Re: _Religion Explained_ by Pascal Boyer

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Mon 02 Jun 2003 - 02:14:41 GMT

  • Next message: Malcolm Dean: "Re: memetics-digest V1 #1378"

    At 05:29 PM 01/06/03 -0700, you wrote:
    > > From: Gudmundur Ingi Markusson <>
    > >
    > > As Boyer is very interested in the transmission of concepts, esp.
    >religious concepts, his ideas are certainly relevant to memetics.
    >Nevertheless, note how he introduces memes only to dismiss them shortly
    >afterwards. He does that with reference to Dan Sperber, on not dissimilar
    >grounds as Sperber himself does in "Darwinizing Culture" (Aunger ed. 2000);
    >in brief, concepts are not replicated but recreated.
    > >
    > > gudmundur
    >To understand a concept is indeed to recreate it in our minds. This is how
    >ordinary discourse operates. You say something on your mind, and in the
    >process of understanding it, I recreate the concept in my mind. Memetics is
    >the study of those concepts (or behaviors, etc.) that *don't* depend on
    >understanding to jump from mind to mind.

    For the life of me can't see why you warp the extremely simple definition of a meme (element of culture, replicating information) into such a twisted shape.

    I don't mind a bit if you want to split up memes into sub classes some of which don't require understanding because that is certainly true. Take Jabberwocky as an example. Lots and lots of people learn the poem without having the slightest understanding of why they should shun The frumious Bandersnatch.

    Does that make Jaberwocky a meme where Sam Magee

    is not? Neither one of them is plausible.

    >If you're a Scientologist, you
    >believe L. Ron Hubbard is a deity, not because it's reasonable and you've
    >come to understand it, but because everyone you hang out with believes it,
    >and you swallow the concept whole, so to speak, rather than breaking it down
    >and reconstructing it according to reason.
    >There is a place for replication, but it's limited. We cannot claim that
    >all concepts are memes.

    Certainly not. Just the ones that are copied from mind to mind. Successful memes exist in a lot of minds.

    To give another example, some people understand the rule for multiplying by nine as multiplying by (10 - 1) Others just apply the rule of one less than the number being multiplied by nine and the sum of the two digits adding up to nine. Is this a meme in people who don't understand and not a meme in people who do understand why it works? In a person who does not understand the rule, and figures it out, is the method no longer a meme?

    Keith Henson

    =============================================================== 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 : Mon 02 Jun 2003 - 02:19:35 GMT