RE: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Tue Mar 19 2002 - 10:36:30 GMT

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes
    Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2002 10:36:30 -0000
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            <An awful lot of the discussion lately seems to be looking at
    > extreme incidents (e.g., parents killing their children) and somehow
    > trying
    > to essentially argue that "the memes did it." Even in mental illnesses
    > where there are clear genetic links (e.g., bi-polar disorder) you would
    > not
    > argue that the genes did it if a person with bi-polar did something
    > illegal
    > while in a manic state -- or even that the bi-polar disorder was
    > genetically
    > "caused," for that matter. The most that could probably be argued is there
    > was a genetic disposition to bi-polar disorder. And it would still be
    > another leap from that to specific behavior.>
            Fair point, well made.

            <I have two questions.
    > 1) Is there a way we can move away from this mechanistic, fatalistic
    > discussion of memes towards something that is more nuanced?>
            I don't think so at this point. These extremes are kind of like
    thought experiments, in which the limits of different interpretations of
    what memes are, are tested. Besides, isn't memetics an inherently
    mechanistic idea- the meme as a mechanism for cultural

            Another problem is that if we try and talk about less weighty
    behaviours (e.g. the trends for wearing baseball caps in various positions),
    there are those who accuse us of asking pointless questions (stuff for the
    Journal of Mundane Behaviour- which really exists BTW).

            Also, although it's partly an attempt to make memetic discussions
    "important" and "consequential", areas of extreme behaviour are useful for
    testing the limit of theories like evolutionary psychology and sociobiology
    that tend to natural selection originated answers to human behaviours. This
    is useful because not everyone buys ep/sb answers to human behaviour, and
    some seem to cause problems for these theories (celibacy for example). This
    may be the niche memetics inhabits.

    >2) Since isolated egregious incidents at best support conjecture,
    to what
    > extent has any of the conjecture on memes been operationalized and
    > tested?>
            Very good question.

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