RE: transmission

From: Richard Brodie (
Date: Wed 14 May 2003 - 23:36:54 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T. Smith: "Re: transmission"

    Bill Benzon wrote:

    "dog" idea-in-the-head meme IS NOT being transmitted through the phone line. All that's transmitted is a sonic wave-form. If meaning were transmitted then the fact that Jill doesn't speak English shouldn't make any difference. She'd know what Jack was talking about as soon as she heard the sound.>>

    For that matter, a sonic waveform isn't being transmitted either. It depends upon the presence of a loudspeaker at the other end. And yet I have a picture of a dog in my head right now without a single telephone or waveform involved! What a paradox!

    <<Sometime relatively early in life the infant sees dogs while mommy or daddy or big sis or big bro says "dog." When this goes on long enough the infant learns that there is an association between the sound /dog/ and the animal. But that association is constructed in the infant's brain BY THE INFANT HERSELF. No one's doing it for her. No meaning is ever TRANSMITTED from anyone else to the infant. All that EVER happens is that words are uttered in contexts from which the infant makes inferences. And so it goes for word upon word upon word.>>

    If the parents said "giraffe" instead of "dog" each time (do you have a picture of a giraffe in your head?), would the infant still create an association with "dog"? No. The parents are transmitting the "dog" label by using their natural propensity (or perhaps conscious intention) to teach AND the natural ability of the child to learn.

    <<You're right. It's a technicality. But it's a technicality that FOREVER separates mentalist memetics from science. If you just want to talk informally about culture then, sure, by all means talk about memes-in-the-head. But if you want to do science, then you can't talk that way. And if that means that St. Richard Dawkins is talking nonsense, along with St. Daniel Dennett, then so be it. They're talking nonsense.>>

    Please say more about what the technicality is, because I don't understand your argument!

    Richard Brodie

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