Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sometimes, It Is Necessary to Mock

This is a passage from "Memes as Pseudoscience" from Michael Shermer's The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. The author tackles a chapter from Aaron Lynch's Thought Contagion.

Lynch (1996) contains the chapter "A Missing Link: Memetics and the Social Sciences" on how a memetic approach might fit in with the established social sciences. However, Lynch's review of the social sciences is far from complete and even somewhat disturbing. Lynch offers a few pages of superficial analysis about, for example, economics and memetics, or sociobiology and memetics, and so on. These fields and nearly all that Lynch discusses are interesting areas of inquiry, with well-developed methodologies and well accepted findings. The exception is psychohistory. Some readers may be unfamiliar with psychohistory, and with good reason. Psychohistory is not a social science. Psychohistory is an idea from Isaac Asimov's (1974) highly acclaimed Foundation science fiction series. The basic premise is that in the far distant future humans will know enough about social change and history to predict, on a rather coarse scale, future events, similar to the way we can currently predict the weather. While Asimov's books and the idea of psychohistory are interesting and appealing, such an idea certainly does not belong on an equal footing with economics or sociobiology. More disturbingly, Lynch writes that psychohistory and memetics have "surprising similarities" (38) in their concerns and scope, though Lynch sees psychohistory as a more wide-ranging theory. I will leave it to readers to consider further the implications of this failure to distinguish fact from fantasy.

So, apparently it is now scientifically "acceptable" to use a fictional science drawn from a science fiction novel to validate your theories. Interesting. I think I have a few theories of my own that may fit quite well into this new form of "science." I'll list a few. What do you think?

*Linguistics: Klingon, Hebrew, and Arabic: A Comparative Linguistic Study of Guttural Sounds and Their Relationship to Hostility

*Physics: The Bajoran Prophets: What Do the Wormhole Aliens Reveal About the Nature of Space-Time?

*Politics: Agent Fox Mulder and the X-Files: What a Top-Secret FBI Project Reveals About Government Secrecy

*Politics: Is Iran a Proxy for the Cardassian Empire?

*Architecture: Darth Vader vs. the Borg Queen: Is the Sphere the New Cube? Or Is the Cube still King?

*Theology: Richard Dawkins and L. Ron Hubbard: Is Memetics the New Scientology?


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