From: Chris Taylor (Christopher.Taylor@man.ac.uk)
Date: Fri 20 Jun 2003 - 22:10:04 GMT
Wow thanks for the time that went into that one :)
> Then again, pranks lead us places. Lessons learned.
Yeah, folklorists precede philosophers who precede alchemists who
precede scientists. We're (I like to think) at least between the first
I got what you're saying anyway, especially the eureka stuff, but
reather than respond up there, I thought the questions would be a more
> There is a very good article at
> http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~mnkylab/lecture.pdf that I refer to often.
> Let me let it ask a few questions-
> - Can something without physicality be a unit of replication?
Well lots of energy patterns can be replicated with only minimal
physical effects - is that near enough?
> - What are questions that a science of memetics would try to answer, and
> what are competing theories that try to answer the same question
> memetics purports to answer?
I'd say everything up to and incuding the biggie: Who the hell am 'I'?
As for the competition, apart from the evopsychos (ach, ptth) you'd have
to ask someone competent. I'm bare brained in here, except for a load of
> - What is the practical value of pursuing such a science (regardless of
> whether it turns out that memes are a metaphor, are an actual something,
> or that it can’t be established which is true).
Memes, unless redefined, are a creaking metaphor. But as with evolution,
you use shorthand a lot of the time (which is why we keep getting hoist
by some lazy gits petard). If a meme can be 'any persisting pattern of
neural activity that is not innate' for example, that's something I can
use. And yes lots of animals would have them then. And, it would take a
bloody clever structure to support enough layers of them (like java
rests on C rests on assembler rests on machine code rests on chip
instructions) to 'run' a human mind, capabale (most amazingly of all I
think) of replicating other human minds. If your machine is slightly
faulty, you slide down the scale and can no longer simulate other humans
as well, resulting in fear of their unpredictability, and innapropriate
behaviour through mis/nonreading of cues, but would have *enourmous*
processing power freed up to do mundane tasks stupefyingly well (like
calculate the day of the week in the middle ages or count spilled
matches or fatorise eight digit numbers in real time). Yep that's how I
see the Asperger's spectrum, and why it is a spectrum. This is the kind
of benefit I see - recasting problems to allow us to get a better
understanding. No satellites without quantum theory replacing Newtonian,
although Isaac's stuff works fine for most applications. Memetics can
pick this stuff apart properly, so we can deal with problems of the mind
and culture appropriately.
> - Can memetics be a science--does it present testable hypotheses?
Yeah course, you just have to think a bit, but cos you can't cut these
things up in front of a camera, it requires a rather more special
performance, and as Ted has so heriocally proven, you can )almost)
always say bollocks to it.
> - Do memes challenge the notion that culture is ultimately constrained
> by genetic factors?
Oh yeah. No closure here. We can't predict how intricate is this fractal.
> - Is the explanation of behavior that has no obvious evolutionary
Wrong unit of selection. The meme is the unit of selection, and that
selection is applied *only* within the mind in which it lives.
which relies on memes more satisfying than one that considers
> such behaviors to be a byproduct of evolution?
Yeah cos they ain't byproducts. In fact they can drive biological
evolution (look at the health trends medicine has produced).
Are attempts to look for
> an evolutionary explanation for all behaviors worthwhile? Can't some
> behaviors (even very complex ones) be spandrels?
No that is the most pernicious red herring ever propogated by that very
mixed bag of a man SJG. I'm with Dennet on Gould.
> - What is the relationship between memes and consciousness?
Same as that between the worms and tony blair. Just don't ask me why it
'feels'. I'm waiting for insight from somewhere (and god did I take a lot of acid trying to look). It's a bit like asking 'where' *everything*
Nice one Wade :)
Chris Taylor (email@example.com)
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