deterministic” school of “stochastic” change, ie the idea that most evolution occurred through purely statistical phenomena, such as genetic drift & reproductive isolation.
    In the 21st century, biology has come to realize, as geology did in the 20th century when catastrophism & uniformitarianism were united, that both directional (ie natural selection) & stochastic processes are important in evolution. Recent studies from a wide range of organisms show that often small genetic changes controlled by natural selection lead to breeding barriers that then facilitate rapid genetic change through stochastic processes, thanks to reproductive isolation.
    But all one has to do to see the fact of evolution today is to look at the genomes of organisms more closely & less closely related. Evolution is an incontrovertible fact, a consequence of reproduction.

  129. Some points that Stove made against Darwinism:
    The truth is, “the total prostitution of all animal life, including Man and all his airs and graces, to the blind purposiveness of these minute virus-like substances”, genes. Not written by Dawkins, but quoted by him with considerable enthusiasm in a defence of The Selfish Gene.
    “…it is, after all, to [a mother’s] advantage that her child should be adopted” by another woman. From The Selfish Gene, p. 110.

    Obviously false though this proposition is, from the point of view of Darwinism it is well-founded, for the reason which Dawkins gives on the same page: that another woman’s adopting her baby “releases a rival female from the burden of child-rearing, and frees her to have another child more quickly.”
    This, you will say, is a grotesque way of looking at human life; and so, of course, it is. But it is impossible to deny that it is the Darwinian way.

    All communication is “manipulation of signal-receiver by signal-sender.”

    This profound communication, though it might easily have come from any used-car salesman reflecting on life, was actually sent by Dawkins, (in The Extended Phenotype, (1982), p. 57), to the readers whom he was at that point engaged in manipulating. Much as the devil, in many medieval plays, advises the audience not to take his advice.

    Homosexuality in social animals is a form of sibling-altruism: that is, your homosexuality is a way of helping your brothers and sisters to raise more children.

    This very-believable proposition is maintained by Robert Trivers in his book Social Evolution, (1985), pp. 198-9. Professor Trivers is a leading light among ultra-Darwinians, (who are nowadays usually called “sociobiologists”).
    Whether he also believes that suicide, for example, and self-castration, are forms of sibling-altruism, I do not know; but I do not see what there is to stop him. What is there to stop anyone believing such propositions? Only common sense: a thing entirely out of the question among sociobiologists.

    In all social mammals, the altruism (or apparent altruism) of siblings towards one another is about as strong and common as the altruism (or apparent altruism) of parents towards their offspring.

    This proposition is an immediate consequence, and an admitted one, of the theory of inclusive fitness, which says that the degree of altruism depends on the proportion of genes shared.
    This theory was first put forward by W. D. Hamilton in The Journal of Theoretical Biology in 1964. Since then it has been accepted by Darwinians almost as one man and has revolutionized evolutionary theory.
    This acceptance has made Professor Hamilton the most influential Darwinian author of the last thirty years.

    “no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers [or offspring], or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins.”
    This is a quotation from the epoch-making article by Professor Hamilton to which I referred a moment ago. The italics are not in the text. Nor are the two words which I have put in square brackets; but their insertion is certainly authorized by the theory of inclusive fitness.
    “… we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed [by natural selection]

    Do you realise, reader, that you are an error of heredity, a biological error? Anyway, you are, whether you realise it or not. And not only an error, but an error on an enormous scale. At least Darwinian say you are. And who knows more about biology and heredity, pray, than they do?

  130. Oh dear. It seems that this is another veiled attempt to divert blame away from the elite’s massive wealth redistribution and framework of global governance which is irrefutable in the form of global economic and political machinations along with UN documents outlining the implementation of said ‘green’ policies in a way to grant extreme control over every aspect of our lives based on zero scientific evidence.
    It also does not rule out the possibility of CAGW which is ridiculous given the scientific evidence. As the evidence is entirely in favour of the skeptics the lack of possibility of CAGW should be a key point in this article exposing the subjectivity and isolated phenomena of the CAGW Memetic complex.

  131. Memania 101:
    AGW will ruin the economy of wealthy nations, driving the middle class deep into poverty.
    “Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann […] told the AP that the report’s summary confirms what researchers have known for a long time […]”
    “Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts will slow down economic growth […], further erode food security and trigger new poverty traps”
    “Climate change indirectly increases risks from violent conflict in the form of civil war, inter-group violence and violent protests by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks […]”

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/leaked-climate-report-predicts-more-war-disease-with-global-warming-1.1525469

  132. You might wish to explain why Carey’s paper “The tectonic approach to continental drift”. In Carey, S. W. Continental Drift—A symposium, held in March 1956. Hobart: Univ. of Tasmania. pp. 177–363. Expanding Earth from p. 311 to p. 349 was antitectonic when the plate tectonics concept was not accepted until a decade later. Perhaps you have evidence that Carey was a psychic.and knew that his inference from the discovery of midoceanic rifting was false.
    Stove writes in the introduction to Darwinian Fairytales:

    My object is to show that Darwinism is not true; not true at any rate of our</species. If it is true, or near enough true, of sponges, snakes, flies, or whatever, I do not mind that. What I do mind is its being supposed to be true of man.
    But having said that, I had better add at once that I am not a “creationist”, or even a Christian. In fact I am of no religion. It seems just as obvious to me as it does to any Darwinian, that the species to which I belong is a certain species of land mammal. And it seems just as overwhelmingly probable to me as it does to any Darwinian that our species has evolved from some other animals.
    I do not even deny that natural selection is probably the cause which is principally responsible for the coming into existence of new species from old ones. I do deny that natural selection is going on within our species now, and that it ever went on in our species at any time of which anything is known. But I say nothing at all in the book about how our species came to be the kind of thing it is, or what antecedents it evolved from.

  133. milodonharlani said @ November 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    There is no such thing as an “evolutionist”

    Oh dear…

    1859 Darwin Orig. Spec. vii. (1873) 189 It is admitted by most evolutionists that mammals are descended from a marsupial form.

    I recall a certain Professor Stinkjet taking this sort of line some years ago. “Only creationists use terms like evolutionist and Darwinism, scientists never use them”. When I pointed out that Stephen Jay Gould had used both terms, the response was “but that was back in the 1990s so it doesn’t count!” I am BTW a great admirer of Gould and possess at least a dozen of his books.

  134. The Pompous Git says:
    November 2, 2013 at 10:39 pm
    Whatever might have been the case in 1873, today “Darwinian” signifies good, old-fashioned natural selection, while “Darwinism” signifies creationists trying to imply something religious rather than scientific. These distinctions hadn’t yet emerged in the late 19th century.
    Today there is only the observable fact of Darwinian evolution, ie natural selection, versus the more fashionable in the early 20th century stochastic evolution, while in the 21st century, real science observes both explanations for the observed reality of evolution. Please compare modern geology.
    “Darwinism” is a stalking horse for trying to slip the Bible into science. The Bible has its uses, but science isn’t among them.

  135. Please cite an instance of “Darwinism” in which Gould cites this usage sympathetically. Thanks.

  136. milodonharlani said @ November 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Please cite an instance of “Darwinism” in which Gould cites this usage sympathetically. Thanks.

    I went one better. Here’s a piece where Gould uses Stove’s term ultra-Darwinism and Darwinist several years after the publication of Stove’s masterpiece:
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1997/jun/12/darwinian-fundamentalism/
    And from Gould’s The Structure of Evolutionary Theory

    the basic concept of exaptation remains consistent with orthodox Darwinism (while expanding its purview and adding some structural clarification and sophistication) for an obvious reason: the principle of quirky functional shift does not challenge the control of evolution by natural selection as an adaptational process… implies a disarmingly simple and logical extension that does challenge the role of Darwinian mechanics and functionalist control over evolutionary change… The deeper challenge posed to orthodox Darwinism by the principle of functional shift flows from the implication that, if current utility does not reveal the reasons for historical origin, then these initial reasons need not be adaptational or functional at all—for features with current adoptive status may have originated from nonadaptive reasons in an ancestral form.

    Sorry about butchering the flow of meaning there, but your challenge was for me to quote Gould using Darwinism sympathetically. I highly recommend The Structure of Evolutionary Theory though it is dense and requires close attention to what Gould actually writes, rather than what one might wish he wrote. I admire Gould as a writer more than as an evolutionary biologist, but he was a genius at both.
    Now, a challenge for you. Why do mothers become distressed when deprived of their offspring? Dawkins as a good ultra-Darwinist says it is “a problem” for their theory of evolution.

  137. milodonharlani said @ November 2, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Whatever might have been the case in 1873, today “Darwinian” signifies good, old-fashioned natural selection, while “Darwinism” signifies creationists trying to imply something religious rather than scientific. These distinctions hadn’t yet emerged in the late 19th century.

    Milo, I’m a logician, not a scientist. If the use of “Darwinism” “signifies creationists trying to imply something religious rather than scientific” then one can only conclude that you believe that Stephen Jay Gould was a creationist. What evidence, other than Gould’s use of the words “Darwinian” and “Darwinist”, do you have? . I do not for one instant believe that Gould was a creationist, or that the use of these terms by anyone indicates that the user is a creationist.

  138. Sigh. How pompous, how self-important some people are.
    I explain the CAGW money and power machine to myself in much simpler and humbler terms.
    For thousands of years (nobody knows, how long before written history began), agricultural civilization has been based on slavery — economically. militarily, politically. This required a mass of malleable, easily manipulated believers; only those who believe in the importance of what their masters tell them to do make good, enthusiastic slaves. Science and technology put an end to this ancient need for slaves. They are not needed but they are still with us, and their name is “majority.”
    As a result of conscious and subconscious breeding and selection of good, productive, obedient slaves, stable human genotypes evolved in agriculturally developed regions (not in mountainous or nomadic regions). These genotypes are with us today, they constitute a majority of population in most countries. These hereditary slaves need religious or pseudo-religious purpose, something to give them a collective goal, something that justifies their existence; they cannot mentally rely on themselves, without external manipulation they feel empty, disoriented, unhappy, neurotic.
    Major religions, as well as their transient derivatives, communist and socialist ideologies, crack and disappear under the weight of information — information that is impossible to hide these days. Descendants of peasant slaves, the needless majority of the modern world, are always seeking a master (Putin, Obama, etc.), a direction, a belief that would fill that terrible void inside (“we have nothing to fear but fear itself”), previously satisfied by religious or socialist fairy tales.
    And here comes the weather. Nobody can predict the weather — therefore, it is a conveniently mystical subject waiting for greedy prophets and fawning disciples. Weather has always been a part of every religion: it is the most manifest expression of the inexplicable will of gods, isn’t it? New pseudo-religion of ever-changing weather fills the internal void of hereditary peasant-slaves: save the planet, save themselves, commit yourselves to the sacred cause, punish and destroy the enemies pointed out by your masters, be good, efficient, obedient slaves again! Be happy again, ever after, for the Convenient Truth has been manifested to you. Your life makes sense again, you haven’t been born in vain.
    Of course, this is an oversimplification, as well as any other historical generalization. Rebels are born among the slaves, and spineless worms are being conceived within the ruling elite. But I am sure that this is one of the most significant factors explaining the CAGW hysteria. There is no need for a fashionable but tasteless “memeplex” terminology replacing and obfuscating words and ideas that existed for hundreds of years, and are much more clear-cut and understandable.
    The fundamental error of the post-modern world outlook is that it inherited from the failed collectivist past an idea expressed by one word of two letters, the most destructive word of all: “we.” As soon as you forget that every human being is an individual, and that one individual’s best hope is another individual’s worst fear, you are losing the thread of reality and plunge into the never-ending self-delusion.

  139. Alexander Feht said @ November 2, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    The fundamental error of the post-modern world outlook is that it inherited from the failed collectivist past an idea expressed by one word of two letters, the most destructive word of all: “we.” As soon as you forget that every human being is an individual, and that one individual’s best hope is another individual’s worst fear, you are losing the thread of reality and plunge into the never-ending self-delusion.

    The Four Oxen and the Lion
    A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.
    UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL.

  140. heh-
    survival of the fit requires only marginal fitness.
    natural rejection, i.e., extinction of the unfit (the falsification of viability) is the prime mover by extinguishing the line when a margin call for fitness is flunked.
    when a metaphysics leads to death, then the mind which embodied it is also extinguished.
    without that, it can persist indefinitely,
    Mann et al survive by being successful parasites on man.
    They will persist until they are extinguished and that won’t happen by serving as host.
    That’s how the philosophy of the parasite goes forth and multiplies: it works as long as there are susceptible hosts to feed on.

  141. A few days ago I tried to read this essay at Judith’s place.
    And I gave up early on because A: the writing is so obscure and verbose and B: I had a sneaking suspicion it was all gibberish anyway.
    Now it has reared its unlovely head once more, nothing has changed. It is still impossible to read and still gibberish.
    The author claims to be a fiction writer. I sincerely hope that he can write better than this junk. Otherwise his stories, too will remain unread.

  142. The Pompous Git,
    You realize, of course, that your parable has not relation to reality, other than describing human beings as cattle — which is applicable to some of us, no doubt.

  143. Alexander, not my parable, bit Aesop’s (I thought everyone would know that). I knew you’d miss the point of it. though. Some people seem incapable of understanding the virtues of co-operation.

  144. My apologies if I appear to have helped join with others to unintentionally steer this thread along a path of intellectual discussion about memes, ideas, phsycobabble and philosophy with my post @ 2:23 pm
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/02/the-catastrophic-agw-memeplex-a-cultural-creature/#comment-1464607
    I agree with davidmhoffer: November 2, 2013 at 8:28 pm
    “Ah well, I think this thread has devolved into a debate over the meaning of the word meme . . . . The question is WHY is such obvious nonsense so easily accepted and spread among large groups of people. What name you give it doesn’t change the question.”
    So let’s keep it simple. Hans Christian Andersen defined ‘meme’ in the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’.
    Believers of CAGW are those who also stare at a wall-mounted canvas splashed with 3 x splodges of paint – and all agree it is a “beautifully interpreted masterpiece”, when in fact it’s crap. They’ll even pay the ‘artist’ thousands for it. And my point is, CAGW followers act in exactly the same way when they see a Shakespeare play. The theatre is filled to capacity with people who appear to have understood every word, when in fact it is mostly unintelligible nonsense.
    But only Hans Christian Anderson’s little boy has the courage to stand up and ask . . . .

  145. I think what we are missing here is that human being love to simplify things. I think this is really what a meme is – a simplification of an idea. For example the witches in Salem meme was mostly because the locals didn’t understand the LIA climate at the time and wanted to blame something. The witches got it because it was simple and easy although highly illogical. The CAGW “meme”, rrrrg, is simplifying the climate controls to one variable even though it is highly illogical.
    We need to think things out more and quit simplifying to whgat seems easy answers when easy answers are not the answer.

  146. The Pompous Git,
    Everyone knows this tired parable, and it doesn’t make sense to repeat it in a hit-or-miss manner.
    Being ancient doesn’t make anything wiser or more related to reality.
    I have never diminished or doubted the evolutionary value of co-operation, which is as important as competition (Russian anarchist Bakunin was the first to note this in his letter to the Royal Society, a couple of years after “The origin of Species” was published).
    BTW: Big fat lot of good your trite “United we stand” mantra did to Ross Perot…

  147. The Pompous Git,
    What is your point, anyway?
    Cooperation helps people of one kind against the people of other kind.
    Cooperation of all people of all kinds would be possible only if all of us would have some kind of a common enemy — ubiquitous aliens, perhaps?
    Or, indeed, if we would need to “save the planet” — that’s why CAGW alarmists love talking about cooperation so much. Keep marching in step: einz, zwei, drei!
    And leave me alone, would you? I am not interested in your hurting ego.

  148. davidmhoffer says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:28 pm
    Absolutely! The post contains a hypothesis on the ‘why’, which appears to shed light on the otherwise puzzling behaviour. If you want to fix something, you have to understand how it works first. Rather than discuss how well or otherwise the points in the essay sections above fit behaviour within the social phenomenon of CAGW, which might move us further to understanding this phenomenon, which is wasting trillions of $, creating inappropriate taxes, possibly causing uneccessary deaths, corrupting science, and so on, it seems folks would rather argue about terms and very interesting but not immediately relevant science-history threads. Now if it is felt that the points *don’t* fit CAGW behaviour, that would be fair enough, it is after all a hypothesis and may not stand. But we don’t appear to have gotten anywhere near that evaluation…

  149. What’s so puzzling about a numbers game and a flocking instinct?
    Why inflate a simple observation of a typical human behavior as some kind of a “hypothesis” or “research”?

  150. andywest2012:
    Thankyou for your post addressed to Dirk H and me at November 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm.
    Sorry, but your post confirms my view which is clearly stated by combining the contents of the posts from The pompous Git at November 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/02/the-catastrophic-agw-memeplex-a-cultural-creature/#comment-1464707
    and wrecktafire at November 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/02/the-catastrophic-agw-memeplex-a-cultural-creature/#comment-1464698
    I noted your reply to wrecktafire at November 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm which consists of meaningless bafflegab; e.g.

    We are all immersed in memeplexes to some degree; so I believe they are ‘normal’, although can have serious downsides as well as upsides. The latter in fact must dominate, in a net sense, else we would not still be co-evolving with them.

    If that has any meaning at all, it only says the obvious truism that, “people are influenced by good and bad ideas that – on balance – are good for most people”.
    Your post to Dirk H and me is similar. And its bafflegab is used as a method to pretend that nonsensical untruth is somehow erudite reality; for example, it says this

    If (as I think Dirk suggests) you want to use ‘idea’ as something that is replicated (e.g by publication, teaching, whatever), and that by virtue of some diversity and selection (over a period of time) evolves, plus ‘an ideology’ for a bunch of these that co-evolve, then I see no problem whatever with that. What matters is that they do evolve. Ideas that are closely tied to fact (for instance a scientific theory, that happens to be reasonably verifiable by experiment), have very little room to evolve; the facts tie them down. So they don’t. Vague beliefs, such as those that found religious movements, are not tied down at all, have plenty of room to evolve, so they do.

    Scientific ideas are NOT “tied to facts” any more than religious ideas.
    Scientific ideas are tied to experience of objective reality.
    Religious ideas are tied to experience of subjective reality.
    And that is why most people adopt religious ideas and only some of them also or instead adopt scientific ideas: everybody has subjective experiences but only some establish objective experiences.
    Importantly, scientific ideas and religious ideas are equally free to “evolve”, and they do.
    Scientific ideas are NOT stultified by “facts” to a greater degree than religious ideas. Few people now think the movements of the stars indicates the Earth is the centre of the universe.
    Sorry, but your post addressed to DirkH and me bolsters my existing opinion; i.e.
    “Memes” and “memeplexes” is anti-intellectual nonsense which attempts to provide a veneer of ‘scienceyness’ to untrue propaganda.
    Richard

  151. gnomish:
    At November 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm you say to me

    your quibble is purely an issue of your own semantic preferences and has no bearing on the utility of the terms. very accurate communication is accomplished with them.

    NO!
    Synonyms have great and useful ability to convey information, especially poetically,
    “A rose by any other name …”.
    But clear definitions are needed for technical discussions. If “meme” is not clearly defined then it cannot be debated rationally.
    Importantly, my experience and this thread both indicate that the users of “meme” are obscurantist because the concept of “meme” is an untruth invented as a tool for conduct untrue propaganda.
    Richard

  152. richardscourtney says:
    November 3, 2013 at 3:03 am
    Then I don’t understand your distinction, and hence your whole position.
    “Scientific ideas are tied to experience of objective reality.
    Religious ideas are tied to experience of subjective reality.”
    This appears to me to say the same as I did, in a more oblique manner.
    “Importantly, scientific ideas and religious ideas are equally free to “evolve”, and they do”
    In the long term, scientific ideas can only evolve in the direction of reality, i.e. facts, experiment will call them out if they stray too far or for too long from reality. In your terms, this is an uncovering of objective reality. Topics like creation myths or arbitrary stroies to ward off fear, have much less constraint. The space between these two is enough for the evolution of constructs like religions, and that evolution can be seen in their historic records. Religions (and secular memeplexes) do indeed create a subjective reality, but one that can be understood as an evolutionary process, and may have aribtrary and damaging components (as well as useful ones like social co-operation). In the former case this may need to be addressed (e.g. the social phenomenon of CAGW), and hence shedding light on how the entity arose and evolved, is useful.

  153. Andy West
    On the bottom of page 71 I noticed an error. You write
    “(aka Andrew Mountford) cites a specific recent example “
    You use the correct spelling elsewhere.
    On page 97 you write
    “Like myself, ‘pointman’ also recommends a counter narrative, a ‘simple mantra’ in fact:
    People first, planet second.
    I caution against promoting any such simplistic mantras…
    There are many terrible extremes that can be imagined from this well-meaning little mantra supplied by ‘pointman’.”
    Can you please provide me with an example of any of the many terrible extremes that you can imagine?
    NoIdea

  154. davidmhoffer:
    Your post at November 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm says in full

    At some point someone thought that perhaps they could stop volcanoes from erupting by throwing virgins into them. That was an idea. At some point the idea became an accepted practice with no thought given to actual efficacy. It became a meme.

    Yes, it was an idea.
    Yes, it became an accepted practice.
    But it depends what is meant by “thought” as to whether its “actual efficacy” was considered. People are more governed by emotions than logic (any advertising consultant will tell you that). Once the practice is adopted then the fear of possible outcome from stopping the practice prevents anyone stopping it.
    And if the volcano did cease to erupt after a virgin fell into it then the idea and the fear are understandable because people commonly ascribe causality to coincidence;
    e.g. “my child contracted autism after having a vaccination so obviously the vaccination caused the autism”,
    and
    e.g. CO2 rose in the air and global temperature rose so obviously the CO2 rise caused the temperature rise.
    These processes of emotion, fear of consequences despite high costs, and collective response are the basis of the AGW scare.
    Importantly, these processes are not new because they are innate in human activity. People exist in groups as protection against dangers so evolution has constructed these processes into human behaviour. They are the foundation of human cultures.
    The idea and the collective response to it can only be addressed by addressing the emotional basis of it, and that basis is usually fear. The idea is NOT an ‘infection’ of the mind whether or not that idea is called a ‘meme’.
    The power of the idea is overcome by assuaging the emotion which the idea generates. Nonsense about imaginary memes distracts from dealing with THE GENERATED EMOTION, and the nonsense is an excuse for totalitarians to misuse ‘treatments’ on dissenters.

    Richard

  155. andywest2012:
    Thankyou for your reply to me at November 3, 2013 at 3:48 am. Clearly, I failed to write what I intended in words you could understand. Sorry.
    The problem seems to be that you restrict “reality” to be objective experience but most people consider subjective experience to be an important part of their “reality”..
    Objectivity relates to logic but subjectivity relates to emotionalism.
    Both are real and emotional experience is the more important for most people: e.g. ponder which choice an undergraduate is most likely to make between sleeping with an attractive ‘fresher’ or attending a lecture about a subject he is studying.
    What I tried to say may be more clear by reading my recent post addressed to davidmhoffer at
    November 3, 2013 at 4:10 am. This link jumps to it
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/02/the-catastrophic-agw-memeplex-a-cultural-creature/#comment-1464996
    Richard

  156. Memes are precisely the level this nonsense gets pushed noetically and in the book Good Work, the authors William Damon, Howard Gardner (Multiple Intelligences), and Mikhail Csiksentmihalyi say just that. They say changing accepted memes is a way to change what people believe so they can be guided. Unfortunately all 3 are heavily involved in K-12 ed reform globally where the current favorite euphemism for memes is “lenses.” Which permeates the new C3 Social Studies Framework and especially its use of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory metaphor. That never gets taught metaphorically anymore. It has become a meme making model of reality.
    http://remakelearning.org/blog/2013/10/30/can-the-power-of-citizen-science-help-save-the-environment/ is another great way to alter memes and to make it lasting. Ready to influence daily perceptions of reality permanently.

  157. I must confess I initially thought the essay was a leg pull in the Alan Sokal style, especially as like Latimer, I found the style of expression to be obtuse, to say the least. I’m still entertaining that idea, à la a sanitation maintenance engineer being another term for a toilet attendant. There are so many simpler ways the same things could be have been said, with the added benefit of losing about 500 words.
    I said at Judith’s that I thought a meme, grafted on as it to some of the processes of the gene, was a good example of a neatish idea being pushed way too far. When you graft sociological ideas onto what’s commonly termed the hard sciences, you end up with horrors like sociobiology, which could be viewed cynically as somehow the former attempting to represent itself as now a branch of deterministic science.
    I’d have to agree with Richard S, to my mind it’s nothing more than an idea, perhaps with the slight extension of being a fashionable idea.
    Pointman

  158. richardscourtney says:
    November 3, 2013 at 4:23 am
    “…but most people consider subjective experience to be an important part of their “reality”.”
    I don’t doubt that they do, and I don’t recall that I ever implied anything different. But I don’t think anyhow this speaks at all as to whether (or not) that subjective reality was formed from (a memetic) evolutionary process.
    Regarding your answer to davidmhoffer, it occurs to me that we may be talking strenuously past each other, and in fact are quite close in position. When you talk about a collective response based on fear, ‘the processes of emotion’, I would agree with these too. Memetics merely supplies the mechanism, the ‘how’ these work, or in other words what that ‘process of emotion’ (and related processes) actually are. So in mega simplistic terms, when the meme “we’re all gonna fry” propagates all over the place, pushing the psychological ‘hot button’ of fear, this is part of that process (and there are refs and quotes on that in the essay).
    I think totalitarians would be much happier if no-one ever figured out the objective (ah.. that word again 🙂 means by which these things work. Hence far from being an excuse that lets them off the hook, it is something that will constrain them and expose their actions as (one day) unacceptable.

  159. Pointman says:
    November 3, 2013 at 4:41 am
    Hi Pointman. Please think ‘memeplex’, not ‘meme’, as the Post says. While you’re right we shouldn’t take biological comparisons too literally, on a surface level a meme is to a gene as a memeplex is to a gene-pool, e.g. as possessed by a species. Think of all the things a species is that a single gene is not. It makes a world of difference.
    One of your very commendible essays mentions the madness of crowds, the ‘The political monstrosity environmentalism mutated into’. Memetics sheds a mechanistic light on that madness, on that mutation, on the nature of the apprarently bizarre behaviour of $trillions wasted, ridiculously enforced orthodoxy, maybe lives lost, and so on. I believe everything has a scientific explanation. My hypothesis (well not really just mine – very many folks compare CAGW to religions and that’s what moved me along), supplies a *potential* how. If you think the essay sections in the summary pdf don’t match the characterisitics of CAGW, fine, then for you the hypothesis doesn’t stand. But right now you seem to rule out consideration on the basis that (paraphrasing) ‘memes are silly’. Well that’s your choice I guess, and it’s a free world, at least in some corners. But what would be your own scientific hypothesis? Your stuff I’ve read, albeit very commendible, doesn’t seem to get down to a root cause based on fundamental principles.

  160. Hi Andy.
    I think where we part company in this discussion of memes is in your reply to me of -“I believe everything has a scientific explanation.” Sorry, there’s no way I could possibly agree with the application of that to human behaviour.
    I could for instance study the radioactive decay in a certain isotope, and absent any outside interference, could make very definite and irrefutable conclusions and more importantly, very accurate predictions. I can do that not just because there’s a solid foundation of things like nuclear physics or that there’s a number of straightforward formulae I can apply. It’s not the properties the isotope possesses which matter but rather an attribute it doesn’t have – consciousness.
    When I write an article or story, I hope it’ll intrigue or entertain the reader but there’s absolutely no way to know in advance it’ll do either. Despite a few millennia of literary efforts, nobody has ever managed to nail down the sure-fire story outline. Unlike the isotope, they’re conscious, individual and will react to any stimulus, even having their psyche put under a microscope.
    If there was some silver bullet neat explanation of us, we’d have found it by now. Studying human behaviour is the concrete realisation of the old joke and secret nightmare of most biologists – one day they’ll look down a microscope and see a brown eye looking back up at them.
    Your essay has elicited a wide range of responses, which you may or may not take on board to refine your ideas, but either way, you’re to be commended for airing them. Controversy over ideas just as it is in science, is always a healthy thing.
    Pointman

  161. Pointman says:
    November 3, 2013 at 5:46 am
    Thanks for your reply, Pointman. You have achieved your hope in that your essays to date are indeed both intriguing and entertaining. I guess we’ll have to differ on human behaviour. Having a scientific explanation doesn’t neccessarily mean every detail and highly accurate predictions will be nailed down, but that level of determinism also isn’t required to usefully inform us about how to avoid big downsides within generic social phenomena like the excess alarm over CAGW. To that level, I believe a helpful scientific explantion exists, whether it’s along my lines or otherwise, but then, this is after all a belief 🙂

  162. From the concept of ‘the Social Mind’ courtesy of neuro-scientist Michael Gazzaniga, to pressure upon religions by aggressive atheism as promoted by Richard Dawkins.

    There are many terms to use for Richard Dawkins but ‘aggressive’ isn’t one of them. I’d call it ‘provocative’ but no stronger than that. That religionists call Dawkins ‘aggressive’ is pure projection on their part.

  163. andywest2012 says:
    November 3, 2013 at 6:01 am
    Hi Andy, we both obviously are intrigued about the flow of ideas and their effect on human behaviour. As gentlemen, we’ve agreed to disagree and I’ve certainly changed my opinion on various things over the years. I rarely take an idea off the table. By happenstance and possibly on surer but more common ground, the latest piece deals with delivery mechanisms of ideas.
    http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/make-no-mistake-words-are-ammo-2/
    In terms of analysing and predicting behaviour, and the attendant difficulty of doing either, an older piece.
    http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/intentions-profiles-and-predictability/
    Thoughts, as always, appreciated.
    Pointman

  164. I actually waded through the entire essay, and yes it got a bit tedious at times, but I found it fascinating nonetheless, so forged ahead (not all in one sitting, of course). I believe it is an important and valuable contribution to our understanding of the nature of The Beast. Early on, I noticed the behemoth quality of CAGW, and referred to it as such. It both contained and transcended politics, and people who otherwise seemed intelligent Believed in it wholly. Arguing with a Believer was pointless, and just created hard feelings. The memeplex idea explains a lot, and as such is useful. It isn’t perfect, but then, what idea is? How, for example, some managed to escape the grasp of the CAGW memeplex, and didn’t happen to be Republicans (such as myself). Indeed, it was only because I was looking for what I thought would be an easy way to counter a person I considered a climate crank that I discovered the other side to the story, and that essentially I had been lied to.

  165. andywest2012:
    Sincere thanks for your reply to me at November 3, 2013 at 4:53 am.
    As you say, we seem to be talking past each other. However, I do think there is a profound and important difference between us, and I think you express this when you say to me

    When you talk about a collective response based on fear, ‘the processes of emotion’, I would agree with these too. Memetics merely supplies the mechanism, the ‘how’ these work, or in other words what that ‘process of emotion’ (and related processes) actually are.

    Sorry, but I fail to see how memetics “supplies the mechanism”. On the contrary, as I tried to say in my reply to davidmhoffer, memetics obscures consideration of, and distorts actions to address, the emotional responses which support acceptance of an idea.
    Consider AGW which is clearly accepted by most of its supporters for emotional reasons. When empirical data which refutes the AGW-hypothesis is presented then they respond with the Precautionary Principle (PP); i.e. “but AGW may be right so we had better stop using fossil fuels in case it is right”.
    This is not a meme, it is a reaction to a fear. And it is not open to logical rebuttal because logic cannot dispel emotion: saying, “Don’t be afraid” is likely to increase the fear, and saying. “Don’t worry” never helped anyone.
    The only way to address the emotion is to displace it. So, an effective response to the PP defence of AGW is to challenge it with – and attempt to displace it by –a greater and real fear which is less distressing together with an appeal to another emotion; e.g. pity. For example, one way to address the presented fear of AGW is to offer this alternative.
    It is certain that holding the use of fossil fuels at present levels would kill at least 2 billion people mostly children, and reducing use of fossil fuels would kill more. This is because people need food, water and energy supply to survive and there are no realistic alternatives to fossil fuels and nuclear power for energy supply at present. But population is set to grow by at least 2 billion over the next generation. Those additional people need sufficient increase to energy supply for them to survive, and only fossil fuels and nuclear power can provide that essential increase.
    The Precautionary Principle says we should not take actions which certainly would kill billions of children as a way to prevent a possibility which may not happen. Do you really want to kill that many children merely because AGW may be a possibility? Why not instead spend some of the money being wasted on windmills to find an alternative which would displace fossil fuels?

    Mytherings about memes hinders both understandings of human behaviour and effective methods to address it. And my readings of the posts from Pointman suggest to me that he understands the importance of this.
    Richard

  166. Mr. West.
    I understood everything you said and am quite comfortable with that perspective.
    I think there’s no point in further comment, here.
    The very interesting reaction your essay has provoked is, i believe, unprecedented at WUWT.
    and yes.. IWTIT.
    This has been a catalyst for some mind curdling satire, here at home. But I think i’ll not share that here.
    Thanks.

  167. richardscourtney says:
    November 3, 2013 at 7:22 am
    And thank you for your polite replies. I think I see a little more where you’re coming from, and I agree with your assumption of fear / emotive drives behind CAGW (there is some on this in the essay in fact). Regarding ‘the mechanism’, a perhaps lesser known part of memetic theory is that memes penetrate the pysche and ‘turn on’ emotive reacions in us, including fear. This has occurred due to a long gene/meme co-evolution in us (follow the ‘Blackmore’ link embedded in the essay for a starter on the topic). *If* this is so, then memes don’t only provide the ‘transport mechanism’ for the message, i.e. the communication of what to be afraid about, their deep level interaction in the psyche actually ‘turns on’ the fear. This is what I mean by ‘supplies the mechanism’. We are psychologically primed for certain messages that memes deliver. And I do think this is very plausible indeed, and has some support via the other historic times when consensus cultures and fear have driven illogical behaviour.
    Regarding your solution of a counter-narrative, a counter (and real) fear if you like, I have also advocated counter narratives (indeed in the essay). However, one based on fear (even though real) might slip the leash in future years, potentially ‘going native’ (we lose control of the message). But I admit there are not too many choices regarding a counter narrative, and yours is certainly a valid and potentially workable one (has to be something that would get a lot of air-time, so this is certainly a candidate).
    We will have to agree to disagree about mytherings. I came to understand much that you also state here via the route of memetic understanding, including the possibility of counter narratives. Hence I think that this perspective is very helpful in addressing the problem, rather than a hindrance.

  168. gnomish says:
    November 3, 2013 at 7:31 am
    Thanks for your feedback, gnomish, much appreciated. In fact I’ll have to disengage soon. Industry never sleeps they say, and mine will be calling me. Not to mention a neglected partner too ):

  169. gnomish:
    At November 3, 2013 at 8:16 am you write

    the demonization of co2 slipped maggie’s leash and tried to eat the world…lol

    Yes, see
    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/richard-courtney-the-history-of-the-global-warming-scare/
    Please see its Figure 2 and explanation of it in the text for an understanding of why “memes” distracts from assessment of why global warming (as AGW was then called) went viral. Simply, the scare was created by a coincidence of interests.
    Also, please read the Introduction of that item which explains how that diagram and its associated text were produced in 1980 BEFORE the AGW scare existed and predicted that the scare would occur.
    Richard

  170. Guest essayist by Andy West said,
    “. . . overwhelming evidence indicates that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is a self-sustaining narrative that is living off our mental capacity, either in symbiosis or as an outright cultural parasite; a narrative that is very distanced from physical real-world events. The social phenomenon of CAGW possesses all the characteristics of a grand memetic alliance, like numerous similar structures before it . . .”

    – – – – – – – –
    Andy West,
    Your work shows considerable effort.
    If I take the above quote as representative of your thrust, then I can make a point about your piece.
    When I occasionally use the word ‘meme’ I also could often (but not always) just as easily used most of the following words: archetype; stereotype; mythos, faith, belief, etc.
    A characteristic that is common to ‘meme’ and to those other words is some level of irrationalism that dominates over any rational element.
    I think that has to be the Occam’s razor needed to cut to what the CAGW efforts mean in any fundamental sense.
    Thanks for stimulating my thoughts.
    John

  171. John Whitman says:
    November 3, 2013 at 8:33 am
    Thanks for your feedback, John, appreciated. And yes, memeplexes pretty much always foster irrational behaviour, backed by an orthodox consensus.

  172. @Richard, I well remember your history of the origins of CAGW, and the accompanying chart showing coinciding interests and feedback loops. I was impressed with it then, and still am. However, I don’t see how the memeplex idea detracts from it. Possibly, it is when the feedback loops begin to kick in that it took on a life of its’ own, becoming a memeplex (remember, it’s not just a ‘meme’).

  173. richardscourtney November 3, 2013 at 8:31 am
    indeed, richard – i was aware of it and remarked on it at the time it happened.
    i learned from it.
    you just said:
    why “memes” distracts from assessment of why global warming (as AGW was then called) went viral.
    are you blind to the self satire of that statement?
    the comments on this thread are the mandelbrot set of stupid. I’m out.

  174. richardscourtney, andywest,
    I’d agree that you guys are talking past each other, and also the fear is a big part of decision making processes. I’ve spent 30 years in sales which at day’s end is the study of how people make decisions and how to influence those decisions. The decision making process of an individual is quite different than the decision making process of an organization, but fear is an important component of both. I shall attempt to briefly elaborate, keeping in mind that brevity isn’t my strong suit.
    In the 1980’s, large companies ran their core business applications on IBM mainframes. So pervasive was the IBM mainframe that an interesting memeplex (call it what you like) took root. It was that it was impossible to run a large company on anything other than an IBM mainframe. The fear that this was true was of course promoted by IBM. So good were they at promoting this fear, that a term developed to describe the sales strategy called FUD. We still use this term today. It stands for Fear Uncertainty and Doubt.
    So pervasive and so powerful was the FUD strategy, that companies that actually made computers that were faster, cheaper, and in many respects better than IBM mainframes still bought IBM mainframes to run their own businesses. So pervasive was the memeplex, that the prevailing opinion among Fortune 500 company IT executives was that buying anything other than an IBM mainframe would absolutely get you fired.
    In hindsight, this seems absurd. But at the time it was the prevailing memeplex, and despite being completely untrue, it made it extremely difficult for companies other than IBM to break into that segment of the computer business, and that was the way it was for many, many, many years.
    When I see the manner in which CAGW is promoted, and the manner in which it takes root and spreads, often without the guiding hand of the original promoters, I see FUD in action.

  175. gnomish:
    re your post at November 3, 2013 at 9:23 am.
    No! I am not aware of any “self satire” in my statement that a coincidence of interests (n.b. NOT a “meme”) initiated the global warming scare.
    However, your comments are beyond satire. For example, I am bothering to answer your – to use your word – “stupid” post because it only the latest in your seies of posts saying you are withdrwaing from here.
    Richard

  176. Bruce Cobb:
    Thankyou for your post at November 3, 2013 at 9:00 am that says in total

    @Richard, I well remember your history of the origins of CAGW, and the accompanying chart showing coinciding interests and feedback loops. I was impressed with it then, and still am. However, I don’t see how the memeplex idea detracts from it. Possibly, it is when the feedback loops begin to kick in that it took on a life of its’ own, becoming a memeplex (remember, it’s not just a ‘meme’).

    OK, I will bite.
    Each of the individuals and groups adopted support of AGW because it was in their interest so to do. Hence, “memes” had nothing to do with their adoption of AGW.
    If there were no memes then there could not have been a combination of memes. And if a “memeplex” is not a combination of memes then what is it?
    The assertion that AGW was and is a meme distracts from investigation of why AGW caught on and why it is still promoted when – after more than three decades – it has failed to obtain any supporting observational evidence (which Andy calls “reality”).
    AGW is supported because it is in the interests of those who support it to support it. Some (a few) gain financial benefit, some gain social benefit, some gain emotional benefit, etc.. If their support is to be reduced then their interests have to be met. Armwaving about imaginary memes ignores and deflects from consideration of their interests.
    Please note that the above discussion in this thread revealed that the word “meme” was invented by Dawkins to explain why many people adopted ideas he failed to understand; i.e. all such ideas were what he called memes. I have seen nothing in the subsequent discussion which suggests that a meme is anything other than that for other users of the word.
    I remain to be convinced that the word meme is other than a ‘sciencey’ excuse for ignorance and, therefore, it avoids – and distracts from – investigation to reduce the ignorance.
    Richard

  177. richardscourtney says:
    November 3, 2013 at 7:22 am
    In this post I think you have hit it on the head.
    If I may digress a bit, when I started reading Andy West’s essay I thought – surely it is not April 1? When I was studying for my BA Administration in one set of exams I was given a paragraph of bureaucratic gobbledygook and asked to interpret it. I am still not sure what the examiner wanted. However, I came to the conclusion that this particular piece of wording meant nothing when put together, but it could perhaps be disintegrated and some meaning found – which I did. Managed to interpret it as “Look before you leap”. Examiner said “I like it!” Andy’s piece, while not so mangled, seemed written on the same lines, and I can only envy Gnomish in “I understood everything you said”.
    But ‘fear’ is indeed the key to the CAGW meme. The logic of this meme, and possibly many others, is this.
    I must survive.
    You are not me.
    Your survival is a rival to mine.
    But there are others who are also rivals.
    My survival is therefore more probable if I can persuade you to assist me.
    I can best persuade you to assist me if I convince you that the others are out to get us.
    Even if they are not out to get us my survival chances are better if you help me.
    Therefore I must convince you that they are out to get us.
    Truth helps, but if it is not available a lie will do.
    I must invent a convincing story.
    Best a little truth.
    CAGW will do.
    This has been known for years – it is called xenophobia. I like the definition from the Urban Dictionary:
    “The term ‘xenophobia’ is typically used to denote a phobic attitude towards foreigners or strangers, or even of the unknown. Racism in general is described as a form of xenophobia.
    -“Why do we have to have white people at the front of the bus, and black people at the back of the bus? Why can’t we all be green?”
    -“Light green at the front of the bus, and dark green at the back please!”
    “Fear of the different” plus “One for all and all for me” = a good memeplex.

  178. davidmhoffer:
    Thankyou for your post at November 3, 2013 at 9:31 am which explains the importance of FUD.
    I agree that importance. However, a related issue is herd behaviour. There is less personal risk in ‘going with the herd’ than taking a different position.
    You cited IBM with respect to FUD. The story of Xerox Park is an extreme example of how business executives can be trapped by herd behaviour. Those wanted a successor to the Xerox photocopier and could not see that inventions of Xerox Park were a greater success than anything they could imagine: those inventions did not include a photocopier so were – in the limited herd view of Xerox executives – a failure.
    I fail to see how ‘memes’ aid identifications of FUD, herd behaviour, or a host of other influences which constrain people from changing their ideas.
    Richard

  179. richardscourtney;
    Those wanted a successor to the Xerox photocopier and could not see that inventions of Xerox Park were a greater success than anything they could imagine: those inventions did not include a photocopier so were – in the limited herd view of Xerox executives – a failure.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Oooh, it was SO much more complicated than that. PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) was originally the brain child of the Xerox executive. They did the unthinkable. They scoured the world for the brightest minds they could find, gave them lab space and budgets….and told them to build something interesting, whatever they wanted. The computer industry as we know it today was largely invented at PARC.
    But something rather strange happened. As the products were created, the Xerox execs tried to bring them to market through their existing infrastructure which was completely designed to sell photo copiers. It was middle management, the store managers themselves, which killed the whole thing. They had spent years making big money selling photo copiers. That the end of the gravy train was in sight due to expiring Xerox patents had not yet impinged on their consciousness. They didn’t know who companies with names like Toshiba and NEC were, they had no reason to fear them.
    The Xerox execs attempted to force the store managers to sell the new products. They mandated the stores to dedicate a minimum amount of floor space to the new products. Since not doing so was a cause for dismissal, they went along. Of course the storage closet in the basement counted as floor space, as did the washrooms and the janitorial supplies room…. so that’s where the new products went.
    Xerox execs spent an enormous amount of money trying to get the new products to market, and were foiled by their own corporate culture which saw anything other than a photo copier as a waste of time and space that would only reduce commissions. The Xerox execs eventually came to the realization that the money they were pouring into PARC was going to bankrupt them. They could have established an entirely new sale organization completely separate from the photo copier organization, but that idea never took hold because the prevailing wisdom was that you leverage the sales organization you already have. By the time it became apparent that this wasn’t going to work because the memeplex/culture of the existing sales organization was so highly resistant to change, it was too late for Xerox to do anything but declare PARC a failure and cut their losses.
    In the meantime, companies like Apple, 3Com, Digital Equipment, Microsoft and many others made off with the technologies that emerged from PARC for pennies on the dollar and derived multi-billion dollar revenue streams from them.

  180. The Pompous Git says:
    November 2, 2013 at 11:31 pm
    To the extent that “Darwinism” is used by biologists, it signifies evolution by natural selection rather than by stochastic processes, as an alternative to “Darwinian”, which is the correct term. I don’t know in what context Gould used “Darwinism”, but to creationists it means “belief” in evolution itself, not an evolutionary process.
    The word “evolution” means two different but related things in biology. One is the observed fact of change in lifeforms over time, which was called “development” before Darwin. The other is the body of theory explaining how evolution occurs. Before Darwin & Wallace, there was no good scientific explanation for the fact of “development”, since inheritance of acquired characters wasn’t convincing. “Transmutation of species” was an hypothesis without an explanation, which left the field to religion, the leading “theory” being sequential special creation.
    The “modern” (1936-47) evolutionary synthesis combines natural selection with population biology. It might have occurred sooner had 19th century evolutionary biologists read Mendel, but apparently none did. Darwin’s cousin Galton did however make contributions to statistical analysis that would be extended by mathematical biologists in the early 20th century.
    Now it’s possible actually to see evolution in the genomes of organisms, which has offered insights into how selection (which produces so-called “directional” evolution) & stochastic processes both function in nature. Speciation can occur with changes in just a few genes (or just one, in microbes), but once the new species becomes more reproductively isolated from its parent species, a lot more genetic changes accumulate, as if the two were isolated by physical barriers, producing genetic drift apart, possibly augmented by the founder principle or effect.
    In plants (via polyploidy) & microbes (from point mutations), new species can occur all at once, but that’s rarer in animals. Never the less, evolution can be directly observed even in multicellular animals, including vertebrates, despite longer generation times.

  181. IMO,Enough bandwagons and you have a parade.People want to join in ,or at least observe it.It’s just human nature.So,it may grow to global porportions. Who knows ?Maybe it will rain.
    Thanks for the interesting articles and comments.

  182. richardscourtney;
    I fail to see how ‘memes’ aid identifications of FUD, herd behaviour, or a host of other influences which constrain people from changing their ideas.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Allow me an example from personal experience. I’ve changed the industry and other aspects of the story to protect the innocent.
    They
    I was once tasked with selling a new Widget. The Widget could reduce the cost of manufacturing boxes by 20%. It would require the box factory to shut down for a month to install. After that, it would pay for itself in just 14 months. The Widget came with a 5 year warranty. For companies selling boxes in the range of millions of dollars per month, the Widget was a potential gold mine. Selling the Widget ought to be like taking candy from children, right?
    Wrong.
    You see, there’s a whole host of buying influences in a big box company. There’s a maintenance department for example, and part of the Return On Investment was due to needing only 1/3 of them. They immediately started explaining to management why this Widget was of no value to the company. The union heard about a potential 1 month shout down and threatened to strike. The plant manager got a quarterly bonus for the number of boxes he built that quarter, so he was none too happy about taking a shut down that would kill one, perhaps two quarterly bonuses. The CFO was on an annual bonus system, so a 14 month ROI would kill her bonus for not one, but two years in succession. The President of every box company I talked to coldly informed me that he had CFO’s and production and maintenance managers whose task it was to evaluate technologies such as these and to stop calling him and call them instead.
    So…. how am I to sell my Widget?
    There were 5 box companies in my area. One was growing at 20% year over year, three were doing so so, and one was shrinking 20% year over year. The one which was growing had the most revenue, and the most to gain by buying my Widget. They were the LAST company I wanted to spend any time with. Why? Because they were making money hand over fist, gaining market share, winning deal after deal, what they were doing was WORKING, and working WELL. Why would they want to risk that? FUD prevented them from making any changes at all.
    But what about Box Company Number 5? Well they’ve got plenty of FUD going on too. But it is a completely different kind of FUD. They fear the future because THEIR future looks like lay offs, plant shut downs, job losses, pay cuts. They dream of bonuses, they’re not actually getting any. So they are ripe for change. I called the sales manager and asked him for his advice. I told him that I had a product that could reduce his companies operating costs by 20%, and I was wondering if that would be of interest to his company, and if so, who should I talk to.
    I was in the president’s office for a meeting the next week. Company Number 1 wouldn’t even consider my Widget because they had a good thing going and they feared change might ruin it. Company Number 5 considered my Widget because they feared the consequences of NOT changing. The President changed everyone’s bonus structure to accommodate the one month shut down, the production manager doubled shifts for two months prior to the shut down to build inventory during the shut down. The union bought in because they got lotsa overtime ahead of a one month lay off that was going to save the jobs they feared losing.
    Fear is a big part of decision making. Sometimes fear prevents change, and sometimes fear promotes change.

  183. davidmhoffer:
    Thankyou for your post at November 3, 2013 at 10:32 am which corrects, extends and destails the causes of the Xerox PARC failure.
    With respect, your account makes a great example of my point that ‘memes’ is not a useful model for understanding why existing ideas tend to be retained.
    If the Xerox executives had staff resistance why did they not retrain the staff?
    If the staff retraining was not possible then why not establish an additional marketing arm?
    If the staff needed incentives to retrain then why not provide the incentives?
    If the staff were so resistant to change then why?
    etc.
    Saying, “It was a meme” explains nothing. It would not have answered any of the listed (and other pertinent) questions which Xerox shareholders needed to be addressed. Indeed, it hinders analyses to answer those questions.
    Importantly, it puts ‘blame’ on the staff who were resistant to change when the real problem was the incompetence of the executives to create the changes which they knew were needed. In the Xerox case that resulted in most of the staff losing their jobs when the Xerox patent exhausted. However, similar problems of resistance to change in totalitarian countries is addressed with ‘treatment’ to correct the ‘memes’ of those who resist change.
    And that is why I am questioning the whole basis of this memes idea.
    Richard

  184. davidmhoffer:
    Thankyou very much indeed for your “widgets” example in your post at November 3, 2013 at 10:58.am.
    It seems that we, too, are talking at cross purposes because
    (a) you present that as an example of memes,
    but
    (b) I see it as a perfect example of why the motivations of people (i.e. the components of a system) need to be evaluated if change is to be achieved.
    Richard

  185. @ milodonharlani
    Why are you preaching to the converted? Why don’t you answer my questions? Such as how could Carey have been against plate tectonics when that concept still lay in his future? and why do mothers become distressed when deprived of their offspring? Dawkins as a good ultra-Darwinist says it is “a problem” for their theory of evolution. And you still haven’t explained why you believe that Gould was a creationist.
    You may not have noticed this, but my blog is titled One Long Argument after Ernst Mayr’s excellent book with the same title. For many years I wrote almost daily and as often as not on topics biological. I possess several hundred books on the topic of evolution most of which I have actually read and almost certainly understood. At least I was awarded a distinction for my work in a class called Philosophy of Biology.

  186. wrecktafire says:
    November 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm
    Agreeing (I think), with richardscourtney, I would say that I don’t think a meme has any explanatory power that an idea lacks. If this is true, it would make it redundant.
    I have multiple objections to the idea of a meme, chief among them:
    * memes are described as if they have intention or will….
    ———
    I am in agreement with both of your and Theo Godwin regarding the usefulness of memes. Dawkin’s “selfish gene” has the same problem as in his theory genes become the motivators of all behaviour, as they maximize their ability to survive – but that assumes that genes have intention or motivation for that end.
    I do suspect that a meme in Andy West’s view is more than an idea, it is an ideal that motivates behaviours. However, I object to the characterization of religions as memes, because that assumes that those within the so-called meme have suspended all critical thinking. Especially today, in an age dominated by reductionist materialism, educated followers of various religions have to justify their beliefs to themselves through the use of reason. Since so many of society’s current moral standards are being set in opposition to traditional religion, holding on to faith is no easy exercise. Indeed, it is a fallacy to think that it was not always thus. In the deeply religious medieval past, Venetians, for example, were happy to side with the Ottoman Empire and betray fellow Christians in Constantinople so as to futher their economic agenda. Such behavior would not have occurred if the so-called ‘meme’ of the Christian religion shaped the entire world view of Venetian Christians. It seems in much of European history the love of money has outweighed the fear of hell.
    CAGW is much more akin to a cult: followers are discouraged from critical thinking, and the main purposed of cults is to empower and enrich the leades at the expense of the followers, who are prevented from freely associating with people critical of the cult or others disapproved of by cult leaders. Cult leaders also possess special, secret knowledge that is only slowly disclosed to followers through their payment for intensive training and education. This way, the followers in the inner circles within a cult have become more deeply indoctrinated and also have a personal stake in further promoting the cult. In a religion, all relevant teachings are available to everybody without payment or special training – there is no secret knowledge.
    The analogy is especially apt considering the barriers of science publications’ pay-walls and the insistance that the only valid critiques of CAGW are from accepted, trained colleagues in peer-reviewed publications.

  187. The Pompous Git says:
    November 3, 2013 at 11:33 am
    I don’t think that Gould was a creationist. As I said, I don’t know how he used Darwinism, but it’s usual in biology to refer to Darwinian evolution.
    I must have missed your asking me the other questions.
    I see no problem at all for evolution with maternal distress when deprived of offspring. I’d predict it based upon selective pressure in favor of that behavior.
    I don’t know what to say about Dawkins. I’m not a militant atheist & don’t know what an ultra-Darwinist is. Do you mean that cooperation is ruled out, focusing only on intra- & inter-species competition? At least since Fisher & Haldane, evolutionary theory has recognized that cooperation among kin can be adaptive, regardless of what Dawkins may say. I don’t know what he says about it, since I admit I haven’t read The Selfish Gene. I gather that he praises Hamilton, theoretical heir to Fisher & Haldane, however, which would be strange if he doesn’t appreciate the selective value of cooperation.
    Carey maintained his belief in an expanding earth & opposed subduction at least until the 1990s, the date of his last publication. His c. 1946 hypothesis of an expanding earth to explain continental drift itself involved a form of plate tectonics, although he may not have used that word to describe it until later, certainly by 1958. Hess formally proposed continental drift by seafloor spreading from mid-ocean ridges in 1960, although the work along this line by him & others was already known among geologists by then. So, correct me if wrong, but my impression is that Carey had no problem with plate tectonics, in that he believed continental plates had once been conjoined but split apart due to an expanding earth, however rejected seafloor spreading & subduction as the explanation.
    Hope these responses answer your questions.

  188. richardscourtney;
    If I had answers to all of your questions, I would be a billionaire, as would anyone able to definitively answer you. I recommended business books to Andy West because dozens of them have been written on this precise topic. Andy’s article resonates with me because I have studied the topic as being integral to my job for decades. That said, I return to my point upthread, which is that we’re getting hung up on the definition of the word, while it is the concept Andy is trying to articulate which is more interesting (to me at least). I’ve read many books on this concept, and in business lingo they use terms like paradigm, organizational behaviour, corporate culture, and many others. They are all variants of what Andy calls a memeplex. Call it a memeplex, call it a paradigm, the question remains, how does it take root and grow? I shall leave you with three points:
    1. The CAGW memeplex has many proponents. Companies that make windmills, companies that make solar panels, companies that make batteries for electric cars, companies that make electric motors for electric cars, companies that make biofuels, researchers…. it is a very long list. There is no organized effort to promote the meme, just an awful lot of people who and benefit from it, and each promotes it in their own way for their own purposes, so it takes root an evolves. Point in case, no one is proposing a 55 mph speed limit to reduce CO2 emissions because this is of no benefit to any of the proponents of the CAGW memeplex.
    2. FUD works only on people who have stuff to lose. So, as long as the cost of “taking action” is small in relation to the value of the stuff we have to lose, the majority of people who have stuff, will pay to alleviate the FUD of losing the stuff they have. I’ll pay $500 to insure my $100,000 house, but will I pay $150,000 to ensure my $100,000 house? Obviously not. The price of “taking action” can only go so far before it looms larger in the minds of the population that does the FUD of losing what they already have. In Spain, they’ve reached that point, the green subsidies are being slashed because their cost exceeds the FUD.
    3. FUD does NOT work on people who have no stuff to lose. This is why (I believe) your suggestion upthread of a “counter memeplex” won’t work. The 3rd world is immune from CAGW FUD because they spend all day, every day, just trying to stay alive. When your goal is to not die from starvation or thirst or war in the next 24 hours, contemplating climate change a decade from now is hardly top of mind. Since the 1st world not acting, is in large part not a benefit to the 1st world, it cannot overcome (sadly) the FUD that compels the 1st world to act.

  189. davidmhoffer:
    Thankyou for your post at November 3, 2013 at 12:29 pm.
    I write to make clear that I completely agree your point 3 concerning the Third World. Sadly, starving peasants in the Third World have no influence on anything. My suggestion was a proposed response to AGW-proponents in the developed world.
    It is rare for a ‘one size fits all’ solution to apply in any complex issue, and in my opinion your business illustrations demonstrate this.
    Richard

  190. The Pompous Git says:
    November 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm
    Thanks for that explanation. I see that Niles Eldredge coined the term “Ultra-Darwinism”. As I suspected, Gould himself was careful in the article always to write “darwinian”, as is usual among biologists. Eldredge appears to have used “Darwinism” advisedly in this case, in effect mockingly.

  191. I also think that you might be able to own a meme, so to speak. Or even promote a meme and just let it go by itself once it starts.People ,IMO, want to be a part of things.Even bad publicity can be good for your meme. as in; “have you heard about _____”and it spreads your message for you.Especially the way the press can ‘leaned’ on to ‘promote ‘ the story.Then a meme becomes a scheme.
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scheme

  192. milodonharlani said @ November 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks for that explanation. I see that Niles Eldredge coined the term “Ultra-Darwinism”.

    .
    No. Gould wrote that, but that does not make what he wrote true. David Stove died in 1994 and presumably wrote his Darwinian essays before that year. Stove used the term Ultra-Darwinist extensively in those essays. Eldredge’s book was not published until 1995, the same year Stove’s wife had her deceased husbands final work published. Either may have been the first and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they invented the term simultaneously.
    While Gould eschewed the term Darwinism in this article, (which may well be down to an editor) as I pointed out above, he used the term several times in his magnum opus. I quote now from The Panda’s Thumb:

    Throughout his last half-dozen books, for example, Arthur Koestler has been conducting a campaign against his own misunderstanding of Darwinism. He hopes to find some ordering force, constraining evolution to certain directions and overriding the influence of natural selection. […] Darwinism is not the theory of capricious change that Koestler imagines. Random variation may be the raw material of change, but natural selection builds good design by rejecting most variants while accepting and accumulating the few that improve adaptation to local environments.

    Emphasis mine. You can expostulate until you are blue in the face that Gould is here using the term “mockingly”, but I’m not buying it. Like Stinkjet, you give no reference for your claim that this is a term used exclusively by creationists, or only in some derogatory sense by the likes of Gould. I have never come across this distinction among the many thousands of words I have read in the topic of evolutionary biology.

  193. Before we got caught up in semantics I asked the following about memes:
    M Courtney says: November 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    3 Problems:
    1: What selects a meme if it is so good at resisting opposition to itself. It sounds immortal.
    2: How can a meme spread from person to person when everyone has a meme already? They ought to quickly eliminate weaker ideas at the speed of thought.
    3: None of this in empirical – it assumes that the real world means nothing. If the facts disagree then the meme should be refused by the observant. But this model of “memetics” doesn’t allow for that.

    Having read the comments no-one has yet defined how memes spread, are selected and how we know that.
    In short, memes seem to be ideas that have evolutionary pressures on them but no-one knows how they are subject to evolution.
    Without some understanding of how ‘survival of the fittest’ operates on ideas then memes have no explanatory power. Even if they are detected.
    I agree that the concept of evolution-of -ideas is interesting but how do they do that?

  194. The Pompous Git says:
    November 3, 2013 at 1:40 pm
    I was relying upon Gould’s attribution to his collaborator Eldredge. He may have been unaware of Stove’s work.
    It could be that the distinction between Darwinism & darwinian is observed only by Americans, because of the hijacking here of the former by creationists. American biologists are at pains to emphasize that “Darwinism” isn’t a belief system. Darwinian evolution here signifies good, old-fashioned natural selection as opposed to evolution by stochastic processes. The terminology is precise. Elsewhere in the world, it might be less so.
    In your cited passage from the Panda’s Thumb, Gould continues Koestler’s use of Darwinism & accepts his understanding of the term in responding to it, but in general, as in the 1997 essay “Darwinian Fundamentalism” you cited, Gould said darwinian, like other biologists, at least American ones.

  195. Paul Coppin says:
    November 2, 2013 at 8:10 am
    “I’m not at all sure that the degree of entrenchment of science and modern logic is as secure as we’d like to believe, in the present. 10 years ago, I would not have thought that “modern man” would have fallen so far off rational thought as he appears to have.”

    This sounds a bit like the “past was better” meme that West mentions several times; yet, for short periods of time in various places the past truly was better–Germany in 1928 had to be better than in 1944 or 1945. Someone on the thread above mentioned Charles Mackay’s wonderful book “Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds”. It made me think that there has to be a tulipmania like outbreak of madness involving carbon credits at some point in the future–surely an idea that daft cannot simply fade without have caused real damage to the world economy.

  196. @ milodonharlani
    This conversation reminded me that I purchased Keywords in Evolutionary Biology some time ago. It was abiding quietly in a rather large stack of books waiting their turn to be read. The book is edited by Evelyn Fox Keller and Elisabeth A. Lloyd who both appear to be Americans. The book is published by Harvard University Press, an American publisher and contains among many essays by the likes of Gould, Kimura and Lewontin, one by Michael Ruse. I understand that Ruse is both American and has played an important role in the Darwinism versus Creationist debate in America. His essay, entitled Darwinism, makes no mention whatsoever of creationism. Ruse also uses the term evolutionist several times, another word that you took me to task for using. Your strict usage rates not a mention.
    In the complete absence of a reference from you, I must take your claims as I ended up doing with Stinkjet’s, with a very large grain of salt.

  197. The Pompous Git says:
    November 3, 2013 at 2:40 pm
    Keller is a physicist. Ruse is not American, but English, & is not a biologist, but a philosopher. His discussion of Darwinism encompasses both my understanding of the term as it has been used since at least the 1970s, ie to refer to a belief system, & what in America is called darwinian, ie evolution by means of natural selection rather than through stochastic processes.
    I would have thought that Gould’s consistent use of darwinian except when commenting on or responding to others’ use of Darwinism, as in Ultra-Darwinism, would be dispositive of the issue.
    Maybe it’s time to heed Olivia Judson’s (an American Stanford undergrad with a D.Phil from Oxford under Hamilton) call for an end to all Darwin-derived terminology:
    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/lets-get-rid-of-darwinism/

  198. @ milodonharlani
    I thought Keller was Professor of History & Philosophy at MIT. She certainly writes about biology for the Journal Philosophy of Science. See http://philpapers.org/rec/KELMOA
    So it goes; most of my philosophy teachers were physicists prior to becoming philosophers.
    I took the liberty of consulting my Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language to pursue this idea that you and Stinkjet hold regarding the terms Darwinian and Darwinism. Therein I find Darwinian = a believer in the Darwinian theory and Darwinism = the Darwinian theory; also the belief in or support of the Dt. No relief for you there.
    Regardless of your ad hoc explanations, it remains the case that Gould used the term Darwinism on any number of occasions; 52 occasions in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory alone.
    You have claimed that there is no such thing as an evolutionist, and now you seem to recommend discarding all references to Darwin in terminology. That would appear to leave no words left to describe what these terms have traditionally referred to. BTW, I note that Ms Judson seems to have a very narrow and restricted view of what a gene is. Perhaps she needs to do some more reading in the field, such as this:
    http://genome.cshlp.org/content/17/6/669.full
    Live long and prosper Milo. I have no idea what your agenda here is, but it’s bloody weird…

  199. @Richard, your insistence on use of the word “meme” instead of memeplex suggests to me an irrational resistance to the whole concept on your part. Furthermore, your “criticisms” of the concept suggest that you haven’t actually read much of the actual essay itself. Arm-waving indeed.

  200. Bruce Cobb:
    Your post at November 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm says in total

    @Richard, your insistence on use of the word “meme” instead of memeplex suggests to me an irrational resistance to the whole concept on your part. Furthermore, your “criticisms” of the concept suggest that you haven’t actually read much of the actual essay itself. Arm-waving indeed.

    No “arm-waving” from me. I do NOT arm-wave and try to present clear arguments.
    I attempted to read the entire essay but gave up about half way through because its obscure language became just too much hard work to understand.
    Wicki says “Much of the study of memes focuses on groups of memes called meme complexes, or “memeplexes.”” Hence, I fail to see your point about “an irrational resistance”.
    I do reject the notion of ‘memes’ as an inhibition to assessment of complex issues involving human motivations. And I have explained this in several ways.
    If memes don’t exist then the entire essay is based on an error. I see no evidence that memes exist in reality, and I am certain that the concept of memes hinders analyses. Also, that concept is open to abuse by totalitarians. Your refusal to consider my arguments concerning these issues seems to display an irrational resistance to rejecting the concept on your part. And I suppose you will ascribe your irrational resistance as being a meme.
    Richard

  201. @ Bruce Cobb
    Before credence be given to memeplex, the worth of the meme concept must be established. This has yet to be done. Consider the following. A meme is anything that is transmitted non-genetically from one human to another: all ideas, concepts, attitudes, beliefs, customs and so on. Examples include a meme for Mozart’s Requiem, a meme for shaving one’s legs, wearing stilletto heels, a meme for capital punishment, a meme for Pythagorus’ Theorem and so on.
    There are struggles between these memes for supremacy, Dawkins and later Blackmore tell us. The meme for heliocentrism died out in antiquity for unknown reasons and was supplanted by the meme for geocentrism. In the 16thC, Copernicus suddenly caught the heliocentrism meme from some unknown place and it spread like wildfire until now there’s hardly a geocentrism meme on the planet.
    These memes can be transmitted from brain to brain in a variety of ways, by teaching people some science, or mathematics, by telling lies, by brainwashing people for example. These however are all instances of what we mistakenly think of as human agency. In meme theory, it is the memes themselves doing all the work; there is no such thing as human agency. Teaching science and mathematics, lying, and brainwashing are merely three different ways for memes to succeed in replicating themselves in other brains. If you believe that when Lewis P Buckingham read Aesop’s fables to his offspring that he was teaching them lessons about life, then you cannot believe in memes unless you also believe in contradiction (an all too common post-modernist stance).
    Now Richard Dawkins is a most entertaining writer and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading a considerable number of his books. He is, however, not a particularly good logician/philosopher. Nevertheless he did notice that if his selfish gene theory was correct, we are merely robots driven by our genes, then we could not simultaneously be robots driven by our memes. Hence his repudiation of his meme idea. Some of us repudiate all puppet theories and prefer to believe we are the agents of our destinies rather than our genes, or memes.

  202. I find that I must make another correction to my count of the word Gould never uses. When I converted the PDF of The Structure of Evolutionary Theory to Word format, only the first 99 pages were converted, so the count of 51 instances applies to the first 99 pages only. There are actually 386 occurrences of the forbidden word in 1406 pages, a frequency of slightly more than once every four pages.

  203. The Pompous Git says:
    November 3, 2013 at 7:02 pm
    My agenda, if I have one, stems, as I wrote, decades of explaining evolution to Christian fundamentalist college students & defending science from professional creationists in the US, who constitute about half the population (the vast majority if you include theistic evolution supporters) & form a well-organized & funded lobby. “Creation scientist” is an actual career path here. I don’t know if you have this in Australia to the same degree, although one of the leaders of the movement in the US is Australian. To them an “evolutionist” is not a scientist, but an “evilutionist” doing the devil’s work. “Darwinism” is a satantic belief system. Hence it is conventional now in technical writing to refer to darwinian evolution when referring to selection, whether “natural”, sexual or in any other way directional, rather than saying “Darwinist”.
    Dr. (not Ms.) Judson is IMO right that avoiding the nomenclature altogether would be appropriate now, since modern biology is as post-darwinian as 21st century physics is post-newtonian, & owes perhaps as much to Mendel as to Darwin, fond though I am of the great naturalist so slandered by today’s creationists. Just as physicists speak of classical mechanics without necessarily invoking Sir Isaac, biology would get along just fine with “selective pressure” rather than darwinian selection, although indebted to Darwin & Wallace for the concept of selection.
    I’m not as ready to put store in Webster’s dictionary as dispositive in scientific terminology.
    Your characterization of “Darwinism” as “forbidden” is a straw man. My explanation of the distinctions in these terms isn’t ad hoc. Since Gould’s Structure of Evolutionary Theory is mostly about Darwin, this should not come as a surprise. Its Chapter Nine on “punctuated equilibrium” (PE) contains an explicit attack on what Gould saw as conventional, gradualist Darwinism, so he too was using the term similarly to creationists, although in a biological rather than theological way, however his own Marxist ideology arguably colored his development of PE.
    Whatever else you or I might think of Dawkins’ own dubious hypothesis of the selfish gene (1976), appearing ever more quaint, at best, his criticism of PE remains valid, IMO. From his 1996 Blind Watchmaker: an “interesting but minor wrinkle on the surface of neo-Darwinian theory, (lying) firmly within the neo-Darwinian synthesis”.
    Since Judson publishes on evolution of the genetic code in Science, Nature (I know, I know…), the Journal of Molecular Evolution & Trends in ecology & evolution, as an honorary research fellow at Imperial College, besides being a media personality in her spare time, I’m pretty sure that her understanding of what is now thought to constitute a gene is better than yours or mine. Your citation of Gerstein, et al (2007) is far from the last word in defining what a gene is, as you appear to believe. Few have jumped on their bandwagon. In fact, many of their colleagues in the Human Genome Project not only question their conclusion that virtually the whole genome is functional, but object to the huge amount of funding that the ENCODE has absorbed. When asked to define what a gene is this year, most workers in this sampling of leading HGP figures, including its former director, now head of NIH Dr. Collins, say that like “art” (the reference is actually to a US Supreme Court decision on pornography), they know it when they see it.
    http://www.genome.gov/27554026
    Collins says that although he can’t define “gene”, he & his colleagues know what they’re talking about when they use the term. The meaning of gene has of course changed a lot since 1909, & especially since Dawkins’ 1976 book on its supposedly selfish nature. Sequencing whole genomes has revolutionized understanding of the gene. I’ll forbear writing about these exciting discoveries at length. Suffice it to say, that Judson is fully up to speed on what genes might currently be thought to be. The philosophy of biology isn’t running fast enough to keep up with developments in biology, although IMO Mayr is still valuable.
    For weirdness, IMO being agnostic as between explaining plate tectonics via an expanding earth, a speculation for which there is no evidence, & via seafloor spreading, for which hypothesis there is overwhelming evidence, takes the cake.

  204. David Archibald says:
    November 4, 2013 at 2:19 pm
    Thanks, David, your feedback very much appreciated. (The wheels of industry pulled me back, no time for more than a few words here or at JCs, may be able to drop back in at the weekend).

  205. @ milo
    While I find much to agree with in your last post, I am still bewildered when you provide no references for your assertions regarding the use of the term Darwinism. I have provided references where your distinctions are not made. Certainly in the punk-eek chapter of Gould’s book he is using Darwinism in a way similar to what you have earlier ascribed to me. To characterise this as “similar to creationist” is clearly insulting. To me and to Gould. You may well disagree with Gould’s Marxism, but this, even though it coloured his ideas, should not detract from the excellence of much of his writing. Disclaimer: I am not a Marxist. I am an anti-stereotypist.
    Apropos Judson, she stated “evolutionary success can now be measured in terms of the number of genes an individual contributes to the next generation”, a statement that I believe is prima facie ludicrous. Tasmanian Devils are breeding themselves into oblivion with facial tumours. However, they do pass on ever so many genes such that Ms Judson can count them and declare them evolutionarily successful. I would argue that it is the information content of genes, rather than their number that is important here. A single gene imparting resistance to the facial tumours would reverse the Devils’ current decline in numbers. However, this is neither the time, nor the place for discussing facial tumours.
    The elimination of the terms Darwinian, neo-Darwinian and Darwinist from the literature would orphan a great deal of excellent work performed by biologists over the last few decades. Bad work too of course. If the words are expunged from use, then the work is rendered unintelligible unless translated. This is of course the very purpose of rewriting history. Only the approved material is translated. Perhaps you would even advocate the changing of Lenz’s law, Coulomb’s Law, Biot-Savart law, Ohm’s law, Kirchhoff’s laws, Joule’s law, Fermat’s principle, Sturm function (of which the Git as a fully paid-up Sturm is naturally fond), Hubble’s Law, Kepler’s laws, Newton’s laws and so on. You never know who might be offended.
    As I explained regarding Carey’s expanding earth hypothesis, I did not attend the proffered lecture because I had another commitment. Not to put too fine a point on this, it was earning money that we require in these parts whenever we go shopping for instance. Had I been able to attend the lecture, and I very much would have liked to, I would no doubt have formed an opinion, or been led to make further investigation. In the event, there was no incentive to do the latter because the lecture was extra-curricular. I do not make a habit of forming opinions on matters about which I have insufficient information. Therefore, quite properly IMO, I remain agnostic. I note that Nature published Carey’s work and that was when the journal was under John Maddox’s excellent editorship. I should want at the very least to read some of Carey’s work.
    The course organiser, Andrew Tunks, was a working field geologist who had only just taken up academe. He won an award for excellence in teaching; well-deserved IMHO. He has since returned to field geology. Ask yourself this question: “If there is no evidence for Carey’s ideas, as you state, why on Earth would a hands-on field geologist want to expose his students to them?” Another question: “Why did John Maddox publish Carey’s work?”

    • Wrecktafire is about right, except for one thing – there is no such thing as a ‘meme’. A ‘meme’ seems to be a concept invented to describe why people behave in a certain way – they were driven by a ‘meme’. It is of the same order as the ‘rain god’ or the ‘thunder god’ or, in Western terms, ‘Mother Nature’, or ‘Global Warming’. The late and much lamented Margaret Thatcher got it right when she said “Society? There is no such thing as ‘Society’.” Society is an idea, with no physical existence. A ‘meme’ is an idea with no physical existence.

  206. The Pompous Git says:
    November 4, 2013 at 4:13 pm
    The meaning of “Darwinism”, as I noted, has changed over the years. Much of Gould’s work discusses the 19th & early 20th centuries, before the onslaught of the past few decades of militant fundamentalist creationism.
    I’ve provided lots of examples of biologists using “darwinian” in precisely the way I indicated it is now employed, to include both Gould & Dawkins. There is not to my knowledge any directive from an Academy of Biological Nomenclature ruling on these usages. I’m just reporting on how biologists publishing in journals & writing books now use the terms. Don’t believe me if you don’t want to.
    Doing away with even darwinian would not in any way invalidate prior usages. As noted, “gene” means something very different now from what it did in 1909, but nobody is unable to read & understand scientific literature from the past century. For that matter, Darwin didn’t use the word “evolution” in On the Origin of Species, but instead called it “descent with modification” (the last word of his conclusion, added as an afterthought to the first edition, is however “evolved”). Terminology changes. Stopping calling directional evolution darwinian would hardly render older work unintelligible. I know for instance what Newton’s fluxions are, despite having grown up with the term differential calculus.
    If biologists want to continue calling natural selection the Darwin-Wallace Process or something like that, then fine with me. But associating natural selection, so self-evident now, with certain people gives creationists more ground than they ought to have. The concept of gravity existed before Newton’s inverse square “law”, just as the concept of evolution (although not called that) existed before Darwin & Wallace “discovered” natural & sexual selection. I actually prefer “darwinian” to refer specifically to “directional” evolution by means of natural selection, as it’s used in the literature today, but Judson’s suggestion is at least worthy of consideration, IMO.
    As long as Tasmanian devils are living long enough to reproduce, they’re successful in evolutionary terms. If the tumors cause them to go extinct, then they failed. I don’t see how this negates Judson’s view of evolution, which is actually pretty standard.
    Surely your being agnostic between an expanding earth & seafloor spreading can’t be blamed upon a lecture you didn’t attend. Either the evidence is there for one or the other hypothesis or it isn’t, & you’ve been free all these decades to look into both explanations for continental drift or plate tectonics. That Nature in 1961 published Carey’s paper, when the American Association for the Advancement of Science had only printed Hess’ conference presentation on seafloor spreading the year before, is hardly an excuse, IMO, for continuing to consider an expanding earth a plausible hypothesis today. The paleomagnetic evidence supports seafloor spreading, not an expanding earth, although paleomagnetism was the subject of Carey’s Nature article.

  207. @ milodonharlani
    I’m not attempting to argue that Darwinian/Darwinist/Darwinism [delete whichever is inapplicable] have not changed over the years. I am arguing that they are a shorthand way of expressing concepts. Also that it is very common in the sciences and mathematics to use the name of a person associated with the development of a law, theory, or theorem. To deprecate the use of the Darwins’ name because someone whose ideas you disapprove use the term seems at the very least odd. This is especially so since you also disapprove of the alternative “evolutionist”. One could I suppose use the term :”holder of the Received View/modern synthesis” instead of neo-Darwinist, but I suspect that would leave the average layman totally perplexed, but then that might just be the real reason for this “need” to expunge Darwin’s name from biology.
    I would have taken your concerns in this more seriously if:
    1. “Professor” Stinkjet hadn’t made the same assertion with the same lack of evidence several years ago. NB Stinkjet subscribed to David Wojic’s Climate Change Debate List in order to discredit me. He accused me of drinking several bottles of wine per night etc, etc. I ended up unsubbing from the list as the hate messages were quite disturbing and certainly disruptive. He still creates new email addresses from time to time in order to harass me.
    2. I had found supporting evidence in Keywords in Evolutionary Biology, The Structure Of Evolutionary Theory, the Oxford Dictionary of Earth Sciences, or Webster’s..
    3. I wasn’t so fond of Darwin.
    A better example of why I believe that the number of genes is a silly way to calculate evolutionary success. Wheat passes on many more genes to the next generation, both in absolute terms and per individual organism/seed. Therefore, according to Judson, wheat is evolutionarily more successful than humans. Or planarians that have been around since the Cambrian. I’m not buying it. It’s a really silly idea!
    I did not come across Carey’s ideas until I undertook first year geology at UTas in 2005. It never occurred to me to pursue Carey’s ideas at the time; I was quite busy with a half-time job, as well as studying history and philosophy, keeping up with the farm and Carey’s ideas were irrelevant within the context of the course. I had chosen geology as the required science unit in the philosophy of science course as it was the science I knew least.
    Yesterday, I checked how much it would cost to purchase a couple of Carey’s books. A new copy of his second book was selling for over $US1,000 and a second-hand copy of Expanding Earth (paperback) in only fair condition was $US170. The State Library does not appear to have a copy of the latter, though they do have the former: Theories of the earth and universe : a history of dogma in the earth sciences. Sadly, it is not in the lending library, nor can I place a hold on it. Should someone else happen to be reading it when I arrive, I will have wasted the hour’s journey to the city.
    For reasons that should be obvious, reading Carey is still not very high on my list of priorities. The book I am currently writing/researching is about gardening and I’m certain that Carey had nothing useful to say about plant pathology.

  208. @AndyWest2012
    Let me commend you on your persistent, gracious responses to the criticism your essay has received. Also, please accept my apology for saying that explaining someone’s position as meme-driven was “vicious” — that is probably untrue, in your case.
    But I think my philosophical objection to memes as agents could use some elaboration. Such elaboration will show how even the concept of “good” memes, such as “being evidence-driven” or the various memes which supposedly encode moral rules are still problematic.
    Pompous Git hits this theme on the head when he states that for the meme/memeplex to possess agency is to make the human person a puppet, negating his free will.
    In case this dead horse needs any more kicking, I offer the following. ( 😉 )
    There is an entrenched phenomenology and anthropology in the Western world which goes like this:
    * the world is real, and contains causes and effects. Causation is real. We are real.
    * man has the capacity to understand the world, and to understand it, under some conditions (i.e., he can know truth)
    * man has free will (i.e., if he is healthy, his choices are not physically determined)
    * if he is healthy, he hungers for truth–knowledge of causes and effects–and pursues it
    As a Westerner, I believe these things, above, are not just successful ideas (or memes) or dominant thought patterns, but are actually TRUE; i.e., a mind which agrees with these concepts is in conformance with reality. Minds which doubt these things are in doubt of reality.
    It is not only I who believe this, but it is enshrined in every sane culture. In any culture which looks at man and truth this way, society can trust that a sane man will do certain things: respond appropriately to obvious threats to himself and his community, understand the consequences of lawbreaking, understand how to relate peaceably with others, and responsibly perform important tasks for himself and others. Because a man has these attributes, he is accorded a certain amount of dignity, and that dignity demands a commensurate amount of freedom. (These powers do not constitute his dignity, but make a substantial contribution to it.) These are foundational concepts of our many cultures.
    Thousands of years of Western law and culture have assumed as true this description of reality, man’s ability to know it, and his freedom to conform his understanding to it. They have also brought us to a key understanding, acted upon every day in our courtrooms, bars, and mental hospitals: if a particular man’s thoughts and beliefs are thought to be physically (or mechanistically) determined, we (correctly) judge that person to be operating with reduced mental and moral capacity, and reduced culpability for wrongdoing. A few moments of reflection about everyday life will confirm this, I think. We cannot and do not trust those whose brains we think are not operating freely, and not under the full control of the will of that person. Depending on the degree to which this happens, societies then deprive that man of responsibility, authority, and/or freedom, because they can no longer trust that it is reality that is driving his beliefs and actions. He no longer merits full trust, or full freedom, because his beliefs bear no causal relation to the pertinent reality of the situation.
    In short, having a mind that accurately perceives reality and whose content is not determined by physical influences is a precondition for freedom and full dignity.
    So, when you wrote this, a few days ago:
    “One of your very commendable essays mentions the madness of crowds, the ‘The political monstrosity environmentalism mutated into’. Memetics sheds a mechanistic light on that madness, on that mutation, ”
    you can imagine the difficulty this creates for human freedom and dignity.
    In that statement, I read an annihilating deprecation of the dignity of those individuals you are describing. Why should we entrust them with anything? They are mad, after all. Why shouldn’t we concoct powerful lies to counteract the lies which they have been bathed in, since, after all, persons with reduced capacity can’t handle reality but must be given some altered version of it which is appropriate to the type and degree of their “madness”. That is what I see in the suggestion that CAGW believers should be opposed by means of “counter-memes”.
    Your attempt to make memes sound neutral by pointing up “good” memes may have some validity within meme theory, but because even the good meme is still the master of the person, the person can no longer be a moral agent, and can no longer merit full freedom. It is, therefore, dehumanizing.
    Treating the CAGW crowd with counter-memes is to treat them as children or imbeciles.
    Apologies for the length and somewhat rambling, repetitive character of this post. I am being distracted by a sex-comedy meme.

  209. Dudley Horscroft said November 6, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    “Society? There is no such thing as ‘Society’.” Society is an idea, with no physical existence.

    “Society: The state or condition of living in association, company, or intercourse with others of the same species; the system or mode of life adopted by a body of individuals for the purpose of harmonious co-existence or for mutual benefit, defence, etc.:”
    We are just like flies, pinetrees and cod I suppose. No hospitals, no armies, no police force, no monasteries and convents. Neo-Darwinism says so :-))))

  210. wrecktafire says:
    November 5, 2013 at 10:45 pm
    Hi wrecktafire, I don’t get much time during the week and likely I still have outstanding queries upthread. But thought I’d pop in and thank you for your apology, accepted, and for your thoughtful and reasoned responses; always a pleasure to exchange views in this manner.
    Despite your distraction by a sex-comedy meme (I hope it was fun ), your excellent questions go quite to the heart of the memetic approach, although I don’t think I’m saying what you think I’m saying.
    If I take your four bullet points as a starting point: I fully agree with the first, the second and the fourth, and see no impact on these by the memetic perspective. On the third, I only agree conditionally, in the sense that there are limits to how ‘free’ the free will is. In practice it has constraints that I think we are surely already well aware of without needing to take any account of memetics, which just informs us more about how those constraints operate. (and in fact regarding 2, I believe memetics is a useful tool to understand social phenomena, which must in the long run be understandable just like anything else, and regarding 4, my essay plus post was my attempt to pursue cause and effect within the social phenomenon of CAGW).
    Perhaps I should step next to the points I think you are making about ‘truth’ and ‘reality’, I guess ‘facts’ if you will, and maybe scientific facts especially. I’m not at all clear why you think that memes have any impact on matters of reality or fact. In my mind, they certainly don’t, nor in the literature I’ve read. So for instance I specifically make the point that the memeplex hypothesis is about the *social* phenomenon of CAGW, and *excludes* any actual climate events (which are factual). I also exclude any ‘real’ or genuine (for want of better words) climate science, precisely because any science that sticks to the proper scientific method will always be very closely allied to facts. Hard reality or ‘flat facts’ (i.e. not ambiguously transmitted or over-extrapolated or exaggerated) deny a memeplex the narrative space in which to arbitrarily evolve, short-circuiting its effects (or mainly so) and keeping to a minimum the speculation that is good fuel for memetic processes. However, science that has been biassed or corrupted (for whatever reason), i.e. ‘science’ that has left reality behind for too long or by too far, is by definition no longer fact, no longer aligned to reality. Hence it can get sucked into a memeplex and can potentially undergo rampant evolution, often ending up merely as a vehicle to support the relevant memeplex (e.g. Lysenkoism in the Communist memeplex). Added to which even facts which *are* established and remain true, can inadvertantly or deliberately be mistransmitted as half-truths, kicking off chains of evolution that can move further and further from the truth. Even though that original truth is still there for all to read (unless the memeplex becomes so powerful that this is suppressed), a flood of evolved memes might vastly ‘outweigh’ it, so to speak, thus it is often next to impossible for the truth to actually be heard against a vast and ’emotionally active’ array of memes that a particular memeplex has built up.
    I believe CAGW is a case in point where biassed science and mistransmitted fact have so evolved along emotive vectors as to dwarf any original truth or facts and whatever genuine science is still be going on in that domain. It is the agenda of the memeplex that dominates over reality. None of this means the reality doesn’t exist, or even that genuine science *freely practised* won’t once again uncover that reality in the normal way. But once a memeplex gets big enough it can obscure our perception of reality with a vast smokescreen of memes, and corrupt our means of probing reality further (i.e. real science), and apply an overwhelming consensus to shout down any genuine (contradictory) facts that might still have a chance of seeing the light.
    As to removing the diginity of CAGW adherents (or worse), absolutely not! Richard Dawkins argues that religions are delusions, which indeed removes dignity and even worse has an implication of medical dysfunction. But this position is hardly mainstream (although I guess htat’s not an argument in itself), and I argue very strongly in the essay that this is not the case. We are all immersed in some memeplex or other, maybe several. I still feel a shiver down my spine sometimes when I hear nationalistic works by Elgar, after long association in childhood. The vast majority of the world is immersed in religions still. Pretty much by definition, the whole world cannot be medically dysfunctional, nor are they children or in any other way subject to loss of diginity. I’m immersed in memeplexes, but don’t view this as a problem for my own dignity. The ‘madness of crowds’ may be an extreme end of the spectrum that has been observed long before memetics emerged (and I figure limited to only very specific circumstances), but the fact that memetics may help explain it doesn’t make the phenomena any different (with or without loss of diginity) to what it was before memetics came along. I think Dawkins’ position is anomolous. He essentially labels one set of memepelxes (religions) as a delusion, while being completely absorbed in a least one himself (CAGW). It should be one rule for all, and I believe that rul is that no memeplexes are delusions, they are part of the normal fabric of society, although can have downsides that would be best to be manage. I have great respect for the Archbishop of Canterbury, to pick an example, and in no way would I say anything to undermine his dignity, least of all that he is’ deluded’. Same goes for the vast majoruty of CAGW believers; they are passionate, hard-working folks who truly believe that they are doing good, and are not mad or bad in any way. My essay argues this at several places (in fact it’s key, the ermergent agenda of a memeplex explains how good folks can sometimes be steered down an unproductive path). A very few folks are in it for conscious gain or power or whatever – but there are some such in any large human enterprise.
    Regarding the limits on free will, again long before memetics we’ve know that free will can only be expressed within the limits of the culture an individual was brought up in. So if you as a baby had been kidnapped and brought up in a different land inside a strictly religious and obscure cult, although you’d be the same biological unit and able to take your own decisiosn, those decisions would be entirely bounded by the framework you gre up in, and would bear little resemblance to the decisions you now take. Outside such an obvious example (which just sets the basic premise), the culture we’re immersed in constantly changes, and hence the frame within which we take our free will decisions also changes, sometimes fast sometimes slow, but outside our personal control. In half a century I’ve seen a lot of change indeed in my own society, the rise and rise of a passionate but also kind of aggressive environmentalism being just one. It has never required memetics to understand that we can’t always remain independent of such changes. But memetics sheds much more light on the how and why these changes spread.
    It has puzzled me before why some folks seem to think that the concept of memes clashes with facts or reality; in all the works I’ve read on these critters I don’t recall ever seeing that as an implication. Perhaps a way of expressing the situation is this: ideas related to reality are memes, just like those that are not (i.e. regarding speculation, exaggeration, presumption, those related to raw emotions etc). But the scientific method is a way of winnowing out by experiment those memes within the super-set that are most relevant to reality, and then preventing their evolution in any other direction than the improved description of reality. It’s a method that woks great; given I obtained a degree in physics many years ago and experienced the method directly, my confidence in the method is personal not just aquired . There are similar systems that repress unwanted evolution; the system within our bodies for instance that stops cells following their normal evolutionary path and makes them conform (plus improve) only in the context of the needs of the higher unit. When the constraint system occasionally breaks down and cells mutpliply as they would ‘in the wild’, so to speak, then conditons like cancer result. Science can break down too, and once constrained memes can then evolve wildly out of control. If it goes far enough and they connnect up in a major co-evolutionary alliance ( a memeplex), the discconnect from reality can be actively increased / enforced.
    Okay this answer is even longer than yours 0:
    Maybe I should stop here. In summary I can’t see that any of the values you’ve stated are in conflict with a memetic perspective.

  211. Once more into the breech 🙂
    Andy, your post (a meme) consists of paragraphs (memes), each paragraph consists of sentences (memes), each sentence consists of clauses (memes) that consist of words (memes), which are made up of letters (memes), all of which are intended to express abstract ideas (also memes).
    In biology the units of heredity (alleles/genes) are conceived of in a distinct manner from their products (proteins, traits, and organisms). Memetics blurs this distinction; the hypothetical units of heredity (memes) are the same as their products (memes), and can broken down into effectively-limitless combinations (words, letters, notes, songs, speeches, cultures, etc). If the definition of a meme can be applied to accommodate almost anything, it adds nothing to our understanding of ideas.
    Popper’s point that a “theory that explains everything explains nothing” seems relevant here.

  212. The Pompous Git says:
    November 7, 2013 at 10:28 am
    Hi PG. Not being neatly packetised doesn’t change the basic properties required for evolution; heritability, variation, and selection. In your biology example, you quote only one level of selection. In multi-level selection (which theory at last making it to the big time after decades in the shade 🙂 , there is simultaneous selection going on at gene, cell, individual and populational level; what happens in the end is the outcome of all, though in some situations some can be discounted. The ‘packetisation’ is only a result of the biological mechanisms. In memetics there is simply a super-set of this situation; there’s theoretically a lot more levels that essentially form a continuum. However, by applying statistical techniques, one can winnow out the particular levels at which any useful selection is occuring for the issue one is examining, and frequently (for say competeing heresies inside a religion or somesuch) one level will suffice. In fact biology isn’t always so neat and packetised either; symbiotes like lichen evolve, depsite they are made of 2 completely different species. Viruses and prions can transfer dna sideways rather than just making full copies downward as generations. The neat DNA an RNA we know had a very long time to come to its current state; before they won out, it is speculated that there was a huge mixture of different replicators and allied groups of replicators with differing mechanisms, which despite the limits of chemistry that offer less options that narrative, still look rather more like the continuum of memetics. Can’t recall where I saw it now, but it’s been said that memes are still in the primeval stage within the evolutionary space of human minds.

  213. Andy. I will try again. There’s a meme for the first four notes of Beethoven’s ninth symphony (as well as the whole of the ninth, symphonies in general, composers of symphonies etc, etc). There’s also a meme for beating one’s wife to death with a cudgel for adultery, another meme for shooting one’s wife with a hand gun for adultery, another meme for shooting her in the left eye with a bow and arrow, ditto for the right eye, a meme for killing her for refusing to engage in a menage a trois etc, etc. How does the concept of memes assist me in understanding killing one’s wife in the light of the first four notes of Beethoven’s ninth? Apart from an assertion that they are really, deep-down, exactly the same thing, I am, frankly, nonplussed. Arguments about the (real) complexities of genetic inheritance don’t cut it. Sorry…
    BTW, Baudrillard has managed to write clearly on hyper-reality without any apparent need to resort to memes.

  214. The Pompous Git says:
    November 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm
    Hi PG. Well you did bring up genetic inheritance 😉 As it’s in play… there’s a large amount of genetic material that has no selective value (per the ‘neutral theory’), and therefore it’s not normally relevant in any particular selective circumstance. Likewise, the method of killing one’s wife has no selective value, but the act of doing so is a big deal and hence there will likely be selective factors for/against that meme in different cultures. Within a particular genome, say, there is a gene for a protein to do with liver function, and a set of genes for sexuality. Does the theory of genetics tell us anything about the liver function gene “in the light of” the first four genes of the sexuality group? No, except for the obvious thing that really we already knew, they are independent functions. Likewise, all that memetics can tell you about killing wives “in the light of” the first four notes of Beethoven’s ninth, is what we already knew, i.e. they are also independent.
    A corollary to this is that occasionally, when for some reason a genetic population is very small (e.g. a natural disaster or whatever), but survives to found a much larger population, random genes that would have been selectively neutral (statistically speaking over a large population) can get locked in from the time when there were very few individuals (the ‘founder effect’). Lock-in can happen with memes too, again with founder populations or founder cultures (which occur more often as culture moves faster). In poor societies with very little metal or other weapons, in arid regions especially, stones are a handy and communal weapon. In some modern populations that are now vastly bigger and have access to all sorts of weapons (not to mention more humane policies that the local memeplex resists), the stoning of women who are deemed to have done wrong still clings on as a prefered method of punishment. In this case prior constraints did cause selective value, and just like for genetics, this can get locked in.

  215. P.S. Darwin wrote what most people conside a pretty passable theory of evolution, without any knowledge of genes, which therefore he coudn’t resort to 🙂

  216. andywest2012 said @ November 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    P.S. Darwin wrote what most people conside a pretty passable theory of evolution, without any knowledge of genes, which therefore he coudn’t resort to 🙂

    True, but evolution by common descent relies upon exact replication. OK, an error rate one 1/1,000,000 replications which is almost exact. Have you ever played Chinese Whispers (in the USA it is usually called Telephone or Gossip)?

    Memes thus appear to be in minds, if they exist anywhere. But what is their role in minds?
    Dawkins suggested that memes are ‘mind viruses’ in the sense that they invade minds to use
    them for their own purposes, regardless of whether they cause behaviour beneficial to the
    meme’s ‘host’. To the extent that a virus is defined as a (proto) life-form which appropriates
    existing machinery for its own purposes, then memes can only be called mind viruses if they
    appropriate machinery developed to replicate other kinds of information (Distin 2004: 76). That
    is, for memes to be mind viruses, there must be mind ‘genes’, the bits of information which the
    brain was designed to replicate. But the brain has not evolved primarily to replicate information;
    in fact, most organisms aren’t social and can’t learn from social interaction. Rather brains
    evolved to guide the production of adaptive, flexible behavioural responses to evolutionarily
    significant problems. (Tooby and Cosmides 1992; Llinas 1999).
    Still, parts of the human brain are devoted to communication, a process in which one person
    attempts to infer what is in the mind of others. Arguably, then, in those species which can learn
    socially, something like words might be ‘mind genes’. So either memes do more work than
    biological viruses to replicate themselves, because the mind was not designed to replicate bits
    of information like them, or memes piggy-back on the linguistic system. Either way, Distin
    (2004) points out that Blackmore (1999) and Dennett (1995) tend to conflate memes-asthoughts
    with memes-as-things-to-think-with. She uses the philosophical notion of a
    propositional attitude to clarify the distinction: memes are just information like propositions, but
    thoughts can reflect on this information, such that we form attitudes toward that information, like
    beliefs or fears or desires. Blackmore and Dennett thus fail to distinguish between memes and
    attitudes towards memes, which leads them to believe that that there is nothing to the mind but
    a collection of memes (e.g., Dennett 1991:210). From this false proposition, Blackmore and
    Dennett draw the incorrect inference that all of culture is composed of memes, since memes
    are just socially communicated ideas. However, if memes are mind parasites, they must be
    thoughts that use independent psychological machinery to get themselves replicated; by
    definition, they cannot be all there is inside one’s head. The epidemiological view of memes is
    thus inconsistent with the claim that the mind is a complex of memes and nothing more. In such
    a case, we can only think with memes, and not ‘rise above’ them, through metarepresentational
    thought which represents our own thoughts to ourselves. There must be
    innate structure in the mind prior to social learning which influences which information will be accepted through social learning; mental filters exist which are not made of memes that keep
    out ‘mind viruses’ (Aunger 2002).
    This perspective limits the role of memes in culture. They cannot be all of culture, much less all
    thoughts (some of which must be internally created rather than socially learned). If memes
    must be parasitic on thinking, then memes are unlikely to be the fundamental explanation of
    cultural evolution. Further, if most forms of communication do not qualify as a replication
    process, then some other kind of process is responsible for most of what we commonly call
    cultural learning. Memetics must be buttressed by another kind of explanation for cultural
    change which accounts for the process which memes parasitize.
    These difficulties have meant that memetics has not yet generated a distinctive body of
    research. Without a more precise definition of meme, it is difficult to develop claims which are
    specific enough to be contestable with alternative theories of social learning. Why can’t the
    voluminous literature on public opinion, based on social surveys, qualify as memetics, for
    example? Just calling whatever we learn from others a ‘meme’ does not distinguish memetics
    from other brands of social psychology; indeed, calling what we learn a ‘cultural trait’ would
    have greater authority and cause less controversy because that term doesn’t make a claim
    about exactly how social information was learned. If we knew that social learning typically
    involved information replication, a case could be made; however, even though a lot of work
    concerning how social learning occurs has been done, it is limited to showing how one
    mechanism of learning (e.g., imitation) differs from another in terms of the speed and accuracy
    with which new things can be learned from modelled behaviour in various contexts (e.g.,
    Whiten and Byrne 1988; Heyes and Galef 1996; Hurley and Chater 2005; Laland and Bateson
    2001). Similarly, the diffusion of innovations literature (e.g., Rogers 1995), or the investigations
    into information transmission through social networks (e.g., Marsden and Friedkin 1993;
    Rosnow et al. 1986; Strang and Soule 1998), or the relatively few field-based studies of cultural
    transmission (e.g., Hewlett and Cavalli-Sforza 1986; Aunger 2000), might be argued to qualify
    as examples of empirical memetics, even though none of them claims to be investigating
    memes per se. Cultural transmission studies have even been conducted using readily available
    databases documenting human communication patterns: electronic chat groups and email lists
    (e.g., Best and Pocklington 1999). While all of these literatures are interesting, they remain
    tangential in that they do not establish that their subject matter is information chunks replicated
    via transmission between people.

    More here:
    http://www.hygienecentral.org.uk/pdf/Aunger%20Dunbar%20vol.pdf

    • @The Pompous Git: thanks for doing that fine bit of expositional legwork. After reading andyWest2012’s most recent response to me, I thought I should learn more about what “memeticicists” say to justify taking a phrase such as “population X was a fertile ground for idea Y to grow” and changing it from being a metaphor to being a reference to a real thing, a thing which exploits its host in a parasitical way, as if it (the meme) were alive and striving to preserve itself. To me, that change in meaning (from metaphorical to literal) is breathtaking.
      From what you quote, it appears that the theoretical foundations are thin, and the genetic analogy appear tenuous. However, I am open to hearing from Mr. West better justification for the “realization”, I just referred to.

  217. @ wrecktafire
    No problemo. It was all quite fortuitous, really. My spectacles fell apart at the nosepiece (again — expensive crap!) and my wife had them replaced. However, that meant I needed to go to the city to have the replacement frames adjusted. So, I went to the State Library and had a look at what was on the shelves memewise. That was when I recalled Aunger’s name from the debate we had in the Philosophy of Biology class several years ago…

  218. @ Lewis P Buckingham
    Your recollection of Shakespeare/Shakespear/Shakspere/Shakspeare [delete whichever is inapplicable] is obviously better than mine 🙂 But I do stand in awe at his creativity…

  219. Also this by Jesse Marczyk:

    The second response to the potential rebuttal concerns the design features of memes more generally, and again returns us to their definitional obscurity. Biological replicators which create more copies of themselves become more numerous, relative to replicators that do a worse job; that much is a tautology. The question of interest is how they manage to do so. There are scores of adaptive problems that need to be successfully solved for biological organisms to reproduce. When we look for evidence of special design, we are looking for evidence of adaptations designed to solve those kinds of problems. To do so requires (a) the identification of an adaptive problem, (b) a trait that solves the problem, and (c) an account of how it does does so. As the basic structure of memes has not been formally laid out, it becomes impossible to pick out evidence of memetic design features that came to be because they solved particular adaptive problems. I’m not even sure whether proper adaptive problems faced by memes specifically, and not adaptive problems faced by their host organism, have even been articulated.
    One final fanciful example that highlights both these points is the human ability to (occasionally) comprehend scrambled words with ease:
    I cdn’uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg: the phaonmneel pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rseearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.
    In the above passage, what is causing some particular meme (the word ‘taht’) to be transformed into a different meme (the word ‘that’)? Is there some design feature of the word “that” which is particularly good at modifying other memes to make copies of itself? Probably not, since no one read “cluod” in the above passage as “that”. Perhaps the meme ‘taht’ is actually composed of 4 different memes, ‘t’, ‘a’, ‘h’, and ‘t’, which have some affinity for each other. Then again, probably not, since I doubt non-English speakers would spontaneously turn the four into the word ‘that’. The larger points here are that (a) our minds are not passive recipients of information, but rather activity represent and create it, and (b) if one cannot speak meaningfully about different features of memes (like design features, or heritable units) beyond, “I know it when I see it”, the enterprise of discussing memes seems to more closely resemble a post hoc fitting of any observed set of data to the theory, rather than the theory driving predictions about unknown data.

    Marczyk’s successful biological replicators becoming more numerous has an interesting consequence if individual letters of the alphabet are indeed biological replicators. The letter “e” is already the most numerous letter of the alphabet in English, the world’s most spoken language. In the future then we can expect to see fewer and fewer letters of the alphabet and considerably more occurrences of “e”s. It won’t just be Yorkshiremen saying: “Eee bah gum” and “Eee up!” I have now recalled far more about memetics than I expected and find my bewilderments reinforced.

  220. The Pompous Git says:
    November 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm
    Well this is quite a swerve from above, and seems from my perspective to be much more positive ground than the first four notes of Beethoven 🙂 . And from your little note to wrecktafire, hurrah for libraries as well (they are closing a whole bunch here ):
    Your quote looked vaguely familiar, and the name Aunger rang a bell with me as well. So scanning the books on the shelf near my terminal, I see ‘Darwinizing Culture’, an overview of the field of memetics (with chapters from different researchers in the field) that is edited by Aunger. I read this some years ago, and think that even if your exact quote is not in there, very similar stuff from Aunger is.
    The book is very well balanced imho, and has both advocacy for a memetic approach, plus the pointing out of significant difficulties and limitations (currently, at least) for the field. In the conclusion Aunger does not come down on one side or another, essentially saying we must wait and see. In just one example of the work’s laudable balance, the Foreword is by Dennet, whom Aunger argues against in your quote. Dennet points out here that even the weaker notions of Darwinian theory in cultural change (the absolute minimum being consistency with the natural selection of Homo Sapiens), are attacked with ‘ferocity’ from the humanities and social sciences and hence are not yet accepted as a basic constraint. He says that fear of ‘the thin end of the wedge’ misleads many who hate the strong notions of Darwinian theory as applied to cultural evolution, which includes among others, memetics. An interesting context. The contribution by Maurice Bloch points out that memeticists have exasperated anthropologists by stating what the latter have known about for decades before the term ‘meme’ was ever coined; while a stab at memeticists for not adequately researching the knowledge of other disciplines, it is otoh an implicit acknowledgement that the field is onto the right thing.
    However, I for one think there are very valid questions raised by your quote, and these are only a tiny snippet of a whole chorus of questions, and of course just as many responses that not only suggest possible answers within the strict boundaries of memetics, but other potential solutions within alternative strong notions of Darwinian cultural change (e.g. ‘transformative transmission’ and ‘neuronal group selection’, I know very little about these and I think some theories include mixtures of these and ‘mainstream’ memetics). Out of this huge literature, which I for one am never going to live long enough to read, I could for instance against your argument of copying fidelity, raise you the below from Henry Plotkin:
    “The fourth error is the assumption that universal Darwinism always requires high copying fidelity in the same way that biological evolution does. However, other biological systems, like the vertebrate immune system and certain forms of learning, are transformed in time by the same process of variation, selection and conservation, and propagation of selected variants. Yet copying fidelity, as with longevity and fecundity, varies across these systems. There is no reason why such variation should not also extend to memetics.”
    To which I might add a quote that I embedded in my essay.
    “DNA’s cellular copying machinery is now so accurate and reliable that we tend to forget it must have evolved from something simpler. Memes have not had this long history behind them. The new replicator is, as Dawkins (1976 p 192) puts it, “still drifting clumsily about in its primeval soup … the soup of human culture”. Nevertheless we see the same general process happening as we may assume once happened with genes. That is, memes and the machinery for copying them are improving together.” [Blackmore]. (Augner also gives Blackmore space in his book mentioned above, for a pro-memetic stance). Part of my earlier reference to biology was to point this angle out. Primitive replicators alone or in co-evolutionary couplings can have poor rates of fidelity, but still evolve, and indeed sidewise transfer of dna segments by modern viruses and prions also escape the normal rules yet are still part of the evolutionary advance.
    I think the point of all this literature is that one cannot simply put up a couple of quotes and say ‘memes are therefore dead’, or indeed ‘memes triumph’. Memetics is a new tool whose worth is not yet fully proven, it has clearly led to insights already, but in its current form is weak both on experimental backup and convergence of definitions, while also overlapping various other cultural evolutionary tools both old and new, many of which have also long included Darwinian evolutionary concepts. The biggest unknown in all these theories seems to be core psychology; we just don’t know what happens deep down in there. A critical part of memetics is the influencing of the psyche, but in terms of exactly *how* this happens it doesn’t seem to have produced any more insight than the other theories. The best one can say (from my reading at any rate) is that they’re all equally in the dark on that front.
    SO, this is why in the Introduction to the essay I mention critique of memetics and punt out to Appendix 2 for that. While the Appendix is short it mentions the “fact that the expectations of a one-to-one comparison with biology appear not to have been fulfilled, and also that memetics is ‘too reductionist’”, which overlaps with the Aunger quote you give. I then guide readers to the critique section of theumwelt.net , which is also short but rather blunter than Aungner’s nuanced treatment. And of course I also finish off the pointer post with this:
    “And merely for convenience, I have written as though the memeplex hypothesis *is* true, i.e. that… …Yet by no means does that mean the hypothesis *is* true, or at least wholly true in the sense that the memetic effects are dominant. Readers must form their own opinions regarding that…”
    Memetics is a tool, and like any tool must be used appropriately. A positive side to memetics that a number of contributors have highlighted is its emphasis on the populational approach and explanatory power at that level. (From your other comments on this thread you probably know more about this than me, but Darwin’s inclusion of populational concepts fell by the wayside for a long time on the biological side, thankfully to be restored in modern times). This is where the concept of a memeplex plays well, and the basis for my essay is that CAGW displays the expected characteristics of a memeplex. I note that more and more folks, whether the public, the media, or climate notables, are comparing CAGW to a religion. For instance even since my own post here at WUWT and also at Climate Etc, Judith Curry has a major post on that very issue, not to mention the shall-we-shan’t-we dance between CAGW and Christianity, which my essay also covers. Yet this insight regarding the similarity to religion is rather limited if we don’t really know what a religion is either, I mean in objective terms, what drives it, what is its taxonomy, why does that taxonomy share aspects with CAGW yet also have differences. The tool of memetics sheds light on this, as it has shed light on other cultural phenomena, even while the mechanisms are *not* yet worked out (and neither really are those of any cultural evolutionary theory). To quote Stephen Shennen from ‘Genes, Memes, and Human History’, there is precedent for using tools is this way:
    “This is what biologists did before they understood genetics. They could still measure the heritability of particular traits from one generation to the next without knowing the mechanisms involved. Indeed, it is well known that Darwin came up with his theory of natural selection while holding a completely erroneous view about how genetic transmission worked.”
    Darwin’s theory is 150 years old or so. Yet fundamental issues are still unresolved. I doubt it would be hard to pull a dozen quotes from the recent era attacking group selection and promoting a selfish gene approach. No doubt I could just as easily pull a dozen quotes that do precisely the opposite. On a decadal timescale, the balance of opinion is moving from the latter to the former (with group selection in the context of multi-level selection), but by no means would anyone be able to claim a definitive ‘answer’. Cultural evolution is younger, and various branches of it like memetics are much younger still. Don’t know how old you are, but I’m not thinking there will be a resolution of questions for / against memetics or on the alternatives / overlaps, in my lifetime. I certainly don’t mean to be rude, but as I hope you will see from my response to it, I think your example of Beethoven and the wife-beating above is somewhat like using a pitchfork to move water. In looking at the *social* phenomenon of CAGW in the light of memetics, I think the tool is much more useful.
    In the end, if you read the essay and believe the CAGW touch-points I’ve mapped DO match the characteristics of a memeplex, yet still can’t accept some form of underlying memes, then you have a problem resolving why the hell this structure fits. If you DON’T believe the touch-points match in the first place, then you are off the hook anyhow and don’t have to accept any such concept of memes 😉
    If you read the whole post you may have noticed Appendix 2 in the summary of all sections. Whether or not that’s the case, I have waited until now to mention this part in which I essentially acknowledged the critiques of memetics (despite I also offset them in the following Appendix), simply because I figure if one is going to argue against something, having the right armory is good. I don’t think your pitch-forking of water, or any implied impact on the scientific method or values that wrecktafire posted, are in any way valid arguments. But your Augner post is. I’ve been involved in real life rather than intellectual musings, so apologies I am out of time. But I’ll add a note on your other post when I get time, plus wrecktafire if you’re reading I’ll respond to you also (don’t worry, both answers much shorter!)

  221. wrecktafire says:
    November 8, 2013 at 6:18 pm
    Hi wrecktafire. Regarding the ‘realization’ you want me to consider, I’m not sure whether the statement you quote is a particular one you came across, or whether you’re speaking generically about texts you have read by memeticicsts, or indeed more generically still about stuff you’ve read in say public forums or populist books or media about memes. However, I think this is largely a language problem, and I don’t think the jump you (very understandably) assume, is in any way actually being made by memeticists, or at least not in anything I have read.
    Anyhow, first a biological aside. While literal biological comparisons need to be taken with caution, memes or meme-groups have similar characteristics to say prions or viruses, and yet as memeplexes they may also be part of a much larger co-evolving conglomeration, in a similar fashion to very primitive cellular colonies. There isn’t a one-to-one equivalence of features, but more similar biological equivalents may well have existed in the soup of primitive replicators and replicator alliances that preceded the dominance of RNA/DNA, which of course has had 3 billion years or so to consolidate itself and optimise into a highly packetised and accurate replicating machine (from precursors which were more fuzzy and less accurate).
    The biological boundaries of ‘life’ are more a matter of arbitrary definition than self-evident fact. Some consider the boundary to be between prions and viruses, because prions replicate (and also cause diseases in mammals plus other hosts), but don’t contain their own nucleic acids (RNA or DNA). Viruses do contain nucleic acids, and this is the basis on which many say they must therefore be alive. However, neither prions nor viruses contain their own replicative machinery: they hi-jack this from the host they infect. Hence some don’t consider viruses to be life either. Wiki: ‘Viruses are considered by some to be a life form, because they carry genetic material, reproduce, and evolve through natural selection. However they lack key characteristics (such as cell structure) that are generally considered necessary to count as life. Because they possess some but not all such qualities, viruses have been described as “organisms at the edge of life”’. Yet ‘cell structure’ is also recognised as an arbitrary biological distinction, and in systems where more of a continuum is supported (e.g. concepts in computers or brains), the equivalent steps from prion to virus to cell are just single points on an upward slope of complexity.
    I do not think anyone would consider that any of the above biological types, and including say bacteria too which no-one disputes is life, can be said to be ‘striving to preserve itself’ in anything like the same way, for instance, as a mammal strives to preserve itself. They are all just ‘blind replicators’, which is a good way to view memes and meme groups too, i.e. somewhere in the grey priony / virusy equivalent area for the environment of cultural entities. All them will have (naturally selected) tricks to increase their replication, but this does not imply ‘striving’ and it does not even imply ‘life’.
    As a biological example, ‘mad cow disease’ or BSE is caused by infectious prions. It would not raise an eyebrow to see a sentence saying BSE is a parasitical form exploiting a host (cows); after all we already admitted BSE was a disease. Yet per the definition above, prions are NOT alive, and it is in this sort of sense that you might see language of that sort also used in describing memes. However it also depends where you saw it, and the *precise* language, because as I mentioned above, there is a language problem here. In describing entities that possess *some* of the properties of life, it is very hard to describe their features and impact while avoiding the ‘language of life’ that may imply more than is intended. Certain phrases can come across as too ‘agential’, i.e. they imply the entity is a causal agent, or worse still, sentient, when this was not intended. And our language is so soaked in implications of this sort, it is extremely cumbersome to avoid them. For instance I already fell into the trap right here because I used the word ‘entity’, which is sometimes used for living systems. Though it just means ‘separate thing’ and so my useage is not wrong, it hints at the living and is open to interpretation. The word ‘exploiting’ in the BSE example is understood NOT to mean ‘exploiting within a single generation by an agent that has some capability to do so’, but ‘exploiting over many generations purely via the means of natural selection’. Yet when folks see mention of ‘a thing which exploits its host’ in connection with memes, they don’t generally preserve that meaning if they are not already familiar with the field, and (understandably) conclude some kind of agent is at work, or even worse a sentient agent. Yet neither an active agent, or indeed ‘life’, is in play.
    Long before the term ‘meme’ was coined, anthropologists and others were aware of cultural entities (damn, that word again!) which display Darwinian evolutionary properties. Various theories arose to support a whole genre, ‘cultural evolution’, of which memetics is hence a subset. To use your X,Y example, not only may religion X grow in fertile ground Y (oops, ‘grow’ is a ‘life’ word 😉 , religions typically have a clear developmental trajectory resulting in evolving modes and taxonomy that can span millions of people over very many generations (thousands of years). These characteristics are such that they encourage deeper penetration of the population at Y and also a spread to adjacent populations. Not only that, but the characteristics tend to have recognisable commonalities between religions of different lands and eras. This is unlikely to be a coincidence, and cannot be purely the agenda of any of the individuals involved, because none of them are long-lived enough, and some of the cultures supporting the different religions will never have met. So, one can speak in terms of ‘an emergent agenda’ if you will that is related to the evolutionary tendencies of religions, where the ‘emergent’ is meant to tell you that it is not agential and most certainly not sentient either. Casting a religion as a memeplex would grant this emergent agenda to the memeplex. But ‘agenda’ is another life word, and easily misinterpreted to conclude that something ‘more alive’ than in the sense of blind replicators is manipulating us. Yet in reality it is just the same kind of language problem as the prion example. These things are very difficult to convey without accidentally anthropomorphising the described entity, because that is what all our language does, and just like for prions or viruses, there may also be *some* properties that *are* common to what we understand as life.
    This is why I mentioned where it was you saw the quotes. Within the relevant fields it is generally understood what is meant, so folks decode. Same is true in biology, even in the term ‘the selfish gene’, Dawkins admits he didn’t mean selfish in the agential sense. Sometimes there is some language caveats in the introduction of a book or paper, or at any parts that are particularly awkward. In my own essay there is stuff like this:
    About the memetic process: “Suffice to say for now that it is not agential, not the result of a conscious process but the result of a continuous selection of competing social narratives, each of which has different fitness within society and forcing functions upon society.”
    When discussing a characteristic of a memeplex: ‘In addition to being a useful reserve the memeplex can call upon in hard times (although that’s an over-anthropomorphic phrase – the memeplex is of course not agential or sentient) the…”
    When talking about memeplex features that aid its survival: “In fact the word ‘selfish’ is itself too agential here, yet it is hard to get the concepts across without some anthropomorphic usage”.
    However, if your quotes were from popular science books, the language can get looser and the caveats lost, so it’s far easier to misinterpret. And further out still, to public forums or mass media where misunderstanding may be rampant, or even (for dramatic effect) it is sometimes in the interests of the communicator to over-emphasise the ‘life’ implications, then one has little chance of divining the right context (which is after all, far less controversial and therefore perhaps duller). This is why I think your breathlessness is highly understandable, but nevertheless I feel also unnecessary, and I think you can likely breathe normally again 🙂

  222. Hi, AndyWest2012,
    Just a quick note to say I appreciate your attempts to clarify terminology, so as to improve my understanding. Your most recent post was very helpful, especially where you point out some disclaimers on terminology, such as where it starts to become anthropomorphic.
    It may help you to know that I have encountered the word “meme” only in the following contexts:
    * blog posts of progressives describing conservative claims as “memes” and therefore not worthy of any serious discussion (i.e., a synonym for “myth”)
    * a magazine article about what may have been the first memetics conference, which seemed to focus heavily on things like the cat that wants a “cheezeburger” and other, mostly inconsequential things that “go viral”.
    I’d like to revisit some of my earlier comments and address your questions about them in the near future.
    Thanks, again.

  223. The Pompous Git says:
    November 8, 2013 at 8:32 pm
    Hi PG. All the first part of Marczyk’s quote is an incorrect assumption. Replicators started by replicating spontaneously (in very simple forms), and continued to simply and ‘blindly’ replicate for eons before, via natural selection, their complexity and design slowly improved such that they eventually became ‘adaptive’. I.e. they had changed so many times, those that were better and faster at change itself, survived better. No special adaptive problems ‘have to be solved’ for replication to occur. The ultimate expression of this advance to adaptiveness is intelligence, but there are still plenty of blind replicators in the world, even if most are now based on the product of the huge improvements from unimaginable numbers of generations stretching over 3 billion years, i.e. sophisticated modern DNA. There is no ‘special design’ required to replicate, and come to that there is arguably no ‘special design’ in modern higher life-forms either, in the sense that it is in fact all ‘natural design’, though I guess that is semantics. Memes are still at the very primitive stage, like the long, long, long ago ancestors of DNA, although they certainly still have some design features.
    I note that on his ‘pop psychology’ site, Marczyk himself invokes the concept of memes when expounding upon psychological topics. Check this:
    “For those of you not in the know, the above meme is known as the ‘Critical Feminist Corgi’. The sentiment expressed by it – if you believe in equal rights, then you’re a feminist – has been routinely expressed by many others. Perhaps the most notable instance of the expression is the ever-quotable ‘feminism is the radical notion that women are people’, but it comes in more than one flavor.”
    This is handy, because I can use his own quote to show an important point which is missed in your quote from him. The point is that the ‘Critical Feminist Corgi’ meme has ‘more than one flavor’. In these flavours, the *words are different*, revealing that it is *not* the precise words that are important. The critical ‘essence’ of this meme is the psychological hot button that it presses, and the main design criteria is that whatever words evolve, via many generations of accident or design, they must still push this hot button. The *psychological effectiveness* is what is being selected for, *not* the words. A higher score with the former is ultimately what will cause more replication by human hosts.
    This point is shown in my essay too. One of the oldest pieces of deciphered writing we have is from 3500BC, found at Kish (ancient Sumerian city). It is a form of the very ancient ‘the past is always better’ meme, one that pushes a mild psychological hot-button in us, yet can still cause some negative consequences. A very modern version of the same meme, with several verses and completely different words that are aligned to modern minds, circulates the Internet (and at last count Google claimed 420,000 sites with this meme over the 15 years or so it’s been on the Internet). It’s also been in newspapers, speeches, circulars etc. Other than delivering it’s message to the psyche to give a mild reward of pleasant brain chemicals that makes people send it on elsewhere (achieving replication), the meme has absolutely no meaning whatsoever (and it is patently obvious anyhow that the past is *not* always better). Yet about 95% of the above sites think it’s amazing and wonderful and wise, and can’t wait to pass it on to their friends, causing replication. There’s a fascinating back-story and evolved meta-data and such in the essay, but the point here is that the words are completely different, in each case aligned to the host culture in a way that will achieve the desired result. The criteria for selection, to which the words align, is that it still pushes *the same hot button*, and maybe pushes it better.
    Regarding the last part of your Marczyk quote, and your own addition, this kind of alphabet soup variation generally has extremely low or zero selective value in its own right, and changes will only tend to get taken up if they *do* happen to align to something more meaningful within the culture they are embedded in. This is back to where you were above and I point out the same biological equivalence; there is no selective value for a vast amount of DNA either, so looking for structure in this constantly but *randomly* changing DNA, is vain. If there’s no selective value, no structure will emerge. Added to which in the short term at least, the necessary constraints to keep language coherent will easily wipe out such low or non-existent selective pressures. So you can sleep easy, English isn’t about to be swamped by ‘e’s. (By the way, I’m from Yorkshire 🙂
    Over a very long period of time however, some apparently trivial mistakes that *do* happen to have selective value (and are often scattered between a series of deliberate changes made by many hands too), can end up as major parts of memetic orthodoxy. When St. Matthew copied a mistranslation of the Greek ‘young woman’ to the Hebrew ‘virgin’, into his Gospel, an act that is thought to be a simple accident (or rather two accidents) this ended up being a pretty highly selective feature, considering he was writing about the mother of Jesus.

  224. wrecktafire says:
    November 12, 2013 at 6:58 am
    Hi wrecktafire. No problemo on further exchange, but I’m on travel soon and getting groundrush already, plus when away may not have much access. Will be hit and miss for a few weeks.

    • “When St. Matthew copied a mistranslation of the Greek ‘young woman’ to the Hebrew ‘virgin’, into his Gospel,”
      Are you certain on this? What was the original language of the gospel we now know as “St Matthew’s Gospel.” Given that the common language of the day in Palestine, and that spoken by the disciples was Aramaic, one would suggest that the original language was Aramaic, not Greek or Hebrew.
      Later writers would have translated this to Greek, after SS Peter and Paul shifted the early Church from a Jewish sect into a church desirous of bringing the good news to non-Jews. As Greek was the lingua franca, this would have been necessary for widespread dissemination of the Gospels.
      For confirmation of this, I refer you to:
      http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/was-matthews-gospel-first-written-in-aramaic-or-hebrew
      Support for your view may be given by a single sentence in the Wikipaedia text: “The Greek-speaking author of Matthew, however, used the Greek translation of Isaiah, in which the word is given as “παρθένος”, parthenos, meaning a virgin.” See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_birth_of_Jesus
      I suggest you look at it this way – The relevant text is Isaiah 7 14, which is translated in the New International Version as:
      “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
      The original Hebrew text used the word ‘almah’ which would normally be translated into English as “young woman”. To specifically denote a female virgin the Hebrew text should have used “betulah”. In the context of Isaiah’s prophecy (especially concerning the Jewish rules relating to young ladies and chastity), however, I think one could argue that “young woman” would have officially been synonymous with “virgin”. There would have been little point in thinking that there was anything special about a young woman, not a virgin, conceiving and bearing a son and calling him “Immanuel”. In the context of Chapter 7, Isaiah was prophesying a disaster which would hit Israel, not from the coalition of Ephraim and Syria, but from Assyria, which we know happened.
      I would therefore argue that the Greeks were correct in translating “almah” into “parthenos” = “virgin” in the Septuagint. And hence when the translator of St Matthew’s Gospel turned the story he had received from Aramaic into Greek, he was correct in using “virgin”.
      The question really is whether or not Matthew was correct in relating the birth of Jesus to the ancient prophecy of Isaiah to the birth of Immanuel. “All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).” Quotation from NIV, spelling corrected.

  225. Dudley Horscroft says:
    November 12, 2013 at 6:46 pm
    “Are you certain on this?”
    Of course not. I doubt anyone could be certain of such matters when using sparse and sometimes contradictory documentation to peer back a couple of millennia. So that’s why I say above: “an act that *is thought* to be a simple accident.”
    I rely completely on others for religious data. In ‘Mutation, Selection, And Vertical Transmission Of Theistic Memes In Religious Canons’ by John D. Gottsch, Table 5, section ‘Virgin Birth’, row 2 column 5, it says: ‘Matthew did not realize that he had copied from a Greek translation that had improperly used “virgin” for “young woman” .’ In the accompanying text somewhere it actually moderates this to acknowledge that he might have ignored the original mistranslation, although from a memetic point of view, either way it produces a mutation with high selective value. The table derives from Spong (1996). See the Gottsch document here: http://cfpm.org/jom-emit/2001/vol5/gottsch_jd.html

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