Susan Blackmore

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name = Susan Blackmore

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birth_name = Susan Jane Blackmore
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education = St. Hilda's College, Oxford,
University of Surrey
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occupation = Freelance writer,
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partner = Adam Hart-Davis
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website = [ Official Website]
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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".


In 1973, Susan Blackmore graduated from St. Hilda's College, Oxford, with a BA (Hons) in psychology and physiology. She went on to do a postgraduate degree in environmental psychology at the University of Surrey, achieving an MSc in 1974. In 1980, she got her Ph.D. 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, [Blackmore, 1986, p.163] her attitude towards the field moved from belief to scepticism. [Blackmore, 1987, p.249] 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. [ [ A Who's Who of Media Skeptics: Skeptics or Dogmatists?] . Accessed 2008-06-03.]

She 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.

She has appeared on television a number of times, discussing such paranormal phenomena as ghosts, extra-sensory perception, intelligent design, the multiverse, and out-of-body experiences, in what she describes as the "unenviable role of 'rent-a-sceptic,'" and she has also presented a show on alien abductions. Another programme which she has presented discusses the intelligence of non human apes.

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.


Susan Blackmore has made contributions to the field of memetics. Her clearly written works are aimed at a wide readership. The term "" was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene" and although the term has been widely used it is often misunderstood. Blackmore's book "The Meme Machine" is perhaps the most thorough introduction to memetics. In his foreword to this work, Dawkins said 'Any theory deserves to be given its best shot, and this is what Susan Blackmore has done for the theory of the meme.' 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". [ [ A Memetic Paradigm of Project Management] ]

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.Fact|date=March 2008

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.

At the Feb 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.

Personal life

In 1977, she married fellow academic Tom Troscianko, and they had two children: Emily Tamarisk Troscianko (born 1982) and Jolyon Tomasz Troscianko (born 1984). She now lives in Bristol with the television presenter and scientist Adam Hart-Davis.

Blackmore is an active practitioner of Zen, although she identifies herself as "not a Buddhist". [ [ Dr. Susan Blackmore ] ] 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." [ [ Dr. Susan Blackmore ] ]


* Parapsychology seems to be growing further away from the progress and excitement of the rest of consciousness studies. [ [ Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter 74 ] ]
* 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. [ [,3858,5164417-111414,00.html Guardian | Life lessons ] ]
* 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 Elusive Open Mind: Ten Years of ] ]
* 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”. [ [ Dr. Susan Blackmore ] ]


*"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

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]


External links

* [ Susan Blackmore's website]
** [ Brief description of Susan Blackmore]
** [ Susan Blackmore's CV]
* [ Susan Blackmore's blog on The Guardian's "Comment is Free"]
* [ Blackmore's presentation at the 2008 TED conference. A good summary (19:28 minutes) of Blackmore's thoughts on Memes and Temes.]
* [ Interview with Susan Blackmore]
* [ The Meme Machine, Interview of Susan Blackmore]
* [ Audio interview with Dr. Susan Blackmore, exploring her journey from a disillusioned parapsychology researcher to an author on human consciousness.]
* [ Sue Blackmore debates Alister McGrath (author of 'The Dawkins Delusion') at Bristol University on the motion that "belief in God is a dangerous delusion". November 13. 2007.]
* [ Podcast - Sue Blackmore discusses free will with Cameron Reilly. May 2008]

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