Re: Meme definition

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri 20 Jun 2003 - 04:53:41 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "RE: Meme definition"

    At 09:33 PM 19/06/03 -0400, Scott wrote:

    >>From: Chris Taylor <>


    >>Btw the consensus was, I thought, that memetics was diametrically opposed
    >>to the gene=behaviour evopsycho jocks?
    >Well there's gene-meme co-evolution. There may be ev-pychers and
    >sociobiologists who view memetics more favorably than others.

    I am frankly amazed at this view of the evolutionary psychology people when you can find in a few minutes research on Google that the same professors who teach one often teach both in the same course or have both as research interests.

    Memetics and Evolutionary Psychology (Week 3)

    Phil 708 -- Philosophical Psychology Topic: Meme Theory, Evolutionary Psychology, and Sociobiology

    Psychology 452, Evolutionary Psychology Dr. Mills CULTURE / MEMETICS
    [] Summary and Powerpoint Presentation Boyer, P. (2000). Evolutionary Psychology and Cultural Transmission. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(6), 987-1000. Review by Ashleigh Anderson, Susie Boersma and Timothy Devereaux. Fall, 2002.
    [] Summary of Best, M. L. (1999). How culture can guide evolution: An inquiry into gene/meme enhancement and opposition. Adaptive Behavior, 7(3/4), 289-306. Review by Amanda Garrett & Stacey Smith. Fall, 2002.

    Evolutionary psychology's explanation of culture If evolutionary psychologists depart from the assumption that human beings have a brain which consists of specialized modules from which the content of their behavior derives, how then do the evolutionary psychologists look at culture? They claim that they can explain culture.

    Culture is quite important in the eyes of evolutionary psychologists. Humans are the only species "that has an extra medium of design preservation and design communication" (Dennett, 1991, p. 338). Culture
    "can swamp many - but not all - of the earlier genetic pressures and processes that created it and still coexist with it" (ibid.). The way evolutionary psychologist try to deal with culture has two aspects. One follows directly from the line of argument that starts with a critique of the general purpose machine, the other is developed as an analogue to genes. In the latter case, culture traits are turned into 'memes' to which the concepts 'variation', 'replication' and 'fitness' apply equally well as in genetic theory. Ideas of people tend to survive by using the individual as a reproductive device; a replica is made, sometimes with some variation, and once the whole thing fits into a certain environment, the idea carries on (Blackmore, 1999). Such is true for crucial inventions, a piece of music, a moral imperative, playing chess, and material things we cannot do without anymore (Dawkins, 1989). Memetics, as the science of memes is called, tries to explain cultural patterns this way, and tries to come to grips with persistent behaviors and ideologies. Dennett (1991, p. 353 ff.) in his enthusiasm for memetics, has pointed out that memes are conceptually useful and interesting, because of the analogy with genes. 'Gene' as a concept for information, does its work, irrespective of how it is materialized. What is important is its syntax-like structure which can be read off in order to create functional organs. The same holds for memes. They carry information irrespective of how they are materialized. The individual is merely the vehicle by means of which memes replicate themselves. In memetics one wants to get rid of the acting person in the same way as in evolutionary psychology in general, where algorithms and macro's take over the role of a conscious agent in order to do away with metaphysical categories like 'mind' and 'god'. Memes as cultural traits are self-preserving, using the individual mind as bearer of the traits. Memes are responsible for the persistence of certain traits, even those that do not directly favor the group in which those traits spread themselves around.

    Evolution & Psychology PG 6952B Fall 2000 M & W 11:00 - 12:15 Professor: Dr. Peter Zachar

    Nov 20 Universal Darwinism?: The Science of Memetics

    I know (at least indirectly) a good number of the people in evolutionary psychology and associated areas and I can't think of one of them who is opposed to memetics, in fact, virtually all of them seem to think memetics is an important topic when evolutionary psychology is taught.

    There surely *are* genes that cause behaviors. "Waltzing" in mice was known to be a simple recessive gene over 50 years ago. Tourettes . . . .
    "It is genetically transmitted; parents having a 50% chance of passing the gene on to their children. Girls with the gene have a 70% chance of displaying symptoms, boys with the gene have a 99% chance of displaying symptoms."

    But with the exception of this class of movement disorders, I don't know of anyone in the evolutionary psychology area who thinks gene=behavior. Genes
    *do* shape psychological traits, motivating us to seek food and eat it when hungry, or the tendency social primates have to seek social rewards. But what you do to obtain social rewards varies from being a good hunter in a primitive society to being a rock star or a Noble Prize scientist in ours.

    Keith Henson

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