Re: Sue Blackmore lecture Wednesday 5.15pm London

From: William Benzon (
Date: Tue 18 Feb 2003 - 01:19:54 GMT

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

    on 2/17/03 7:23 PM, Keith Henson at wrote:


    > Memetics is really *very* simple. People have evolved to be good at
    > learning. Memes (replicated information) are a large part of what they
    > learn, clear back to the old stone age. Humans can't learn and pass on
    > every meme that comes along so memes are in competition for the limited
    > resource of human brains and time, thus setting up the conditions for
    > Darwinian differential selection.

    This is as empty as it is simple. Social learning theory has been around for a long time. Memetics has added nothing to that. The "differential selection" etc. language is just pro forma Darwinian boilerplate. It doesn't bring anything to the explanatory mix. That people can't and don't learn every learnable thing is hardly a new observation. This is no more than old wine in new bottles. The biological language just adds a pseudo-scientific gloss.

    > Particular memes become more or less common over time because some are
    > better at getting into new human minds. (Most memes are
    > helpful--ultimately to the genes of their host--but a few are pathological,
    > damaging or killing their hosts.) Memes vary (mutate, copy errors) and
    > because of variation and selection ones better suited to get into human
    > minds and be passed on further become more common and memes less good at
    > being passed on become less common over time.

    More empty boilerplate. You need to say why people prefer some memes over others. To simply say that some memes spread further because they're
    "better at getting into new human minds" doesn't say anything very helpful. That's as useful as saying that water runs down hill because it prefers being at the bottom of hills.

    Memetics is an intellectual strategy for avoiding the hard business of explaining why people have the preferences they do. Instead, you just lay it off on the memes. These magical memes have mystical properties that allow them to sneak into people's minds. It's the memes that do it. The minds are just empty vessels.\

    Bill Benzon

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue 18 Feb 2003 - 01:15:57 GMT