Re: Systematics and Memetics:Towards a Memetic Species

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Mon Feb 25 2002 - 01:20:46 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Systematics and Memetics:Towards a Memetic Species
    Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 20:20:46 -0500
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    >From: John Wilkins <>
    >Subject: Re: Systematics and Memetics:Towards a Memetic Species
    >Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 10:53:19 +1100
    >On Monday, February 25, 2002, at 04:57 AM, rmey4892 wrote:
    >>I am an undergraduate, Marine Biology major from the University of Rhode
    >>Island who has recently come across the theory (or theories) of memetics
    >>learning the basics of Neo-Darwinian theory. My readings of Richard
    >>"Selfish Gene" as well as Daniel Dennetts "Darwins Dangerous Idea"
    >>simultaneously with my course in Systematics, and has led me to again
    >>pose the
    >>question that Darwin seems to have never answered: What is a species?
    >Thanks for this, but you have overlooked some recent work onb the subject.
    > The issue of species seems to be undergoing a revival lately. Here are
    >the most recent books:
    >Claridge, M. F., H. A. Dawah, et al. (1997). Species: the units of
    >biodiversity. London; New York, Chapman & Hall.
    >Ereshefsky, M. (2000). The poverty of Linnaean hierarchy: a philosophical
    >study of biological taxonomy. Cambridge, U.K.; New York, Cambridge
    >University Press,.
    >Ghiselin, M. T. (1997). Metaphysics and the origin of species. Albany,
    >State University of New York Press.
    >Hey, J. (2001). Genes, concepts and species: the evolutionary and
    >cognitive causes of the species problem. New York, Oxford University Press.
    >Howard, D. J. and S. H. Berlocher (1998). Endless forms: species and
    >speciation. New York, Oxford University Press.
    >Paterson, H. E. H. (1993). Evolution and the recognition concept of
    >species: collected writings. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.
    >Wheeler, Q. D. and R. Meier, Eds. (2000). Species concepts and
    >phylogenetic theory: a debate. New York, Columbia University Press.
    >Wilson, M. R., H. A. Dawah, et al. (1997). Species: the units of
    >biodiversity. London; New York, Chapman & Hall.
    >Wilson, R. A. (1999). Species: new interdisciplinary essays. Cambridge,
    >Mass., MIT Press.
    >(and that's just the books! There are hundreds of papers around)
    >The major competitor concepts to the BSC are the Evolutionary Species
    >Concept, three kinds of Phylogenetic Species Concepts - the Monophyletic,
    >the Hennigian and the Autapomorphic, and the Genealogical Concepts. There
    >are, in Mayden's recent overview in the Claridge et al volume, 25
    >different concepts, and since then at least four new ones have come to
    >light. I'm proposing Yet Another Concept in my thesis, which I call the
    >Synapomorphic Species Concept, although it is really a pluralistic
    >grouping of concepts.
    >Now I got into this topic because I wanted to figure out what the memetic
    >equivalents are to species. My best answer is that they are traditions -
    >relatively isolated groups of concepts that are passed on as a type (where
    >a type is a modal distribution - what Eigen calls a "quasispecies"). Some
    >of them are "reproductively isolated", but, like many biological species,
    >some are distinguishable on other grounds. Also, like biological species
    >(not biospecies sensu BSC), there is a considerable amount of lateral, or
    >horizontal, transfer between traditions.
    >Examples of traditions in this sense - a research programme in science, a
    >language, a political movement, an artistic style, a fashion scene, and so
    >forth. They are defined by being, for whatever reason, cohesive over time.
    >Finally, a comment that is a bit revolutionary - species is, in the
    >linnaean system, an absolute rank, which means that all and every species
    >is commensurate in that convention. But on the account I am taking,
    >species is *not* commensurate across all kinds of living things - a
    >bacterial species, a fungal species, and an amniote species can all be
    >different kinds of things. Likewise in culture - there is no requirement
    >for all traditions to have the same generality or to be commensurate with
    >traditions of other varieties. There are just taxa...
    When are you gonna finish the memetic version of Haeckel's _Stammbaum der
    Menschen_? Would the New Kids on the Block or Menudo serve as the surrogate
    Gastraea of the modern boy bands? Urbilge?

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