From: Dace (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun 27 Oct 2002 - 17:47:00 GMT
> From: email@example.com
> > 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.
> > Ted
> 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
Viruses are a perfect example of selfishness in the Dawkinsian sense. Genes
don't require self-awareness to be "selfish."
> From: Bill Spight <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Dear Ted,
> > 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.
> No, it's not. Dawkins and others are clear that memes are not
> indivisible. Nor do they raise the meme to the level of a guiding
> principle, although they may find some guiding principles to be memes.
> > "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.
I don't appreciate this. Your comment reveals hostility. Where is this
hostility coming from?
You badly misunderstand memetics. Without "selfishness," in the sense of
"selfish gene," the whole idea is shot. If memes are just ideas or catch-phrases or tunes or habitual behaviors (like wearing a baseball cap backwards), then we don't need to refer to them as memes. Unless they're self-replicating, we can just as easily refer to them with the same terms we've always used. It's their self-replication that marks them off as the cultural equivalent of genes.
> Ted, I am not going to read any more of your note. You need to find out
> what you are talking about. Do some study.
Here's the passage you failed to read. This time read it and read it
The alternative to standard memetics is to accept the "selfish" nature of memes without necessarily reducing culture to them. 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.
The point, Bill, is that memes are analogous to genes. Unless you're
willing to argue for an interpretation of the role of genes that differs
from standard reductionism, you must stick to the view that culture (and its
evolution) is reducible to memes in the same way that species (and their
evolution) are reducible to genes. Otherwise it's not memetics.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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