RE: Online Paper: "Ideas are Not Replicators but Minds Are" by Liane Gabora

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sat 18 Oct 2003 - 16:24:37 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Online Paper: "Ideas are Not Replicators but Minds Are" by Liane Gabora"

    At 10:00 AM 15/10/03 -0400, you wrote:
    >Thanks for posting this, Bruce.
    >Gabora misses the key point about meme. She says: "An idea is not a
    >replicator because it does not consist of coded self-assembly instructions."
    >To the contrary, ideas CAN have such instructions, and thus be
    >self-disseminating. Not all ideas do, and not all ideas are memes. But some
    >can and do, and to the extent that they have these instruction sets, they
    >are memes.

    Meme sets certainly can have "go preach me" as part of their content. But even ideas (memes) without explicit instructions to be copied are memes. Memes for making bags to carry food or memes for chipping out hand axes became part of the culture of early hominid culture because they were
    *useful.* I.e., those who had them were more likely to survive and teach such memes to their children. We can see the earliest stages of this in the varying cultures (technologies) of chimpanzee groups.

    To the extent any idea is passed between humans forming a persistent element of culture it is certainly a meme as defined by Dawkins and just as certainly a replicator. After culture (the meme stock of a group) because essential to survival, useless or even harmful memes could hijack the meme propagation channel and do well as parasites.

    By analogy, a *tiny* fraction of our genome is directly concerned with replicating DNA. In fact, well over 90% of it doesn't code for anything. Yet genes that are transcribed as well as chunks of DNA that don't are certainly "replicators." The difference is in evolutionary "loop closing." The bases pairs of a non coding piece of DNA drifts without the kind of selection you see in a gene such as the one that codes for cytochrome C--which has drifted very little in all the branches of life.

    >Further, I would not consider the mind a meme. I do view the 'mind' (defined
    >broadly!) as the place where memes are received, held, used, and modified,
    >and from where memes are disseminated.

    Since I make the case that the information is the essence of a meme, I would add that minds are the places where memes have real world influence. A meme is still a meme in a book, but it has to be in a mind for that mind to direct a body to go out and flay infidels.

    >But the mind itself, while integral
    >to the process of memetic dissemination, is not a meme.

    I agree.

    Keith Henson

    >Lawrence de Bivort
    >The Memetic Group

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