Re: reply to Benzon

From: William Benzon (
Date: Wed 28 May 2003 - 17:11:36 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Watches & Necklaces"

    on 5/28/03 11:47 AM, Richard Brodie at wrote:

    > Wow. It's as if he changed his mind halfway through writing the paper! His
    > conclusions don't seem to be at all in alignment with his abstract.
    > He doesn't like the word "replicator", although his description of memes is
    > closely in alignment with mine and Dennett's. He answers his own objection
    > to the use of the word "replicator" when he makes the point that even though
    > a whole story may never be copied from mind to mind with 100% fidelity, the
    > skeleton of the story is.

    Note that in my peculiar view of things a performance of a story is a cultural phenotype. I don't have a good handle on how to break down a story into constituent memes. The folklorists have a whole system of motifs that they've catalogued and identified and use in classification. Google names like Stith Thompson and Vladimir Propp and phases like "folk tale motif" and see if anything pops up.

    >He doesn't mention that there are many memes that
    > are copied with 100% fidelity frequently: people's names, for instance. Of
    > course, there are also frequent small copying errors in people's names and I
    > wager you could follow them toward a path of simplification that benefits
    > the meme. This would be an excellent memetics research project.

    Check out Zipf's law. One consequence seems to be that a words length is inversely proportional to its frequency of use. Common tend to be short, uncommon words can be quite long. As a word or phrase moves from the esoteric to the common it gets shorted.

    > His criticism of Blackmore's ridiculous insistence that imitation is the
    > only way to pass on memes is, of course, right on.

    Agreed. But imitation is very important.

    I think it's all up in the air on the academic front. But more people are thinking in selectionist terms about cultural evolution. I do think it's here to stay.


    William L. Benzon
    708 Jersey Avenue, Apt. 2A
    Jersey City, NJ 07302
    201 217-1010
    "You won't get a wild heroic ride to heaven on pretty little
    sounds."--George Ives
    Mind-Culture Coevolution: 
    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)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed 28 May 2003 - 17:16:24 GMT