Re: Silent memes

From: Wade T. Smith (
Date: Tue 08 Jul 2003 - 14:25:05 GMT

  • Next message: Richard Brodie: "RE: Silent memes"

    On Tuesday, July 8, 2003, at 05:39 AM, Aaron wrote:

    > Yes, [the concept of a meme] is a little complicated. Hence, I also
    > define the term less formally as "a self-propagating idea." That gets
    > the gist of it across for those readers who are not looking for a
    > formal technical definition, and is the way I handled it in my book.

    Even as a layman, used and susceptible to familiarly offered images and expressions, the scene thus painted of an idea with legs and gonads or hermaphroditic contortions disturbed me. Something else is happening here, I said, in order to move ideas like logs in a river and get them downstream. Firstly, there's the damn stream. That's not self-propagating ideas at all....

    > When boys make sticks into gun-like weapons, they are still relying on
    > replicated inculcation and imitation of ideas about what guns are and
    > what they do. So there is at least some role of cultural inculcation
    > and imitation. Many girls and women over the past century have shown a
    > particular fascination with diamonds. This also must involve
    > considerable non-innate influences even if the whole phenomenon
    > depends on innate cravings for such things as food security, status,
    > mate loyalty, or mate providing abilities.

    It has been shown to be inordinately difficult if not impossible to define and delineate gender differences- certainly to reduce them to biological origins and vectors. That human development, and therefore gender identity, is tied hand and foot to cultural environment is also impossible to ignore, and yet impossible to fully explore. I know there aren't too many Pinker* fans here, but, hey, the guy has a point to make and it's a good one.

    Joe says-

    > However, the relationships between the ideas and their respective
    > environing cognitive gestalts would most likely be much more alike
    > than either the ideas or the cognitive environments taken alone
    > (simpliciter).

    This is another way of explaining the eliciting containment and maintainence conditions of the venue. This model does strive for simplicity, after all....

    And Vincent says-

    > it strikes me that there's a difference between skills that can be
    > conveyed as easily non-verbally as verbally (or indeed even better
    > non-verbally).

    I'm not convinced there are any skills that can be learned non-demonstratively. And I do mean even things that are _explained_ via speech or in text without demonstrational actions. (Kids like pictures....) And not only simply as observer- read as much as you like about riding a bike- once you actually get on one, you will still need to demonstrate to yourself that you know how to balance on it. (We do things to discover what we can do. That's the way the body works. Different every single damn time.) No matter how many times I read a recipe for making omelets, I never really knew how to do it (to do it again), until I watched Julia do her omelet show**. Did she 'transfer the meme of making omelets' to me? Or did I observe a performance, one using a skill set I could also manage, within a shared venue which enabled understanding, and then perform myself? Yeah, that one, that is what happened. Come on over for breakfast, I'll do it again.

    - Wade

    * page?res=9A06E4D71E38F930A25753C1A9649C8B63 - "Pinker is mindful that environmental infusion is necessary to activate or realize every biological trait. Evolution produces dispositions that expect, as it were, a certain range of experience. From the point of view of modern biology, this principle of gene-environment codependence has a perfectly pedestrian ring. What keeps the sides at war remains: With a given trait, how much can be attributed to genes and how much to environment? And is it even meaningful to attempt to answer this question? Pinker concedes that many experimental studies suggest a surprisingly plastic cerebral cortex, but he short-circuits the implications of this admission by relocating most hard wiring to the midbrain, from which basic emotional patterns stem. Yet one would have thought that the evolutionary acquisitions making us specifically human have a primary locus in the cortex -- high intelligence and language, for instance. Gene-environment interaction is dynamic, and the components only artificially separable. The experience that evoked Darwin's genius would merely have made Newton seasick. Genes count, but differently in different environments. Moreover, the brain's neural construction is far too complex to be genetically preplanned in any detail; so early experience and chance must sculpture the synaptic connections in the developing infant."

    ** "In 1961, the year Julia Child moved to Cambridge, she was scheduled to be interviewed on WGBH-TV about her cookbook. But Child had other plans, and she insisted on bringing eggs, a pan, a copper bowl, and a whisk. She wanted to show the world how to make a proper omelet -- the French way. That omelet was Child's TV debut. She would go on to become public television's first chef, and her show The French Chef would revolutionize how Americans cooked."

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