Re: FW: [evol-psych] Critique of Memetics

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Thu 17 Oct 2002 - 15:40:57 GMT

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    >Subject: Re: FW: [evol-psych] Critique of Memetics
    >Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2002 13:29:26 +0100
    >Many people still don't get it. There is no 'us' - just a meme ecology;
    >there is no god, just self-organising life. Governments emerge from
    >societies - the are not written in. All the same thing.
    >>>The human brain is extremely costly to maintain, requiring a goodly
    >>>fraction of our caloric intake, and its size required a reorganization of
    >>>human birth canal and an extended infancy. The brain must have served
    >>>important evolutionary purpose, and could not simply be the repository
    >Duh. Of course it's a meme repository - my old supervisor modelled a
    >society where people blindly learned memes (equal prob good or bad) and
    >showed the existence of a selective force to increase meme learning power,
    >because the good ideas always became associated with learning genes (same
    >as classical linkage disequilibrium), so more learning equals more good
    >memes (given enough time). Just look at the world (not us we're too complex
    >to study easily although I would posit that we're no different) - the
    >chimps learning to termite fish etc etc etc etc.
    >Your pejorative use of the word repository implies we're doing memes a
    >favour by providing meadows for them to frolic in. Nope. That's like saying
    >I exist to grow bacteria - I undoubtedly do support many bacteria in/on my
    >body, some are bad, most are good (surface defence, vitamin garnering and
    >so on). It's a complex relationship but I am not just some magnanimous
    >host. You're right the brain is bloody expensive, but it is not 'just a
    >repository' it is the organ that allows the most beneficial mutualistic
    >relationship between replicating pattern entities on the planet (into orbit
    >- beat that).
    >>>Memes are for the most part chosen by people
    >THERE IS NO 'US'. Get used to it Descartes-fan. Let go and savour the
    >garden of memes growing wild in your head while you contemplate the
    >illusion of self. The 'choice' is that made by an ecosystem which (blindly)
    >favours some additions and resists others (and not just because of direct
    >niche competition).
    >I am unashamedly a meme absolutist. I don't know what 'I' am and I don't
    >know why 'it' feels like this, but I don't see my lack of understanding as
    >a reason to throw these ideas out in favour of some para-Cartesian
    >dualistic guy-in-my-head-looking-out-and-pulling-levers nonsense.

    Did you choose the words you used to write the paragraphs above, or did they and society choose you as a medium for their expression? Do you as an individual not have any thoughts of your own? If the rest of society i doing all of your thinking for you, why do you need to think at all? You could just kick back and let the mass brain of society pull your strings and guide your thoughts.

    I can see lots of problems with the idea of memes doing more than being accepted or rejected by the culture they are part of. You don't choose the bacteria that inhabit your gut, nor do they choose you. But you do make decisions about what you say and do based on what you consider your interests. It is through these words and actions that you pass any memes you carry from yourself to other members of your culture. You may feel like there is no "you" but it was an individual who typed those words above into a computer and that individuality is as much a part of you as the social structure to which you belong.

    Decisions you make have consequences that affect you as a person. If you don't pay your rent, you get kicked out of your house. If you don't pay the eletric bill, you live in darkness for a while. Society doesn't make those decisions for you. They just provide the consequences you experience afterward. We have to choose the behaviors that society offers us for the most part because we can't spend all of our time reinventing the wheel. But every once in a while you invent a new gadget or idea that other members of society like and adopt and this adds to the options available to the rest of us. That is what I refer to when I use the term "meme."

    My meme may not be your meme because we use the word to mean different things. However, the cross-polination that takes place on this forum will eventually produce a meme we can all agree on. That, at least, is why I choose to participate. I feel I'm helping to build a consensus. I also feel I am an individual as well as a part of that social organism we call society. I think we are both rather than one or the other. The individual part is "me" and the social strata to which I belong is "us." We both exist because I can point and say "This is me and that is us." And what I point to has form and substance.



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