From: William Benzon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu 17 Oct 2002 - 14:51:51 GMT
Human Nature Review 2002 Volume 2: 454-462 ( 17 October ) URL of this
Colorless Green Homunculi by William L. Benzon
The Electric Meme: A New Theory of How We Think by Robert Aunger The Free
Press, 2002. ISBN: 0743201507
Though he wasn't the first to propose that culture evolves by a Darwinian
mechanism-F. T. Cloak (1973) was earlier-the idea has been associated with
Richard Dawkins ever since he coined the term "meme" in The Selfish Gene. As
genes are the fundamental replicating units of biological evolution, so
memes are the replicators of cultural evolution. In Dawkins' words (p. 192):
Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of
making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the
gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes
propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a
process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.
Dawkins had little to say about just where one might look in the brain to
find memes and other memeticists have been content to follow him in that.
Robert Aunger, an anthropologist at the University of Cambridge, believes
that it is time memeticists end their agnosticism on this matter. To that
purpose he has written The Electric Meme.
It is best viewed as two books. One book is comprised of the first six
chapters, which are preparatory in nature, reviewing the current state of
memetics, alternative analyses of human cultural evolution, types of
replicator (DNA, prions, computer viruses), and the physical nature of
information. This book is competent, interesting, and thought provoking.
The second book sets forth Aunger's new theory of neuromemetics. It differs
from the first as night from day. For reasons that I cannot fathom, when
Aunger begins constructing his neural model he sheds the discipline of Dr.
Jekyll in favor of the random muttering of Mr. Hyde. This second book is a
failure. Aunger's ideas are vague, incoherent, and contradictory. Trying to
infuse his phrases and sentences with meaning made me feel like Hercules
fighting the many-headed Hydra. Every time Hercules cut one head off, two or
three others sprung up to replace it. Every time I've tried to patch one of
Aunger's coherence-leaks I've had to entertain a handful of improbable
assertions to make the one patch plausible. I cannot recommend this second
book to anyone for any purpose.
Full text http://human-nature.com/nibbs/02/benzon.html The Electric Meme: A
New Theory of How We Think http://human-nature.com/r/aunger.htm Beethoven's
Anvil: Music In Mind And Culture by William L. Benzon
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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