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Susan Blackmore

Susan Blackmore
Born Susan Jane Blackmore
29 July 1951 (1951-07-29) (age 58)
Education St. Hilda's College, Oxford,
University of Surrey
Occupation Freelance writer,
Lecturer,
Broadcaster
Partner Adam Hart-Davis
Website
Official Website

Susan Jane Blackmore (born 29 July 1951) is an English freelance writer, lecturer, and broadcaster on psychology and the paranormal, perhaps best known for her book The Meme Machine.

Contents

Career

In 1973, Susan Blackmore graduated from St. Hilda's College, Oxford, with a BA (Hons) degree in psychology and physiology. She went on to do a postgraduate degree in environmental psychology at the University of Surrey, achieving an MSc degree in 1974. In 1980, she got her PhD degree in parapsychology from the same university, her thesis being entitled "Extrasensory Perception as a Cognitive Process." After some period of time spent in research on parapsychology and the paranormal,[1] her attitude towards the field moved from belief to scepticism.[2] She is a Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and in 1991 was awarded the CSICOP Distinguished Skeptic Award.[3]

Blackmore has done research on memes (which she wrote about in her popular book The Meme Machine) and evolutionary theory. Her book Consciousness: An Introduction (2004), is a textbook that broadly covers the field of consciousness studies. She was on the editorial board for the Journal of Memetics (an electronic journal) from 1997 to 2001, and has been a consulting editor of the Skeptical Inquirer since 1998.[4]

She acted as one of the psychologists who featured on the British version of the television show "Big Brother," speaking about the psychological state of the contestants. She is a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association.[5]

Memetics

Susan Blackmore has made contributions to the field of memetics. The term meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In his foreword to Blackmore's book The Meme Machine (1999), Dawkins said, "Any theory deserves to be given its best shot, and that is what Susan Blackmore has given the theory of the meme."[6] Other treatments of memes can be found in the works of Robert Aunger: The Electric Meme, and Jon Whitty: A Memetic Paradigm of Project Management.[7]

Blackmore's treatment of memetics insists that memes are true evolutionary replicators, a second replicator that like genetics is subject to the Darwinian algorithm and undergoes evolutionary change. Her prediction on the central role played by imitation as the cultural replicator and the neural structures that must be unique to humans necessary to support them have recently been confirmed by research on mirror neurons and the differences in extent of these structures between humans and our closest ape relations.[8]

In her work on memetics she has emphasized the role that Darwinian mechanisms play in cultural evolution and has helped develop the field of Universal Darwinism.. The chapter titled 'Universal Darwinism' in The Meme Machine may have been the first usage of this term to denote the body of scientific knowledge employing Darwinian mechanisms.

At the February 2008 TED conference Blackmore introduced a special category of memes called temes. Temes are memes which live in technological artifacts instead of the human mind.[9]

Personal life

Blackmore is an active practitioner of Zen, although she identifies herself as "not a Buddhist".[10] Blackmore is an atheist who has criticised religion sharply, having said, for instance, that "all kinds of infectious memes thrive in religions, in spite of being false, such as the idea of a creator god, virgin births, the subservience of women, transubstantiation, and many more. In the major religions, they are backed up by admonitions to have faith not doubt, and by untestable but ferocious rewards and punishments."[11]

Books

  • Beyond the Body: An Investigation of Out-Of-The-Body Experiences, Academy Chicago Publishers, 1983, ISBN 0-586-08428-2 (first edition), ISBN 0-89733-344-6 (second edition)
  • In Search of the Light: The Adventures of a Parapsychologist, Prometheus Books, 1987, ISBN 0-87975-360-9 (first edition), ISBN 1-57392-061-4 (second edition, 1996)
  • Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences, Prometheus Books, 1993, ISBN 0-87975-870-8
  • Test Your Psychic Powers, with Adam Hart-Davis, Thorsons Publishing, 1995, ISBN 1-85538-441-8, ISBN 0-8069-9669-2 (reprint edition)
  • The Meme Machine, Oxford University Press, reprint edition 2000, ISBN 0-19-286212-X
  • Consciousness: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-19-515342-1 (hardcover), ISBN 0-19-515343-X (paperback)
  • Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-19-280585-1
  • Conversations on Consciousness Oxford University Press, 2005 ISBN 0-19-280622-X

Notes

  1. ^ Blackmore 1986, p.163
  2. ^ Blackmore 1987, p.249
  3. ^ A Who's Who of Media Skeptics: Skeptics or Dogmatists?. Accessed 2008-06-03.
  4. ^ "Curriculum Vitae". susanblackmore.co.uk. 2009-04-09. http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/curricul.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-14.  
  5. ^ Distinguished Supporters - British Humanist Association, accessed 2008-1-12
  6. ^ Blackmore 2000, p.xvi
  7. ^ A Memetic Paradigm of Project Management
  8. ^ Iacoboni, M., "Understanding others: imitation, language, empathy" In: Perspectives on imitation: from cognitive neuroscience to social science, Hurley, S., and Chater, N. (Eds), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, in press
  9. ^ Susan Blackmore on memes and "temes", 2008 TED conference (video)
  10. ^ Dr. Susan Blackmore
  11. ^ Dr. Susan Blackmore

Further reading

  • "Why I Have Given Up", in Skeptical Odysseys: Personal Accounts by the World's Leading Paranormal Inquirers, edited by Paul Kurtz, Prometheus Books, ISBN 1-57392-884-4, chapter 6, 85-94. available online
  • "The Elusive Open Mind: Ten Years of Negative Research in Parapsychology", Skeptical Inquirer, 11:244-55. available online
  • "A Critical Examination of the Blackmore Psi Experiments", The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research , 83:123-144. available online

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dr. Susan Jane Blackmore, PhD, MSc, BA (born 29 July 1951, in London) is a British psychologist, researcher, freelance writer, lecturer and broadcaster, perhaps best known for her book The Meme Machine. She is well know for her studies and books on memetics, consciousness and parapsychology.

Sourced

  • Consciousness is an illusion constructed by the memes.
    • - Susan Blackmore, interview in MungBeing
  • Memetics appears to have a lot of implications that we humans are machines, which people have never liked. Of course we're machines, we're biological machines. But people don't like that. Free will and consciousness is an illusion, and the self is a complex of memes. People don't like that. My view is that if these things are true it doesn't matter if we like them or not.
    • "Humans Are Just Machines for Propagating Memes", Wired.com, 2/29/2008
  • If everyone understood evolution, then the tyranny of religious memes would be weakened, and we little humans might find a better way to live in this pointless universe.
  • The other key to my failures seemed to be belief. I was told that I didn’t get results because I didn’t believe strongly enough in psi, because I didn’t have an open mind!
  • The way I really think is more like this "I am a scientist. I think the way to the truth is by investigation. I suspect that telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis and life after death do not exist because I have been looking in vain for them for 25 years. I have been wrong lots of times before and am not afraid of it".

External links

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