RE: _Religion Explained_ by Pascal Boyer

From: Richard Brodie (
Date: Sat 07 Jun 2003 - 00:58:13 GMT

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    Dace wrote:

    <<Memetics began as a way of avoiding social and cognitive psychology by simply reducing culture to its particulate elements-- memes. Cultural evolution, rather than being a product of human intelligence, results from the Darwinian competition of memes to replicate. The irony is that in order to understand why some memes are selected and others are not, we must study precisely the cognitive factors that Dawkins hoped to avoid. Of course, Polichak's critique is nearly five years old now, and the field may have matured in that time. Aunger appears to be interested in cognitive factors, and I'm glad to hear that Boyer is as well.>>

    You are simply misinformed if you think any of the pioneers of memetics sought to avoid cognitive factors. Dawkins simply popularized the term to indicate the possibility of a non-genetic Darwinian process and has never been too interested in the details -- this from his own mouth. Dennett is a cognitive scientist/philosopher who has written a prize-winning book on consciousness. I called evolutionary psychology one of the four cornerstones of memetics and touched briefly on cognitive psychology.

    However, as Keith said, much interesting understanding can come without knowing the details of the brain's workings.

    <<When it comes to standard discourse, it's humans beings, not the information they exchange, that have agency.>>

    Science is a cornucopia of models, each useful for some purposes and not for others. We all know it's usually useful to look at human beings as having agency. The surprise is that it's sometimes useful to look at memes that way.

    Richard Brodie

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