In 2001 I was invited by the International Ontopsychology Association to speak at a conference called “Ontopsychology and Memetics” to be held in Milan in May 2002.
The topic sounded very interesting, the place attractive, and I was offered a substantial fee for giving a plenary lecture. I therefore accepted the invitation, having no reason to worry. It was only very shortly before the conference that I received two emails from people warning me about Ontopsychology. With some misgivings, I decided that I would not let the organisers down at such short notice and so I went.
The conference was well organised, was in a nice place, and everybody was very kind, but it was not like any conference I have ever been to. It appeared that the head of the IOA, Antonio Meneghetti, was revered by everyone there and treated as a kind of guru. I found this disturbing. The other papers presented at the conference were a mish mash of part distorted memetics and part pop psychology. The impression I got was that almost no one there had any idea what a meme was, or how to treat ideas scientifically or critically. All the papers talked about the “monitor of deflection” and other ideas which made little sense even when people explained them to me. Meneghetti himself said things which simply did not fit with accepted ideas about evolutionary theory or memetics.
I decided that the only thing to do was to give my lecture as planned, and to make my disagreements with them absolutely clear. So this is what I did. I was told that it was not usual to have any debate at these conferences. I found this worrying too, but in fact Meneghetti and I did have a short debate on the platform and we agreed to disagree, which was helpful.
When they asked me whether they could publish my lecture in their magazine I said yes because I thought it better to let them print my disagreements and objections than not. I hope it is clear in the published lecture that I do not share any of their beliefs and that I think that many of them have completely misunderstood memetics. I have had no further dealings with the organisation and have no intention of doing so.