Bonus material on The Evolution of Antievolution Policies After Kitzmiller v. Dover

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PhyloWiki_Matzke_2015.pngOn PhyloWiki, I have just posted a page of bonus material on the Science paper “The Evolution of Antievolution Policies After Kitzmiller v. Dover.”

Highlights include:

  • pre-print text (for those without university access to Science or ScienceExpress)
  • supplemental material & data (also archived at Science, but may not be generally available until the article moves from ScienceExpress to Science
  • A version of the phylogeny that is CC BY-SA 4.0 licensed (for those of you who want to make t-shirts; or conceivably, other uses)
  • A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section that aims to be introductory
  • Bonus graphics: PDFs of character maps for all characters and traits
  • List of media links
  • List of blog links

Note that I am an advocate for open data, so the data and figures are CC BY-SA 4.0 wherever possible (described in the page).

PS: A particularly interesting media article by Jennings Brown at Vocativ has just come out, quoting John West and I. They must have a good graphical artist, I like how they did the phylogeny graphic. The article has a few typos, I mentioned the important one on Twitter:

References

Brown, Jennings (2015). Science Hero Made An Evolutionary Diagram Of Anti-Evolution Laws. Vocativ. December 19, 2015. http://www.vocativ.com/news/262022/[…]lution-laws/ https://twitter.com/NickJMatzke/sta[…]329304629248

Matzke, Nicholas J. (2015). “The evolution of antievolution policies after Kitzmiller v. Dover.” Science, 351(6268), 10-12. Published online via //ScienceExpress// Dec. 17, 2015. doi: 10.1126/science.aad4057 Journal: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/e[…]057.abstract

Matzke, Nicholas J. (2015). Bonus material on Matzke 2015 Science Paper On The Evolution Of Antievolution. December 19, 2015. http://phylo.wikidot.com/matzke-201[…]ntievolution

68 Comments

Thanks, Nick; this is terrific stuff.

I hope the illumination sends the ID/cockroaches scurring. (pardon my insult to cockroaches)

Nick Matzke said:

getwittered: https://twitter.com/NickJMatzke/sta[…]354310991872

OK, time for a break!

Creationists, defined as highly intelligent men who accepted the design of nature, in the 18th century, produced the enlightened Document. Never did they intend for their worldview to be ruled unconstitutional in the 20th century. It was persons who reject design and believe in evolution that corrupted the Constitution to reflect their bias. Before the 20th century Creationism was taught in publically funded arenas. One day we will reverse the corruption in the stroke of one ruling.

I love the way Ray puts “highly intelligent” right into his definition.

Ray Martinez said:

Nick Matzke said:

getwittered: https://twitter.com/NickJMatzke/sta[…]354310991872

OK, time for a break!

Creationists, defined as highly intelligent men who accepted the design of nature, in the 18th century, produced the enlightened Document. Never did they intend for their worldview to be ruled unconstitutional in the 20th century. It was persons who reject design and believe in evolution that corrupted the Constitution to reflect their bias. Before the 20th century Creationism was taught in publically funded arenas. One day we will reverse the corruption in the stroke of one ruling.

Tell us, Ray: what is the scientific definition of design? How does one detect it? How, when you hallucinate its presence in nature, can you be sure it is the work of a god?

phhht said:

Ray Martinez said:

Nick Matzke said:

getwittered: https://twitter.com/NickJMatzke/sta[…]354310991872

OK, time for a break!

Creationists, defined as highly intelligent men who accepted the design of nature, in the 18th century, produced the enlightened Document. Never did they intend for their worldview to be ruled unconstitutional in the 20th century. It was persons who reject design and believe in evolution that corrupted the Constitution to reflect their bias. Before the 20th century Creationism was taught in publically funded arenas. One day we will reverse the corruption in the stroke of one ruling.

Tell us, Ray: what is the scientific definition of design? How does one detect it? How, when you hallucinate its presence in nature, can you be sure it is the work of a god?

Well, Ray?

You’re nothing but a mentally impaired blusterer.

You can’t give a definition of design. You can’t say how to detect it. Even if it is real, you cannot defend your crazy inference that gods did it.

You’re a tiresome halfwit, Ray. Go away.

Nick, one question that has not been addressed: would it have been possible to ask the authors of these bills what was copied from what? Or would they all have been covering their tracks?

Also, another reason why the DI might be irritated by this paper is that it shows phylogenetic machinery actually correctly inferring the history of something. If it has gotten that wrong, presumably they’d be trumpeting it all over the place.

Joe Felsenstein said:

Nick, one question that has not been addressed: would it have been possible to ask the authors of these bills what was copied from what? Or would they all have been covering their tracks?

Also, another reason why the DI might be irritated by this paper is that it shows phylogenetic machinery actually correctly inferring the history of something. If it has gotten that wrong, presumably they’d be trumpeting it all over the place.

But how would they demonstrate that Nick’s program got a particular link wrong without revealing the actual stealth tactics that were involved in the propagation of this legislation from state to state?

As I understand the program, there are some Bayesian inferences being made, so no link is claimed to be 100% certain; it is simply the most likely tree that fits the data, and it simply confirms what is already known about the DI’s meddling in the political process of introducing such legislation.

In other words, what evidence would the DI and the legislators dare to make public about how this stealth legislation is propagated in order to “refute” what we already know?

It looks like the DI has painted itself into a corner; and we can demonstrate that their pseudoscience is just plain wrong. It’s all in the public record now.

John Harshman said:

I love the way Ray puts “highly intelligent” right into his definition.

Got a better description of the Founding Fathers?

Ray Martinez said:

John Harshman said:

I love the way Ray puts “highly intelligent” right into his definition.

Got a better description of the Founding Fathers?

phhht is being too generous. You’re a nitwit.

What science does is deliberate equations that tot up to the creation, which in the end, if the sums do add up proves that the creation can be formulated. The creation first, then the equation that put it their second. What a discovery, the creation can alter a sum or two and can manipulate an out come. The creation changes as the environment changes, natural history has taught us that. Once science has found the equation that makes things work right then a prevention can be put in place to stop things going wrong.

We were comparing creationist/ID bills and their provenance from Discovery Institute prefabs years ago.

Nothing on the grand scale of Nick’s masterful opus, which mentions four legislative assaults in New Mexico (SB371 and HB506, 2007; SB433, 2009; and HB302, 2011); the following links offer a peek at some of the goings-on at the species level in New Mexico, as posted by NMSR.

Evolution of Creationist Legislation in the New Mexico Legislature

Intelligent Design Creationist Proposed Bills and Joint Memorials in the 2007 New Mexico Legislature (PDF by Kim Johnson)

Creationist Legislation, New Mexico Legislature, 2011 60-day Session

Creationist Legislation, New Mexico Legislature, 2009 60-day Session

Great work Nick!!

Marilyn said:

What science does is deliberate equations that tot up to the creation, which in the end, if the sums do add up proves that the creation can be formulated. The creation first, then the equation that put it their second. What a discovery, the creation can alter a sum or two and can manipulate an out come. The creation changes as the environment changes, natural history has taught us that. Once science has found the equation that makes things work right then a prevention can be put in place to stop things going wrong.

But there was - and is - no creation. There are no creation gods. That’s nothing but pseudoscientific superstition.

Marilyn said:

What science does is deliberate equations that tot up to the creation, which in the end, if the sums do add up proves that the creation can be formulated.

Um. No.

I can add up all the marbles in a jar, it doesn’t imply there’s any special significance to that number.

Joe Felsenstein said:

Nick, one question that has not been addressed: would it have been possible to ask the authors of these bills what was copied from what? Or would they all have been covering their tracks?

Also, another reason why the DI might be irritated by this paper is that it shows phylogenetic machinery actually correctly inferring the history of something. If it has gotten that wrong, presumably they’d be trumpeting it all over the place.

Hi Joe! It would be possible to ask, but I think the odds would be low of getting a reply even for 2015 bills, given how these legislators feel about evolution. For bills from 5 or 10 years ago the sponsors themselves might not even remember. My gut feeling is that not a lot of mental effort is expended on most of these bills – each legislator might introduce dozens or hundreds of bills near the beginning of a legislative session. So, probably, the legislator, or their intern, or some supporter or donor, produces a new bill text by copying from a previous year’s bill, or whatever they’ve heard about in the news (probably why bills that have huge fights and then get passed are popular), or perhaps from texts that are circulating on conservative listservs or backchannels or whatever they must have. Sometimes a few changes for style or emphasis or consistency with whatever local rules there are, it gets passed around for con-sponsors, and gets submitted and goes up on a state legislature website. Probably, no record is kept of the exact source bill – but I guess you never know, perhaps some legislatures have archiving requirements etc. for state business.

Anyway, one thing that you can see is geographic signal in the tree, which is interesting because geography was not included as a character in the data matrix. So, you have several cases where you can tell that successive bills in the same state over the years are all part of a lineage – the most obvious one is Montana, where it’s clear one guy has been modifying and submitting the bill each legislative session. So that’s a bit of independent confirmation that the phylogenetic method is working, at least approximately.

Ray Martinez said:

John Harshman said:

I love the way Ray puts “highly intelligent” right into his definition.

Got a better description of the Founding Fathers?

That wasn’t a description of the founding fathers; it was a definition of “creationist”. Then later you try to attach that label to the founding fathers. I know you have trouble expressing yourself, but you should at least try to understand what the sentences you type do mean.

Ah yes, you can see Dave Thomas’s post above on the copying in New Mexico!

If you look at the tree, you can see the 2007, 2009, and 2011 NM bills are all on the same lineage (it’s kind of the last lineage branching off before the AFA+Ouchita merger produces the SEA tradition, which then takes over). But, various other states are on that lineage also – the position of New Mexico on that subtree, though, suggests that NM is the “ancestral state” – so to speak. :-)

Given that we know New Mexico has had some particularly activist anti-science, pro-ID/pro-critical analysis groups, it would make sense if their bills got picked up in other states either because (a) the New Mexico stuff was in the news or (b) the New Mexico people promoted their bill texts in conservative/fundamentalist media, discussion forums, backchannels, whatever.

It’s possible Dave Thomas et al. might have accidentally heard more about that specific question (NM being the ancestral state for late-model AFAs).

(PS: Slide 15 of the trait map PDF is a parsimony ancestral state reconstruction of…the ancestral state. The color scheme isn’t great but it’s there.

But how would they demonstrate that Nick’s program got a particular link wrong without revealing the actual stealth tactics that were involved in the propagation of this legislation from state to state?

That would be a dilemma for them! I would note that it’s perfectly possible that there could be unpublished bill texts and model bills that could be relevant, this analysis uses a “birth-death process with serial sampling” prior that assumes that the sampling events are equally probable per unit time on any lineage. So if, I don’t know, there was a huge collection of secret source bills that the DI had been promoting, perhaps that could screw up the analysis (although, phylogenetic signal is phylogenetic signal, even if these bills were the “phenotype” and some secrete evolving collection of source bills was the “DNA”, you’d get similar clades and sister-group relationships.

But I welcome correction, it’s inevitable that this phylogeny, since it’s just an estimate, is imperfect. But then again, only the creationists think science is about perfect knowledge, real scientists know it’s about improving estimation.

*con-sponsor -> co-sponsor *Montana -> I was thinking of Missouri, although Montana has a bit of the copying-within-state happening also

I wonder if there are any examples of any egregious errors in one bill that were inadvertently copied into others. You know, kind of like ERV evolution. It was a mistake originally, but it wasn’t noticed and so it was passed on to future incarnations intact. You know, something like a spelling error or a grammatical error. Something that was unlikely to have arisen independently in two different lineages. Now that would be a good object lesson for witless creationists.

Ray claims: “Creationists, defined as highly intelligent men”

I see at least two problems with this nonsensical definition. Firstly “creationist” is actually defined as someone who *believes* in creationism, despite the evidence. And creationism is defined as “any belief that asserts that some god(s) created the universe and/or its contents via magic, rather than that the universe arose through purely natural processes.”[1] And similarly, “Creationism is the religious belief that the Universe and life originated “from specific acts of divine creation.”[2] Such nonsensical redefinitions of words is common among obscurantists. “if something is white and the Church says it is black, Ignatius says we should all believe it is black.”[3]

Secondly, how would Ray even know what “highly intelligent men” (no women?) are? There is no recognizable intelligence in his idiosyncratic rambling postings.

NOTES: 1. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Creationism 2. http://www.conservapedia.com/Creationism 3. http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Loyola.html

Ray Martinez said:

Nick Matzke said:

getwittered: https://twitter.com/NickJMatzke/sta[…]354310991872

OK, time for a break!

[Sniping the first portion of nonsense] Before the 20th century Creationism was taught in publically funded arenas. One day we will reverse the corruption in the stroke of one ruling.

I don’t know who you think “we” are, but you can be assured that there will not be any reversal - ever. I realize that recognizing certain aspects of reality is not a strong suit for you, but you are not going to see what you want happen - deal with it as best you can.

Keelyn said:

Ray Martinez said:

Nick Matzke said:

getwittered: https://twitter.com/NickJMatzke/sta[…]354310991872

OK, time for a break!

[Sniping the first portion of nonsense] Before the 20th century Creationism was taught in publically funded arenas. One day we will reverse the corruption in the stroke of one ruling.

I don’t know who you think “we” are, but you can be assured that there will not be any reversal - ever. I realize that recognizing certain aspects of reality is not a strong suit for you, but you are not going to see what you want happen - deal with it as best you can.

Poor Reynaldo has nothing but his wishful thinking.

Hey Ray, we’re still waiting for how you know your favorite rock is NOT designed. Since you seem to treat it as really obvious, then it should be simple to give us a method that WE could apply to any given object to tell if it is designed – perhaps designed to appear ‘natural’ – or undesigned.

Just Bob said:

Hey Ray, we’re still waiting for how you know your favorite rock is NOT designed. Since you seem to treat it as really obvious, then it should be simple to give us a method that WE could apply to any given object to tell if it is designed – perhaps designed to appear ‘natural’ – or undesigned.

It’s futile to ask that of Reynaldo. He can no more say how to tell the designed from the non-designed than he can tell you how he knows his gods are real. He just does. It’s not a question he can answer.

These are not rational issues for Reynaldo. He’s a religious loony, and he can’t be rational about his irrational convictions. All he can do is to bluster and cite Paley.

phhht said:

Just Bob said:

Hey Ray, we’re still waiting for how you know your favorite rock is NOT designed. Since you seem to treat it as really obvious, then it should be simple to give us a method that WE could apply to any given object to tell if it is designed – perhaps designed to appear ‘natural’ – or undesigned.

It’s futile to ask that of Reynaldo. He can no more say how to tell the designed from the non-designed than he can tell you how he knows his gods are real. He just does. It’s not a question he can answer.

These are not rational issues for Reynaldo. He’s a religious loony, and he can’t be rational about his irrational convictions. All he can do is to bluster and cite Paley.

Just in case that he will retort by asking for something which is not evolved: A stone is not evolved.

Anything which is not biological is not the subject of biological evolution.

phhht said:

Keelyn said:

Ray Martinez said:

Nick Matzke said:

getwittered: https://twitter.com/NickJMatzke/sta[…]354310991872

OK, time for a break!

[Sniping the first portion of nonsense] Before the 20th century Creationism was taught in publically funded arenas. One day we will reverse the corruption in the stroke of one ruling.

I don’t know who you think “we” are, but you can be assured that there will not be any reversal - ever. I realize that recognizing certain aspects of reality is not a strong suit for you, but you are not going to see what you want happen - deal with it as best you can.

Poor Reynaldo has nothing but his wishful thinking.

Well, he is in for a big disappointment.

stevaroni said:

Marilyn said:

What science does is deliberate equations that tot up to the creation, which in the end, if the sums do add up proves that the creation can be formulated.

Um. No.

I can add up all the marbles in a jar, it doesn’t imply there’s any special significance to that number.

There is because if ten will fit in the jar but there are only nine that means there is one missing, if there are ten and another fits in that means the ten are smaller than they should be, so there are things to deliberate from a jar of marbles. If the environment has to be at a certain level for life and that is for some reason unbalanced something could change.

Or you could say it was very good of the ten to fit another one in, it could make things better.

MiddleStMan said:

Thanks for that context explanation, Nick. I’m pleased to see you are “not a reductionist,” like many atheists are. This is important for how one represents themselves as a human being. I’ve distantly followed your works over the past 10 years and didn’t suspect otherwise.

It would appear that you have a few “hang-ups” of your own about people who don’t hold to your sectarian “world view.”

Reductionism, particularly its association with the pejorative appelation “atheist,” is a shibboleth of fundamentalist sectarian bigotry.

“Reductionism” is not used in science the way you think it is. Anybody who knows anything about how phenomena and properties emerge from increasing levels of complexity in nature understands what “reduction to more basic phenomena” means. It doesn’t mean that these more complex phenomena are “nothing but simpler phenomena;” it means that those simpler phenomena form a template for emerging phenomena as complexity increases.

Simply because fundamental properties of the elementary building blocks of complex systems provide a template for those systems, doesn’t mean one is justified is asserting that a complex system is “nothing but” or or is somehow debased because of those underlying fundamental properties.

Interactions of the constituents of complex system among themselves and with the surrounding environment produce far more than can be predicted from lower level properties; and, given our inability to catalogue all possibilities ahead of time, we are not always able to predict what will emerge at higher levels of complexity.

But as computing power increases, we are able to see the emergence of unexpected phenomena and properties in computer-modeled systems. And those emerging phenomena and properties appear with nothing else added to the model beyond those fundamental interactions at the lowest levels. That is what “reduced to” means in the world of science.

MiddleStMan said:

If I’m wrong, Nick, then answer us please: if you studied ‘anti-evolution’ bills 24-7 for the next 10 years what contribution would this actually make to biological knowledge? My contention is: nothing. What’s yours? For the record, let’s be straight: yes or no, are you a proponent of ‘memetics’ and ‘memes’, Nick? A simple yes or no answer is preferred. I’m against this silly Dawkins delusion.

So you as a “sociologist” don’t think there is anything to be learned from something like 50 years of studying the language of ID/creationists?

Perhaps some of the post-modernism of “sociology” these days is blind to what is really going on in the conceptual understanding of ID/creationists and how that is manifested in the language that shows up in their writing and in the legislation they push by way of their socio/political base.

Whatever “sociology” you think you know, it is clear that you don’t know what ID/creationists are thinking; and why scientists are able to see that clearly while you “sociologists” can not.

Scientific concepts have operational consequences; they actually refer to phenomena in the real world and are objectively correlated with those phenomena.

ID/creationst concepts have no such correlates in the real world. Of all the psudoscienses out there, ID/creationism gets concepts wrong in ways that are unique to ID/creationism; and there are clear, sectarian reasons for why they get things wrong the way they do.

ID/creationism has a set of “memes,” as Dawkins refers to them, that uniquely identifies the socio/political subculture responsible for those bills that Nick has been studying for decades now. Anyone familiar with the real science and with the misconceptions and misrepresentations of ID/creationists can spot ID/creationist meddling instantly.

One of the most serious problems with your brand of “sociology” these days its that you have convinced yourselves that you have a superior “metaphysics” that doesn’t require any understanding of science in order to study science within its cultural melieu. The result of this conceit is that you impose what you imagine scientists must be thinking without understanding the connection between what scientists think and how that thinking gets manifested in what scientists actually do.

Scientists are intimately familiar with operationalizing scientific concepts, laying out a research program, and putting that program into motion; pseudoscientists have no clue about any of this. Pseudoscientists place all their value on the thoughts that swirl around in their heads and couldn’t care less if their thoughts can be operationally implemented.

ID/creationists use socio/political tactics instead of real research to get their thoughts - in the form of memes - into society. Fifty years of observing them doing that has given real scientists the data that tells us what goes on in the heads of ID/creationists and why.

Scientists have had long familiarity with misconceptions and the “memes” that perpetuate them. Each scientific discipline now has teams of educators who have catalogued decades of anecdotes of misconceptions, has organized this information, and has implement formal experiments in pedogy in order to improve science education. We know where many misconceptions come from, how they are perpetuated, and how to mitigate their effects on learning.

One of the major sources of misconceptions and misrepresentations of scientific concepts in the last 50 years has been the ID/creationist community; and their stuff is recognized because of it uniqueness.

Can any “sociologist” from your school of “sociology” even begin to get a handle on what is wrong with ID/creationism and why it is wrong? Can you even determine that it is wrong?

From the tone of your “critique” I get the feeling that you cannot.

MiddleStMan said:

Thanks for that context explanation, Nick. I’m pleased to see you are “not a reductionist,” like many atheists are. This is important for how one represents themselves as a human being. I’ve distantly followed your works over the past 10 years and didn’t suspect otherwise.

I did read your supplementary materials, in which you wrote:

“‘Phylomemetics’ is the application of phylogenetics to memes. The term “meme” was invented by Richard Dawkins in the 1970s (The Selfish Gene, 1976), and refers to a cultural object that gets copied and modified in the culture. When memes are relatively long and stable (as with legislative bill texts), there is enough information to use phylogenetic methods to reconstruct their history.”

Let us be clear about this. Obviously you believe a ‘meme’ is something ‘real,’ i.e. something that ‘exists,’ Nick. Is that incorrect?

I believe thoughts are real. I believe words are real. I believe legislative texts are real. They are all things that can be copied and spread and modified. Am I wrong?

I think the word “meme”, with its analogy to genes, usefully helps to emphasize the copying-and-modification nature of at least some thoughts and ideas, something which has become particularly obvious in the digital age.* I don’t particularly care if a term is perfect, as long as it is useful – most verbal description of most things will be imperfect and incomplete. We managed to do science etc. nonetheless.

(* There are some truly difficult questions about whether or not a thought in one person’s head is the “same thing” as the “same thought” in another person’s head. I think virtually all discussion of thoughts and ideas, even long before the word “meme” was introduced, takes for granted that there is a real and relevant sense in which, yes, it is meaningful to talk about the “same thoughts” being the “same things” in different people’s heads. This is enough for the discussion to proceed. But the details I leave to philosophers.)

Now pause for a moment of thought: What if ‘meme’ is simply the wrong term to use, Nick? What if ‘memetics’ is a nonsense field of study made up by a biologist with cultural studies envy? What if it’s just fake; a mirage conjured by a disciplinary imposter? Would you still continue to use it? This appears to be the source of our disagreement; you don’t think you’ve been duped by Dawkins regarding culture whilst I think you have been.

The notion of ‘phylomemetics’ makes as much sense as calling ‘centaur hunting’ a science given the failure of memetics as a field of study. Phylogenetics, otoh, sure, that works. But please don’t confuse the two, Nick.

You basically admit that the term “meme” is legitimate, below, so you’ve undermined your own criticism above. Centaurs are not real, but memes are. If you just can’t get past certain baggage of the term “meme”, feel free to mentally replace it with “a cultural object that gets copied and modified in the culture.”

Another way to say this is: Centaurs are not real, but peoples’ ideas about centaurs are real. The latter can be studied by whomever is inspired. Perhaps that’s what you’re not getting. Whether or not such studies are useful or interesting is a different question, and people are free to make up their own minds.

“it’s pretty clear that you have only a vague understanding of phylogenetics”

Yes, and it’s pretty clear that you have only a vague understanding of social science and map-making. So, are we now even and ready to cooperate?

If I was making any negative claims about the validity of the social-science/map-making approach to studying culture, there would be some equivalence. But I’m not. I consider it totally obvious that social science, history, liberal arts, cultural analysis, literary criticism, etc. etc. can be valid and useful approaches to studying culture, the history of ideas and how they spread and change in the culture, etc.

It is probably true that some early proponents of memetics thought of it as a replacement for more traditional methods of study, but I wouldn’t agree with such statements. Such a history does not mean that the terms “meme” and “phylomemetics” are forever polluted and banned from more modest usages.

To paraphrase Mary Midgley: Human culture (and reality generally, really) is so complex that no single scheme of study will be adequate to fully describe or understand a topic of interest. We are much better served by treating each method of study, each interpretive framework, etc., as a window on this complex reality. Each gives us one angle. In my opinion, if phylomemetics gives us an interesting angle to look at how a cultural object has been copied and modified over time, then it’s useful. It doesn’t mean all other approaches are wrong.

“I agree with basically every criticism of traditional memetics”

Then, obviously, you should drop the term from your vocabulary as useless nonsense. Why don’t you, Nick? Are you trying to resurrect the foolish notion of ‘memetics’ as ‘memeology’ in your appeals to ‘phylomemetics’?

Did a memeticist murder your children or something? I don’t get the hostility over this issue. Your actual material criticisms so far boil down to (1) memes aren’t real, even though even you seem to acknowledge, below, that they are, and (2) the first generation of memetics “failed”, which I don’t think is determinative now that we have a new method (phylomemetics) and a more restricted sense of the goals and uses of the new method.

“It looks to me like phylomemetics has potential where memetics did not – mostly because phylogenetic methods…”

If all you’re doing is substituting ‘memetics’ for ‘genetics’ in the terms ‘phylomemetics’ and ‘phylogenetics’ then my concern is validated. But you have yet to acknowledge this is what you are doing. You skip back and forth between phylomemetics and phylogenetics in both your paper and in the supplementary material. The bottom line, though, is that you seem to think ‘memetics’ is a good idea that simply needs updating, while I and many others think it was dead in the water to begin with in Dawkins’ culture-envy mind.

The original version of the paper tried to make a more detailed pitch for use of the term “phylomemetics”, but there wasn’t room in the final draft. But the main reasons I used the term were:

(1) It’s been previously published and is being used in the literature, and if I use the term also, and cite that paper, then other people doing phylogenies of cultural objects will be alerted to my work.

(2) Phylogenies of memes have some special issues that are not usually present in traditional phylogenetics done with genes or other biologically inherited traits. These are: (a) common ancestry can almost always be safely assumed by default in biological studies, but this is far less clear with memes, and (b) biological systems are usually dominated by vertical inheritance, with minimal large-scale horizontal transfer (a.k.a. lateral transfer); again, memes are probably much more subject to this problem, as ideas and texts get combined and mixed all the time. We could just keep saying “phylogenies of cultural objects” each time we want to note these differences, but that gets cumbersome.

(3) Part of the point of the Supplemental Material is that phylogenetics actually does have some methods for testing for 2a and 2b. They are not particularly well-known in biology except amongst the real phylogenetics nerds, because usually common ancestry and vertical inheritance are pretty obvious/pretty good assumptions/non-horrible approximations for biological data. In the biological case, creationists often ignorantly assert that phylogenetics just assumes common ancestry and vertical inheritance, but this is not really true, so I like pointing out the tests that do exist. In the case of phylomemetics, the issues of common ancestry and verticial inheritance are likely to be relevant very often, so I thought it was worth highlighting to the phylomemetics community how these tests work (along with caveats), and showing an example of putting them to use.

(All that said, no methods are perfect - I used some “off the shelf” parsimony methods for these tests, which are kind of old-fashioned. Likelihood and Bayesian methods are typically only available for DNA data at the moment, but ought to be developed for non-traditional datasets like we have here.)

As for me, I have no problem with the ‘highjacked’ use of the term ‘meme’ to refer to ‘viral media’, i.e. an image or video that spreads rapidly on-line, as a kind of social epidemiology. It’s a much smaller claim in such context than Dawkins’ grandiose quasi-cultural theory (that even he balked about). But the most interesting questions for me are not answered simply by the action of spreading (which can be ‘mapped’ into a variety of infographics, e.g. like a ‘phylogenetic-like’ tree). Rather, it is issues of the content and intention of ‘memes’, attraction, adaptation, re-distribution, word-of-mouth, jokes, etc. This is not something you seem to care about professionally.

I don’t see how you can accept the term meme for “an image or video that spreads online”, and not accept that a text can also spread online, or in legislatures or some other cultural medium (e.g. print).

The issues of “content and intention of ‘memes’, attraction, adaptation, re-distribution, word-of-mouth, jokes, etc.” are ALL interesting. I think it’s GREAT if anyone wants to study them. But I don’t see why I have to study all of these things just to publish a paper that focuses on the re-distribution and adaptation aspects and makes some progress in making a probabilistic inference of the detailed history of transmission, using sophisticated inference methods. Every study focuses on just some aspects of a question.

To me, Nick, an ‘anti-evolution bill’ is simply *NOT* a ‘meme’. People create ‘bills’ with intentions, aims, goals, etc. They thus have fundamental characteristics that betray the (Dawkins-like) ‘logic’ of ‘memetics’ as Dennett, Blackmore, Tyler and everyone else I’ve read who uses ‘memes’ (with the specific exception of ‘viral media’).

That’s a weird exception. People of course create online videos and images with various “intentions, aims, goals, etc.” They also spread them with similar intentions, aims, goals, etc. And, they change those videos and images quite regularly as well, again with intentions, aims, goals, etc.

Perhaps your argument is with the amount of thought, versus thoughtless copying, that goes into the origin and reproduction of these various cultural objects. I would agree that most internet memes spread with minimal thought involved – although there is some. The origin of internet memes sometimes involves pretty minimal thought – I CAN HAZ CHEESEBURGERS might be an example of something that just sounded funny and spreads because of the awkward absurdity of it – but sometimes internet memes are quite clever and seem to have quite a bit of thought behind them, and communicate some important message.

And, anyway, like I have said in various places, having studied these antievolution bills, it is debatable to me exactly how much thought goes into their origin and copying. They don’t make a ton of sense on their own terms, scientifically or educationally. They make a lot more sense as an expression of the “id” of fundamentalists who pretty much think that any stick that can be used to beat on evolution is a good one, with the strategies winnowed down through court rulings.

The various copyings and modifications of these bills also often don’t seem, well, very intelligently designed. I have put some examples here:

http://phylo.wikidot.com/matzke-201[…]n#lessthanID

My general impression is: each legislature deals with hundreds or thousands of bills each session. Each legislator is sponsoring or co-sponsoring dozens or hundreds of these bills. Some bills are written from scratch, with a lot of thought put into their composition. But, many bills have text copied from other sources – previous bills, model bills put forward by special interest groups, etc. The copying clearly seems to be dominant with this generation of antievolution bills – this could be due to legislator busy-ness, or it could be that certain legislators put their name on bill texts proposed by their supporters or special interest groups, who themselves copied from texts elsewhere.

The only requirement for a phylomemetic analysis is that copying (which is common ancestry) dominate over original composition (which is separate ancestry) in the production of the texts under study. With typical internet memes, there are too few textual or other characters to do much of a phylogeny, but with texts – relatively long and stable memes, as I said somewhere – it looks like there is enough.

I do think that if you have a bunch of texts that are original compositions, phylomemetic analysis is inappropriate, because copying was not the main mechanism producing them. One example of phylogenetics being misapplied was this attempted phylogeny of the plays of Shakespeare:

http://phylonetworks.blogspot.com/2[…]ylogeny.html

…as this critique points out, the method used to make the tree was not actually a phylogenetic one, and also there was no particular reason to think that the plays of Shakespeare have a copying-and-modification history in the first place. And, interestingly, the similarity tree that was produced actually looks, to phylogeny nerds, like a “possible non-phylogenetic dataset” right away. The giveaway is the “stemminess” of the tip branches, and shortness of internal branches. This suggests that most features are unique to each text, rather than being hierarchically shared features indicative of shared ancestry.

(This is one of several reasons why creationists don’t know their bleeps from holes in the ground when they make statements like, “you could make a phylogeny from any data”. No, not really. Not only that is well-supported and has strong phylogenetic signal.)

Bills have aims that so-called ‘memes’ don’t have by definition. They thus require different scholarly treatment.

“antievolution bills seem to evolve rather like pathogens”

Again, you are simply out of your league in making this analogical claim (go back to biology silly reductionist who claims not to be one!). Bills are neither ‘organisms’ nor ‘mechanisms’ and many scholars acknowledge that these things do not change in the same way. That said, however, granted that NCSE is a unique institution that focuses particularly on these bills and that it is therefore entirely in keeping that you (or someone else) would contribute to the social science of anti-evolution bills using mapping techniques. So, we are in agreement on the helpful results, just not the (evolutionary memetic) claims.

Meh. If the results are useful, that’s enough for a scientist. Terminology is secondary.

But: for an example of what a phylogeny can tell you about mechanism, look up: tree-balance statistics:

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=tree-balance+statistics+phylogeny

An imbalanced tree indicates a competitive process, with one or a few lineages dominating the replication process. This is seen in e.g. viruses. Read my paper to find out what the tree-balance statistic is for the legislation.

“I was able to do a little bit”

Yes, and I find that has some small value as your personal contribution to social scientific knowledge. It still makes no sense call it ‘phylogenetics’, or worse, ‘phylomemetics’.

It would be enough for you to admit that your desire to build a field called ‘phylomemetics’ is actually rooted in ‘cultural,’ not ‘natural’ science. Iow, there is no (and cannot possibly be a) ‘natural science’ that maps ‘education bills,’ since they are artificial. If I’m wrong, Nick, then answer us please: if you studied ‘anti-evolution’ bills 24-7 for the next 10 years what contribution would this actually make to biological knowledge? My contention is: nothing. What’s yours? For the record, let’s be straight: yes or no, are you a proponent of ‘memetics’ and ‘memes’, Nick? A simple yes or no answer is preferred. I’m against this silly Dawkins delusion.

Short answer: yes. Long answer: see all caveats in previous comments.

Thanks for the provocation of your paper, Nick, the supplementary material and your comments here. I’ve followed a flurry of new thoughts, links and possibilities in the recent days due to this. My main concern is your occasional use of the terms ‘memes’ and ‘memetics’ and whether or not it needlessly clouds the writing.

“I believe thoughts are real. I believe words are real. I believe legislative texts are real. They are all things that can be copied and spread and modified. Am I wrong?” - Nick Matzke

No, you’re not wrong (according to realism). The main question is ‘how’ are they copied, spread, modified, shared, traded, persuaded, interpreted, exaggerated, underdetermined, multiplied, grasped, misunderstood, deliberated, judged, etc. and whether or not applying ‘trees’ or other images to attempt to map this cultural PROCESS are accurate and reliable or misleading. Who is responsible for that active process making decisions; surely not the texts themselves? There’s the danger of falling into Whitehead’s “fallacy of misplaced concreteness” in what you claim to have done in tracking ‘memes’ in the form of bills.

“Did a memeticist murder your children or something? I don’t get the hostility over this issue.” - Nick Matzke

Well, Nick, then you might want to read Mary Midgley, whom you have displayed appreciation for, on memes and cultural evolution, because she explains it better than I do: http://cfpm.org/~majordom/memetics/old/2551.html

Indeed, the brazen foolishness of coining a term that rhymes with ‘gene’ and expecting it to be legitimate and valuable in studies of culture, far outside of one’s fields of expertise, may easily be compared with the foolishness of young earth creationism, if you think about it. Dawkins’ idea was presumptuous (many would say preposterous) from the start, but not a few people, especially those in the sciences wanting to have a more ‘objective’ science of culture, were tricked by its reductionistic apparently scientising character (just as happened with sociobiology).

Please report back your thoughts on Midgley’s rejection of ‘memes’ and ‘memetics’. I don’t know about you, Nick, but I prefer not to support bad ideas. (Midgley refers to ‘memeologists’ too in her “The Myths We Live By”, in which perhaps her most direct answer to your question starts in the chapter “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”.) In suggesting you can rehabilitate the reputation of ‘memetics’ in the combination ‘phylo-memetics’, perhaps you haven’t fully considered the potential downside or even the dangers? And there’s some pretty dodgy stuff that goes by the name ‘phylomemetics,’ from a quick glance at this supposed literature you are simply following.

Aside from Dawkins’ fantasy terminology, however, let’s not miss the main points here, Nick, because it seems that we may actually be working cooperatively. I like the phylogenetic visualisation, the practise of clustering and mapping (reticulate history) of collected data. We are not in disagreement about that, even with proper caution as to disanalogies.

“We could just keep saying “phylogenies of cultural objects” each time we want to note these differences, but that gets cumbersome.” - Nick Matzke

Data visualization, artefact histories or culture mapping work well too, and that would allow you to avoid the science fiction of ‘memetics.’ As I understand the prefix phylo-, it has to do with tribes or races, and of course the latter is highly contested in social sciences nowadays. Are creationists a kind of ‘tribe’ you are wishing to portray by your efforts with evolutionary history, even if they are not a social organism?

“You basically admit that the term ‘meme’ is legitimate, below, so you’ve undermined your own criticism above.” – Nick Matzke

I admitted a specific exception, one that Dawkins himself noted as having ‘highjacked’ his original definition of ‘memes’ (though he doesn’t really seem to understand why). In this narrow sense, ‘memes’ refer to on-line ‘virally’ spread images and videos, which I am willing to adopt as very recent internet jargon (coming many years after 1976). They are ‘things’ easy to classify, but not a supposed overarching theory of cultural replication, transmission or ‘descent with modification’ as ‘memetics’ was originally proposed. Let’s not confuse ‘internet memes’ with a so-called ‘science of (phylo)memetics’. You also don’t use the term ‘phylomemy’ in the paper and it’s not like you’re clarifying what you think a ‘meme’ actually is (beyond referencing Dawkins), simply in suggesting that bills are ‘memes’ (cf. Midgley again).

“There aren’t random mutations to these bills. It’s humans making decisions when you change something.” – Nick Matzke (http://www.vocativ.com/news/262022/[…]lution-laws/)

Yes, on that we certainly agree. And that’s really the key point on which the rest of the argument is based. It doesn’t seem that you’ve taken Midgley’s criticisms of cultural evolution (e.g. its “helpless fatalism” in the “long perspective”, placing “the whole causation outside of human choice”, “hopes of scientific objectivity” and “illusion of impartiality”) to heart either. What then do you like about Midgley?

“the difference between the editing process in biology, versus in memes, is one of the disanalogies between meme evolution and biological evolution.” – Nick Matzke

Yes, I agree; there are many disanalogies.

Your appeal to cultural evolution is that the bills have a ‘direct ancestor’, and that they (passive voice) are copied and modified over time with ‘vertical inheritance’. But it’s the “humans making decisions” in those bills that defines their ‘method’ and ‘mode’ of change. And of course it makes sense in cases of legislation to at least consult previous bills that are available in the jurisdictions (any decent lawyer would certainly do this by habit of training). This type of artefact change thus goes beyond the model of biological evolution and requires different language to describe (and sometimes) explain and understand it than memetics provides/provided. Indeed, one can even with the lowest level of charity identify at least a measure of ‘foresight’ in the changing language of the bills.

Another issue to consider is your distinction between 3 (what you call) ‘waves’ of anti-evolution. It may indeed be that a ‘wave’ need not start with a court case; it might have already started in the 1870s and 80s with the arrival of Social Spencerism (aka Social Darwinism). Especially this is possible given that Spencer’s books far outsold Darwin’s in the USA. Likewise, assuming that the ‘waves’ of anti-evolution start in judicial processes, rather than in other institutions, like churches or synagogues complicates the issue. If you could make a phylogenetic map of anti-evolution waves in American churches, based on denomination; that would be quite something to behold! ;) Much more could be said about these so-called ‘waves’ (e.g. in contrast to stages, steps, etc.).

“Matzke’s achievement has been to map this evolution.” (https://paulbraterman.wordpress.com[…]10-years-on/)

Your contribution helpfully maps (phylogenetic ‘character maps’) the history of these bills, Nick, and I’m sure it will be regular material in the making of subsequent legislative procedure. It highlights certain shared strategies and language phrases used in these bills that suggest collaboration behind the scenes. No doubt NCSE has such peoples’ names on a list or several lists.

“or perhaps from texts that are circulating on conservative listservs or backchannels or whatever they must have” – Nick responding to Joe (“would it have been possible to ask the authors of these bills what was copied from what?”)

Well, perhaps they do have such channels, which is also what distinguishes the process as different from ‘memetics.’ And conducting interviews or surveys with these people obviously would be different from using phylogenetic methods.

Have you considered trying a similar method of data collection and visualization with literature connections(‘clades’) in the scientific standards as proposed by creationists?

MiddleStMan said:

Thanks for the provocation of your paper, Nick, the supplementary material and your comments here. I’ve followed a flurry of new thoughts, links and possibilities in the recent days due to this. My main concern is your occasional use of the terms ‘memes’ and ‘memetics’ and whether or not it needlessly clouds the writing.

“I believe thoughts are real. I believe words are real. I believe legislative texts are real. They are all things that can be copied and spread and modified. Am I wrong?” - Nick Matzke

No, you’re not wrong (according to realism). The main question is ‘how’ are they copied, spread, modified, shared, traded, persuaded, interpreted, exaggerated, underdetermined, multiplied, grasped, misunderstood, deliberated, judged, etc. and whether or not applying ‘trees’ or other images to attempt to map this cultural PROCESS are accurate and reliable or misleading. Who is responsible for that active process making decisions; surely not the texts themselves? There’s the danger of falling into Whitehead’s “fallacy of misplaced concreteness” in what you claim to have done in tracking ‘memes’ in the form of bills.

It seems curious that you would make such claims without actually having read ID/creationist works. You seem to be implying that people who have actually dissected the “science” of ID/creationism don’t see the connections between their language and their pseudoscience.

You really need to take the time to do a detailed analysis of ID/creationists’ works; and further, you need to learn science well enough to see the egregious misconceptions and misrepresentations of science, at even the high school level, by ID/creationists.

Indeed, the brazen foolishness of coining a term that rhymes with ‘gene’ and expecting it to be legitimate and valuable in studies of culture, far outside of one’s fields of expertise, may easily be compared with the foolishness of young earth creationism, if you think about it. Dawkins’ idea was presumptuous (many would say preposterous) from the start, but not a few people, especially those in the sciences wanting to have a more ‘objective’ science of culture, were tricked by its reductionistic apparently scientising character (just as happened with sociobiology).

It appears that you haven’t read Dawkins either. Dawkins has repeatedly made the analogy of his use of the concept of “meme” - and even further with his use of “extended phenotype” - with the shift in perspective in what one observes with a Necker cube. It is an extremely useful perspective that prompts additional insights into the processes of evolution.

And Dawkins is in good company when offering such a shift in perspective. Even the most basic mathematical science of physics finds it useful to express equations in a teleological form when setting up Lagrangeans and then finding their extrema. This perspective makes it appear that particles and photons in the universe are acting “purposefully” in order to accomplish maximizing or minimizing an integral; e.g. when photons search out all of spacetime in order to find the path of least time from Point A to Point B. Or that a flexible rope hanging between two points “seeks” to minimize its potential energy in order to form the mathematical equation of a catenary curve.

And there is precident in biology for similar shifts in perspective because, deep down at the physics and chemistry levels, living organisms are constrained by the laws of physics and chemistry at every level of their complexity. As long as the scientist understands the shorthand efficiency of such a shift in perspective, then the insights offered are often worth the shift.

The problems come when those who don’t know any of the science then presume to be able to “critique” the thought processes of scientists without taking the equivalent amount of time that the scientists did to delve deeply into the concepts, and the data supporting those concepts, and actually coming to a deep understanding of what is going on in nature.

Those of us who have been through that crucible can easily spot those who are faking it and putting on “intellectual airs.”

Richard B. Hoppe said:

Nick, Michael gnor showed up in Jeff Shallit’s post on the issue. You might add it to your blog listing.

Forgiven the OT post, but anyone who would like to see Egnor’s lunacy laid bare should go to Shallits post on Republicans vs Democrats, where we learn, among other things, that the South as ceased to be racist under GOP control, a notion my racist southern relations would find most amusing.

Also OT but sort of related: http://www.theguardian.com/books/20[…]-researchers “The study employed phylogenetic analysis, which was developed to investigate evolutionary relationships between species, and used a tree of Indo-European languages to trace the descent of shared tales on it, to see how far they could be demonstrated to go back in time.”

Since another post has recently been added to this thread, are the lost posts able/going to be restored? I’ve only posted a few times here on Pandas Thumb, but now this exchange with Nick Matzke has been truncated.

I saved my post and could send it again. It still doesn’t seem Matzke recognizes clearly why (or perhaps even that) he is trying to resurrect the already largely dead ideology of ‘memetics’ by adding ‘phylo’ to it.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on December 19, 2015 4:28 AM.

Discovery Institute: So much for Academic Freedom! was the previous entry in this blog.

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