Thursday, 22 August 2013

VEHBİ METİN DEMİR's memetics critique

A large criticism of memetics was published in 2012:

Can Culture be Considered In Continuity with Nature: Susan Blackmore's Memetic Appraoch and Its Critiques - by VEHBİ METİN DEMİR.

The author focuses on Susan Blackmore's 1999 version of memetics. That's not too disimilar from my own position - though I don't put so much stress on imitation - and generally benefit from the fourteen years of subsequent work in the area.

I've read Susan Blackmore's 1999 book and VEHBİ DEMİR's 2012 thesis criticizing it. I think it's a walkover for Blackmore. Her book is brilliant. By comparison, this thesis comes across as sour grapes.

Apparently, by claiming that ideas really exist, "memetics is Darwinizing Plato". Yawn. Claiming that memetics is Platonic, postivistic and reductionistic leaves me cold.

IMO, the thesis offers no credible technical criticisms of memetics. The author lacks a proper understanding of cultural evolution, and writes from a position of ignorance and misunderstanding of the topic. The work of other scientists in the field is conveniently not addressed - presumably since the target is Susan Blackmore. However, this approach seems silly to me - this just isn't a one woman field, and the work of other scientists is pretty relevant. Scientists are cited when they disagree with Blackmore, but the scientists who support her various positions are not referenced in her defense.

The author has apparently read Darwinizing culture, and cites from it liberally. Indeed, the thesis largely consists of citations of the positions of other memeophobes - Lewontin, Gould, Sperber and Kronfeldner. However, at least this critique is more readable than Maria Kronfeldner's massive 2010 effort.

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