X-Message-Number: 4467
From:  (David Stodolsky)
Subject: Memes and the evolution of concepts
Date: Wed, 31 May 95 13:32:34 +0200 (CET DST)

I have just finished a majority of:
Hull, D. A. (1988).
_Science as a process_. 
(An evolutionary account of the social and conceptual development of science)
Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
ISBN: 0-226-36051-2.

This is a 500 page book which must be read from beginning to end to
get much out of it. It is not so much technical as "tight" - no speed

Of interest, is that Dawkins's work is corrected and extended, the author
uses the concepts of "replicators" and "interactors" himself. He states:
"In fact, those who argue that not even organisms can function as
units of selection begin by casting doubt on their status as individuals,
superficial appearances to one side (Dawkins 1976, 1978)" p411.
He comments on several weakness in the Dawkins work, but rejects the
objections that have been made to treating the evolution of concepts
similarly to biological evolution.

This is a philosophically oriented text, and as such is better at raising
questions than giving answers, however, the one point that seems solidly
supported is that individual scientists have very little impact on
the development of scientific concepts. Research teams seem to be
the engines of change in science. 

Both of the above should give pause to more extreme individualists.
Dawkins appears to undermine the existence of "individuals", Hull's
analysis suggests they just don't make much difference.

In terms of contributing to the marketing or acceptance of cryonics,
there is not much positive that can be said, except that the use of
evolutionary theory is not ruled out. How to use it, however, will
apparently require another 500 page book. Maybe somebody can check
the Science Citation Index to see if anyone has risen to the challenge.

One point relevant to this forum:
"Conceptual systems while they are evolving are internally heterogeneous,
as they must be if they evolve at least in part as the result of a
selection process (p. 511)." I take this to mean that any attempt to 
enforce a uniform view in the discussions here would be counter to
the goal of improving the "fitness" of the cryonics idea, whatever that
idea evolves into.


David S. Stodolsky,     Euromath Center,    University of Copenhagen
Universitetsparken 5, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark. 
 Tel.: +45 38 33 03 30. Fax: +45 38 33 88 80. (C)

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