Re: Memes Meta-Memes and Politics 1 of 3 (1988, updates 2002)

From: Joe Dees (
Date: Mon Feb 18 2002 - 05:51:16 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Memes Meta-Memes and Politics 1 of 3 (1988, updates 2002)
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    >Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 20:46:23 -0500
    > Keith Henson <> Re: Memes Meta-Memes and Politics 1 of 3 (1988, updates 2002)Reply-To:
    >At 06:05 PM 11/02/02 -0500, you wrote:
    >>In a message dated 2/10/2002 11:23:12 AM Central Standard Time, Keith Henson
    >><> [writes in thread Re: Memes Meta-Memes and Politics 1 of
    >>3 (1988, updates 2002)]:
    >> > [Not to detract from Dawkins, but as I have dug deeper into the subject,
    >> > Dawkins himself recognized William Hamilton as more of an original
    >> > thinker. For certain though, Dawkins made the work of Hamilton, William,
    >> > Trivers and a host of other players available to ordinary people with his
    >> > popular works.]
    >>Hi Keith.
    >>Credit for evolutionary replicator theory should also go to F.T. Cloak, whose
    >>1973 paper developed evolutionary replicator theory for both biological
    >>molecules and culture. The paper not only develops evolutionary cultural
    >>replicator theory, but also evolutionary biological replicator theory.
    >>I take it that giving Dawkins credit for popularizing is not meant to detract
    >>from Cloak, Hamilton, Trivers, etc. either.
    >No, and these guys are all very careful about giving credit. Dawkins even
    >credited me in the Second Ed. of Selfish Gene for the word memeoid and its
    >I *think* I have made significant advances in some areas largely due to my
    >unfortunate and intimate experiences with the scientology cult. The cult
    >fight led into me happening to get the input that caused me (with some
    >help) to connect drugs and cults. That led to the insight that cults are
    >using the same attention-endorphin reward pathway hijacked by drugs..
    >It happens that my slightly later figuring out capture-bonding or Stockholm
    >Syndrome as an evolved response and some of the places *that* leads may
    >have been done first by John Tooby, but I don't think he published. I have
    >asked him in email, but no answer back yet.
    >There are excellent reasons, rooted in the days when we were hunting for
    >meat rather than knowledge, to be very careful to properly acknowledging
    >contributions. It was really necessary to credit the guy who scared the
    >game into your snare or where you could spear it if you wanted him to do it
    >again. :-)
    >Along those line when I am mentioning that Dawkins named cultural elements
    >memes, I mention that Arel Lucas, my wife, suggested "memetics" as the name
    >for the study of memes and the interaction of memes with their hosts.
    >Keith Henson
    >PS, Arel was on this list in the early days.
    >PPS, cut from the Analog article of 1987
    > Memetics comes from "meme" (which rhymes with "cream"), a word
    >coined in purposeful analogy to gene by Richard Dawkins in his 1976
    >book, _The Selfish Gene_. To understand memes, you must have a good
    >understanding of the modern concepts of evolution, and this is a good
    >source. In its last chapter, memes were defined as replicating
    >information patterns that use minds to get themselves copied much as a
    >virus uses cells to get itself copied. (Dawkins credits several
    >others for developing the concepts, especially the anthropologist F.
    >T. Cloak.) Like genes, memes are pure information.*
    > [*The essence of a gene is in its information. It is still a gene
    > "for hemoglobin" or "for waltzing behavior in mice" whether the
    > sequence is coded in DNA, printed on paper, or is written on
    > magnetic tape.]
    > They must be
    >perceived indirectly, most often by their effect on behavior or by
    >material objects that result from behavior. Humans are not the only
    >creatures that pass memes about. Bird songs that are learned (and
    >subject to variation) and the songs of whales are also replicating
    >information pattern that fit the model of a meme. So is the
    >"termiteing" behavior that chimps pass from generation to generation.
    > "Meme" is similar to "idea," but not all ideas are memes. A
    >passing idea which you do not communicate to others, or one which
    >fails to take root in others, falls short of being a meme. The
    >important part of the "meme about memes" is that memes are subject to
    >adaptive evolutionary forces very similar to those that select for
    >genes. That is, their variation is subject to selection in the
    >environment provided by human minds, communication channels, and the
    >vast collection of cooperating and competing memes that make up human
    >culture. The analogy is remarkably close. For example, genes in cold
    >viruses that cause sneezes by irritating noses spread themselves by
    >this route to new hosts and become more common in the gene pool of a
    >cold virus. Memes cause those they have successfully infected to
    >spread the meme by both direct methods (proselytizing) and indirect
    >methods (such as writing). Such memes become more common in the
    >culture pool.
    > The entire topic would be academic except that there are two
    >levels of evolution (genes and memes) involved and the memetic level
    >is only loosely coupled to the genetic. Memes which override genetic
    >survival, such as those which induce young Lebanese Shiites to blow
    >themselves "into the next world" from the front seat of a truck loaded
    >with high explosives, or induce untrained Iranians to volunteer to
    >charge Iraqi machine guns, or the WW II Kamikaze "social movement" in
    >Japan, are all too well known. I have proposed the term "memeoid" for
    >people whose behavior is so strongly influenced by a replicating
    >information pattern (meme) that their survival becomes inconsequential
    >in their own minds.
    I use the term "memebots" to refer to the same phenomenon.
    >This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    >For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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