RE: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Wed Mar 13 2002 - 23:42:33 GMT

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    From: "Scott Chase" <>
    Subject: RE: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes
    Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2002 18:42:33 -0500
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    >From: Vincent Campbell <>
    >To: "''" <>
    >Subject: RE: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes
    >Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2002 11:26:02 -0000
    > <And was the height of this hypothetical person *determined* by
    >heredity or
    > > environment? Are they taller than their parents? Grandparents?
    > >
    > > If they had grown up (given same genetic background) back in olden
    > > would they have been as tall? I have seen old setllment homes in
    > > Appalachia
    > > and if memory serves correct, people these days would have to stoop
    > > getting
    > > through the front door. Anybody been to Shakespeare's house at Straford
    > >
    > > the Avon? It was early 80's when I was their and as a high schooler I
    > > recall
    > > the doors not being too far above my noggin.>
    > >
    > > Yep, take your point. I guess I meant that height is not something we
    > > regard as a matter of individual choice, compared to whether or not one
    > > plays basketball, but you're right of course environment is very
    > > for peoples' height.
    > >
    But can one say height is *determined* by heredity or environment
    (nutritional factors and what not)?

    What is human behavior *determined* by? Genes? Memes?

    I'd agree that genes influence behavior, resulting in a phenotypic norm of
    reaction, but that this range is quite wide for the most part. Human
    behavior is quite plastic or pliable. But do we go the other way and hold to
    a sociocultural determinist view? I'd agree that ideas influence behavior
    (duh!) but I'm a little skeptical of some puppet string cultural determinist
    view where we are merely passive vehicles or carriers for cultural stuff
    (recalling something from David Bidney's book _Theoretical Anthropology_
    here). Is memetics flirting with a culturally deterministic view? OTOH there
    are likely adherents to sociobiology who frequent this list. Are they
    flirting with biological determinism?

    Are we just passive carriers/vehicles of genes and memes, buffetted by the
    winds of change like tumbleweeds across a desert landscape? Can we chant the
    mantra of genes and memes without allowing for a little volitional import to
    add to the mix? Are these gene/meme models just useful "as if" (recalling
    something else from Bidney's book) fictions constructed to shine some light
    on behavior, but not to be taken as gospel?

    I've probably gotten Joe Dees all fired up by now :-)

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