Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Thu Mar 14 2002 - 17:31:09 GMT

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    From: "Scott Chase" <>
    Subject: Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes
    Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2002 12:31:09 -0500
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    >From: "Kenneth Van Oost" <>
    >To: <>
    >Subject: Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes
    >Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2002 16:41:37 +0100
    >----- Original Message -----
    >From: Steve Drew <>
    > > I think what you may mean is that we do instinctive things, unless we
    > > otherwise. A choice between reacting and acting the difference being the
    > > thinking on the one hand, and thinking on the other.
    >Hi Steve, Wade,
    >I ain 't gonna interfere with the discussion you both have, just an aside
    >of my part,
    >IMO, we don 't have much time to think ( in the exact meaning of the
    >word) in certain situations. If we had the time_ to- think- that- car- is-
    >running- fast- I- must- hurry- myself-_ we would have died !
    >IMO, still further, our brain/ mind ' reacts ' all the time. The time-
    >needed to think, like I said, in the real sense of the wod, is too slim.
    >My major scepsis applying Darwinism for the working, not its construc-
    >tion, of the brain, lies there. I don 't deny that it seems that the
    >idea/ thought/ habit or trait survived the struggle inside our head, but
    >the time- frame for doing that don 't end up.
    >And yes you can argue that evolution supported the speed by which
    >the brain works in a Darwinian way, but still IMO, it doesn 't seem to
    >end right up. There is ( still) a gap. The argument that Darwinism would
    >provide sufficient rationales for any question raised keeps poppin ' up
    >and IMO always in the wrong places.
    >The idea is that ideas, formed NOT by Darwinism, would survive to
    >be counted as beneficial traits of Darwinian selection. Investigators
    >would see those as beneficial outcomes of natural selection where in
    >fact ( Lamarckian) (re)actions would hold(s) the key(s).
    >I repeat, the time- frame needed to pick/ choose a certain solution
    >for/ to a particular stressor/ attraction ( inside the brain) in order to
    >the organism survive can 't be explained by a Darwinian- concept_
    >if we take the Darwinian evolutionary process for granted, that is_
    >trial and error over a certain amount of time.
    >Time you don 't have !
    I'm not sure either Darwinian or so-called Lamarckian views apply to
    cultural phenomenon. Humans and their brains are products of the
    evolutionary process, where selection has played a major, though not
    necessarily exclusive, role. Evolution is a fact. Evolution applies to

    Now when trying to force fit cultural phenomena into an evolutionary scheme,
    that's where things could go astray. First off, can it be said that culture
    evolves? Is cultural change actually evolution in its own right? OK, I might
    grant this for argument's sake. I kinda like Michael Tomasello's discussion
    (in _The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition_) of dual inheritance and the
    ratchet effect of a serial process involving cultural learning and
    individual/collaborative creation for cumulative modification of artifacts.
    Both innovation and imitation may be important. There could be a social
    heredity, but what form(s) does it take?

    Now human brains are indeed the product of evolution via selection (plus
    perhaps some non-adaptive side-products or spandrels if you will). This is
    not in doubt. The Darwinian view pretty much holds when looking at evolution
    of humans. The problem is when we carry the Darwinian view over into the
    sphere of sociocultural phenomenon. Do these phenomena evolve according to
    the Darwinian (or even the Lamarckian) view?

    OK, for the sake of argument I might grant that a cultural Darwinism is
    valid (Wilkins grins). The most contentious point would be, then, whether
    there are units (whether internal, external or a little of both) known as
    memes that are involved in the cultural evolutionary process. Are these
    putative self-reproducing ideas, beliefs, concepts or whatever more than
    some speculative Procrustean rubric for force-fitting human behavior beyond
    the associated sociobiological shoe-horning.

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