Re: Mini case study of memetic mutation

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sat 09 Nov 2002 - 16:30:36 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Mini case study of memetic mutation"

    At 11:13 PM 06/11/02 -0800, Bill Spight <> wrote:
    >Dear Richard,
    > > <<Note that this memetic evolution is entirely in terms of expressions.
    > > <smile>, <s>, and :-) all mean the same thing. This means that memes are
    > > *not* ideas, at least not all memes. The idea stayed the same while the
    > > expression evolved. Those favoring internal memes need to account for
    > > such change.>>
    > >
    > > I'm not sure I get your point here, Bill. How does the fact that "<smile>,
    > > <s>, and :-) all mean the same thing" lead to the conclusion that not all
    > > memes are ideas? Are you saying that ideas are not involved in my choosing
    > > how I express myself?
    > >
    >Ideas may be involved in how we express ourselves, and, in general,
    >alternatives differ in both denotation and connotation. But ideas are
    >general and abstract. (The OED gives some senses of "idea" that would, I
    >think, apply to expressions per se, but they are obsolete.) In this case
    >we have three different expressions of the same idea. They were in
    >direct competition, and that is why, I think, one scored a clear
    >victory. That process of variation and selection did not occur on the
    >level of ideas, but it was still the variation and selection of memes.
    >Phonemes are even clearer examples of memes that are not ideas. Welsh
    >LL, which is pronounced like HL with the tongue in the L position when
    >the H is made, has two descendents in English, FL and L, as in Floyd and
    >If you restrict memes to ideas you leave out a good bit of culture.

    I have used the infectiousness of certain speech cluttering phrases such as
    "you know" and "fact of the matter" as examples of infectious behaviors. As you point out here, they are memes that just don't make the grade as ideas.

    Most ideas are also memes, but you can have an idea that you don't communicate. The idea then fails a main test of being a meme (replication) though it may be a potential meme. (Until the holder dies, it could be replicated.)

    I like these corner cases. They make nice examples of how far the meme concept can go and where it should be cut off.

    Keith Henson

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