Re: Sue Blackmore lecture Wednesday 5.15pm London

From: William Benzon (
Date: Sun 16 Feb 2003 - 21:05:32 GMT

  • Next message: Jon Gilbert: "Re: Sue Blackmore lecture Wednesday 5.15pm London"

    on 2/16/03 1:21 PM, Keith Henson at wrote:

    > snip
    >> It is my belief that memes aren't capable of "trying" to do anything. It
    >> is the man who keeps them in his head who does the trying
    > You are correct in the direct sense. At the root of it, memes are just
    > abstract information. The reason people such as Dawkins started using the
    > "language of purpose" was to avoid having to spell out each time that genes
    > (or memes) could cause those animals who contained them to do things which
    > made the gene (or meme) more common in the "next generation." The *effect*
    > of this Darwinian selection loop gave rise to a metaphorical "viewpoint" of
    > "selfish" genes (or memes) which--from this viewpoint--seem to be
    > "striving" to become more common. A gene or meme can be no more "selfish"
    > than a rock. The shorthand "language of purpose" is a really useful
    > shorthand thinking tool in evolutionary biology, but there was never any
    > intent for it to be taken literally.

    The problem is that, in the case of genes, a fuller explanation is readily available to anyone who wants to dig it out of the literature. That's not the case with these self-propelled memebots. As far as I can tell no one who talks about memes in this sense can actually give a fuller exposition that is grounded in psychology and neuropsychology. There is no intelligible neural account of memes. In the case of memes the shorthand
    "language of purpose" as you call it is the only language these folks have. They can't spell out the real mechanisms in full because they don't know what they are.

    As far as I'm concerned, that means that that language is bogus, based on little more than blind faith in Darwinian metaphor. It's not a tool for thoughtful analysis, it's a substitute for such analysis.

    Bill Benzon

    William L. Benzon, Ph. D.
    708 Jersey Avenue, Apt. 2A
    Jersey City, NJ 07302
    201 217-1010
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