Re: _Religion Explained_ by Pascal Boyer

From: Dace (
Date: Mon 09 Jun 2003 - 18:37:30 GMT

  • Next message: Richard Brodie: "RE: _Religion Explained_ by Pascal Boyer"

    > From: "Richard Brodie" <>
    > 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
    > to understand why some memes are selected and others are not, we must
    > 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
    > 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
    > cognitive scientist/philosopher who has written a prize-winning book on
    > consciousness. I called evolutionary psychology one of the four
    > of memetics and touched briefly on cognitive psychology.

    Thanks for the correction. Nonetheless, memetics has itself become a virulent meme according to which culture can be reduced to self-replicating particles without regard to human agency. This is certainly the view espoused by Blackmore, who refers to humans as nothing more than "meme machines."

    > 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
    > 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.

    This is the real value of memetics.


    > Richard Brodie

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