Re: _Religion Explained_ by Pascal Boyer

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 04 Jun 2003 - 02:34:49 GMT

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    At 11:23 AM 03/06/03 -0700, Dace wrote:
    > > From: Keith Henson <>


    > > 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
    > > shape.
    >Hi Keith,
    >I'm trying to narrow the definition of "meme" so that it doesn't apply to
    >every piece of information that passes from one person to another.

    I don't see any reason you need to make such complications when there are obvious cases where information (like telling a person what time it is or where you are is not a meme since it is not persistent information.

    >no reason to invoke the concept of self-replication for most such

    You can make a difference if you want to between relatively passive and relatively active memes, i.e., ones that are replicated because they are useful (shoes) or novel (new songs, fads) and ones that induced their holders to go out and spread the cult meme.

    >Your approach flies in the face of standard social and
    >psychological analysis. Can you explain why decades of research are wrong?

    Please cite such studies. I am not aware of any that refute the concept of replicating cultural information.

    >I don't think either of us is in a position to do that, which is why I offer
    >a definition that doesn't conflict with established science.

    There is a *lot* going for simplicity. Your way of looking at memes is a lot more complicate than the way I look at them, in fact, my approach is the least complicated I know about.

    Keith Henson

    PS. Religion Explained is a really excellent book. I am most of the way through it. Religion is only a small part of it, the main focus is on how minds really work. Boyer is summing up many decades of most interesting work.

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