Re: Shakers

From: Alan Patrick (
Date: Tue Apr 30 2002 - 12:15:25 BST

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    Subject: Re: Shakers
    Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 07:15:25 -0400
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    > but I would be surprised if some
    > Shaker memes are not alive and well. Voluntary simplicity has many
    > adherents today, and may stem, in part, from the Shakers.

    I think Shakers provide a crunch issue for memetics, viz:

    i) They did not replicate genetically, and unlike other similar faiths that
    did have sex (on their chairs or elsewhere, eg Amish), were unable to
    transmit their memes down the years to make new Shakers. This clearly puts
    an interesting block on the arguments about free-flow of memes apart from

    ii) I think it is dangerous to argue that their memes are in their
    furniture, as simple rustic furniture like theirs can be found in pretty
    much any contemporary colonial society and rustic Europe, so its a fairly
    common meme-component of the period, and has not in itself generated more

    iii) Despite all the sub-memes still being available, eg the continual
    adoption of the simple furniture meme (eg IKEA) and the continual upwelling
    of the simplicity/frugality meme in various belief groups, and many "back to
    basics" Christian movevments since then, there have been no outbreaks of
    "new Shakerdom". (Discounting the take-off in Cold Comfort Farm)

    More likely to me is the argument that Shakerdom was the collection of a
    bunch of these memes common at the time into a complex meme-set, but the
    inability to transmit them genetically (ie to their children) led to the
    meme-set unravelling back into its constituent parts.

    To me therefore comes the interesting question - to transmit a complex
    meme-set, does one need a genetic component, or is it a long gestation time
    that is needed that for eg the bringing up of a child provides.

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