Are memes pseudoscience?

Cpt_pineapple
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Are memes pseudoscience?

So I've been doing some research into the conecept of memes, first proposed by Dawkins in the 70's and found that it doesn't seem to be well received in the academic community.



So are there any empirical studies that prove them? What is the falsifiablity of memes concept?

 

 


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Interesting

 

Mmmmm. I think memetics should be testable in terms of the propagation of shared cultural imitations/ideas/appreciations through a community/nation. Question is how to quantify them. Given a meme can be a cultural practise then maybe empiricism comes in where ideas roll across into actions. The downloading of a song? The popularity of a genre in terms of iTunes sales? Say Grunge or Punk? If the meme is an idea with no specific action required then data mining social media, the prevalence of words or phrases or repeated concepts could work.

Tough thing is working out measurements of memes. Given memes cover shared behaviours then this relates to sales. Consider teenagers craving and then buying their first car as a rite of passage. This is a recent meme - cars have only been available for one hundred years. No doubt there was a buggy/sleigh meme before this - think Laura Ingalls Wilder. Does that whole urge for freedom of movement in young people qualify as a meme? There was the craving for gymboots meme that spread globally - remember Nike Pumps? Now everyone pays 50 for dunlop volleys because basic is cool. There must be data on these cultural consumer traditions.

So, I think if memes impact on consumer behaviour they should be readily falsifiable. The hard thing is going to be coming up with defined measurements of purely mental memes. You might test for their presence or lack using smart searches of social media or Internet traffic. Lots online is raw consiousness stream. It would be possible to assess the penetration of ideas across a representative group of net users.

 

 

 

 

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Cpt_pineapple wrote:So I've

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

So I've been doing some research into the conecept of memes, first proposed by Dawkins in the 70's and found that it doesn't seem to be well received in the academic community.

 

So are there any empirical studies that prove them? What is the falsifiablity of memes concept?

 

 

Psychology isn't  always about putting stuff into a beaker. There is always a literal physical action and reaction when thoughts are expressed and received. You take in sound waves and your brain processes them. Or you read something and your brain processes them.

I would consider "memes" a part of psychology. Think about how easy it is to convince a kid of something absurd. Selling that absurdity to the kid takes REAL actions that the kid processes in their brain. How many kids believe in Santa? That idea has to be expressed with real motion and real action and is received by a real brain with real neurons.

I think Dawkins is merely extending human psychology to a micro level and then expanding it to a social level.

Bob can tell you how I reacted when I first heard the word "meme". It simply is a word that describes how human thoughts spread, it is not an actual thing, like a virus. It is more like a description of why our brain functions end up accepting and spreading certain things over other things.

It came across as wooish to me too. And I think if he wanted to drop the word and simply talk about biology and neurology and psychology, he could. I simply think he is using a word to describe the processes of HOW thoughts spread and become popular.

Its just like running is not a thing, it is what people do. "Meme" is nothing but a fancy word for "thought". Thoughts are not physical things. They are manifestations of physical processes. Just like speed is a result of running instead of walking.

 

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I think meme theory is very

I think meme theory is very real considering that big business places products on certain shelves to maximize sales. I don't think those Super Market chains put the sugar filled cereal on the bottom shelf for nothing. Casinos in Vagas study how colors affect the human brain and use specific colors for their signs and games.

If you want to argue the word "meme" being nothing more than a new semantic game, that would be a better argument. Just like at one time "That girl is fly" replaced "that girl  is pretty". That wouldn't change the girl existing or your perception of her being pretty.

 

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Cpt_pineapple wrote:So I've

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

So I've been doing some research into the conecept of memes, first proposed by Dawkins in the 70's and found that it doesn't seem to be well received in the academic community.

So are there any empirical studies that prove them? What is the falsifiablity of memes concept?

Dawkins proposed them more as a way to illustrate the way information can change when copied, and sometimes in beneficial ways. I always took it more as a useful analogy than a proposition for actual entities called "memes." That said, Susan Blackmore's The Meme Machine is an interesting read. The concept of concepts as individual and identifiable entities is intriguing.

I think the meme model is useful (perhaps only as popular shorthand), even if it's not entirely accurate.

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nigelTheBold

nigelTheBold wrote:

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

So I've been doing some research into the conecept of memes, first proposed by Dawkins in the 70's and found that it doesn't seem to be well received in the academic community.

So are there any empirical studies that prove them? What is the falsifiablity of memes concept?

Dawkins proposed them more as a way to illustrate the way information can change when copied, and sometimes in beneficial ways. I always took it more as a useful analogy than a proposition for actual entities called "memes." That said, Susan Blackmore's The Meme Machine is an interesting read. The concept of concepts as individual and identifiable entities is intriguing.

I think the meme model is useful (perhaps only as popular shorthand), even if it's not entirely accurate.

That is close to how I see the Meme meme...

It is an analogy, an alternative way of looking at cultural evolution, a useful model.

The main point I see in the idea was a way to show how the forces driving cultural evolution, the evolution of ideas, are significantly separate from genetic evolution. The biggest issue the idea of memes addressed is to show how ideas that may be bad for survival of the individuals may nevertheless spread and thrive, as long as they have aspects that encourage individuals to adopt them and pass them on.

Dawkins saw the analogy with genetics and natural selection, and how it could usefully provide a model for the propagation and evolution of certain persistent sets of ideas.

If it serves to help us think about these things, by showing analogies with genetic evolution, it has proved its usefulness.

"Falsification' would follow if it did not prove useful in helping us think about these things.

I think it has been well established that we are more likely to adopt ideas if they are presented to us in certain ways, if they contain certain key elements, so that is what we would expect from meme 'theory'. So in many ways, memetics is an encapsulation of well-established concepts and theories in cognitive science and psychology, which themselves are 'falsifiable'.

All scientific theories are ultimately models of reality. If one works better than another, in making useful and accurate predictions, that is really all that is required.

Popper's falsification ideas have been taken way to broadly and simplistically. The heart of what I think he was driving at is that if a theory can 'explain' everything, can accommodate literally any observations, then it is not worth considering as a scientific theory.

Like 'God' - if something consistent with a person's concept of God happens, its 'proof'. If it seems inconsistent, they always have a let-out: "We cannot know his reasons", "It is to teach us" something, etc.

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Personally, I think memes

Personally, I think memes are proto-scientific, meaning that I expect them to one day be supported by scientific evidence and a solid theory. But at this point, however, they remain speculative. I would not classify them as pseudo-science, because the proposed mechanism would not involve anything magical, and they are not an attempt to sell bullshit as science.

I consider memetics as in a similar state as evolution before Darwin/Wallace collected sufficient evidence to support it. It's a good idea, it might be true, it might not be, it seems to explain things that other theories don't fully explain, and it could potentially be developed into a falsifiable theory compatible with the rest of science.

In my view, memetics could make testable predictions, and therefore could be falsifiable, but we don't yet have a concrete-enough hypothesis to do so. I have ideas on this, but I'm not ready to promote them.

All the 'academic' arguments I've heard against memetics either tear down a straw man version, or completely miss the point of memetics altogether.

All that said, there *are* people who abuse the term and who promote the idea in a pseudo-scientific way. Shame on them, but it doesn't make the concept of memes per se pseudo-scientific, any more than the pseudo-scientific abuse of quantum jargon in quantum mysticism makes quantum theory per se a pseudo-science.

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Cpt_pineapple wrote:So I've

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

So I've been doing some research into the conecept of memes, first proposed by Dawkins in the 70's and found that it doesn't seem to be well received in the academic community.

 

So are there any empirical studies that prove them? What is the falsifiablity of memes concept?

 

 

 

I'd call it a proto-science in it's early formation. Although what constitutes a "meme" is hard to quantify at this point. Usually when I think of a pseudoscience, I think of studies that are built to eternally avoid falsifiability, while memetics is not in principle forever immune to it anymore many than "theories" about human consciousness are. It's simply a subject that lies beyond the reach of science at this time, but there is no reason to assume it always will.

 

Just my opinion, of course.

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I'm not sure how useful the

I'm not sure how useful the concept of a meme is to the relevant fields...my purely uneducated guess is that sociologists and psychologists probably already have fancy three dollar words that mean the same thing.

 

I could be wrong, but the whole idea seems so obvious...I mean, what does it bring to the table to an academic?  The main function that I can see is more about getting the public to look at ideas in a different way rather than to have some kind of scientific theory attached to it.

 

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It seems useful to me as a

It seems useful to me as a model with which to view selection and mutation in general.