Re: I know one when I see one

Date: Sat 26 Oct 2002 - 21:09:45 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: I know one when I see one"

    > > From: Bill Spight <>
    > >
    > > Dear Grant,
    > >
    > > > Would you say the term "couch potato" is an example of a meme that
    > > > propagated itself?
    > >
    > > It is a meme, but it does not propagate itself.
    > Then it's not a meme.
    > > Dawkins begins his definition of "meme" in "The Extended Phenotype"
    > > with, "A unit of cultural inheritance". In recent discussions I have
    > > assumed that that was a necessary part of any definition of "meme".
    > > (That seems not to be the case for everyone, however. ;-))
    > >
    > > I propose that "A unit of cultural inheritance" is also sufficient
    > > to define a meme, and thus, is an acceptable standard definition.
    > >
    > > We may argue about exactly what and what kind of thing such a unit
    > > is, but I think that it is a good idea to separate the ontology
    > > debate from the question of definition. We may agree upon a
    > > definition of "unicorn" without agreeing about the ontology of
    > > unicorns.
    > >
    > > BTW, Dawkins defines "gene" simply as "a unit of heredity". Short,
    > > sweet, and sufficient. :-) No need to go into DNA, information,
    > > mutation rate, or anything else. KISS (Keep it simple, sister).
    > Dawkins is a reductionist. He regards the gene as the central actor
    > of evolution, while the body is merely its mechanism of
    > self-replication. In the case of memes, our minds provide the
    > mechanism of self-replication. Memetics is a hypothesis that culture
    > can be reduced to its "atomic" structure, that the indivisible unit of
    > culture, and not human consciousness, is what provides its guiding
    > principle. This unavoidably endows memes with self-nature, as they
    > use us for their own propagation. To deny the "selfish" nature of
    > memes is to abandon memetics. "Meme" would cease to have a unique
    > meaning and could just as easily be replaced with "word, habit, tune,"
    > etc. The question of memetics is the question of whether these
    > elements of culture carry their own momentum, their own drive to
    > reproduce. If not, memetics is finished.
    > The alternative to standard memetics is to accept the "selfish" nature
    > of memes without necessarily reducing culture to it. We can regard
    > culture as a two-track process, involving human consciousness and its
    > choices as well as the memes that seek to influence those choices.
    > This treats memes in regard to culture exactly the way Walter Elsasser
    > treats genes in regard to species. (See *Reflections on a Theory of
    > Organisms*). Genes provide information required for cellular
    > functions but can't account for the general morphology of the species,
    > which is propagated holistically. Same for memes and the general
    > characteristics of culture. While we can accept this as a variant
    > hypothesis, the theory that does away with "selfishness" altogether
    > ceases to be memetics.
    > > 3) "Unit" means a single thing. It also suggests indivisibility. To
    > > say that a meme is a unit can be faulted on both counts.
    > It's the self-nature of the meme that makes it singular, i.e.
    > indivisible.
    > > Definition is not the end of discussion, it is the beginning. :-)
    > Agreed!
    > Ted
    Prions are alternatively folded proteins (kinda like Vonnegut's ice-9) that cause proteins like them to fold in the same manner when they come into physical contact. This is a completely molecular/chemical reaction that does not involve or entail volition or purpose on the part of the prion. Also, viruses cause a cell to reproduce them rather than itself when they hijack its replicative processes, but no one could reasonably accuse viruses of possessing either awareness or selfishness (which requires self-awareness). The same goes for the cybermechanical replication of computer viruses; no one could reasonably claim that they are consciously self-aware. Likewise, memetic structures that, when they come into communicate contact with an embodied human consciousness, could result in that embodied human consciousness to engage in a behavior that would replicate them in the consciousnesses of other embodied humans could have itself blindly evolved and not required volition or 'selfishness' on the part of the memetic structure.
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