Re: meme as catalytic indexical

From: M Lissack (
Date: Thu 22 Jan 2004 - 06:54:42 GMT

  • Next message: M Lissack: "Re: meme as catalytic indexical"

    where is the question in this question?
      all you have said is that racism exists and has existed
      how has it "propogated'? what is the mechanism of that propogation?

    is your explanation of mechanism testable? or even disprovable?
      f you have no mechanism or if your mechanism is not disprovable then all you have is tautology

    Dace <> wrote:
    > From: M Lissack

    > Ted:
    > Questions of cause and prediction are shifted from the memes to the
    environmental niches of which they are a semiotic sign. There exists a huge literature on causation and prediction regrading environmental interactions at the level of niches and agents. The shift to meme as catalytic indexical means we not only look to the environmental niche but also to the functionality of the meme as a catalyst and to its carrying capacity as an indexical. Both carrying capacity and catalytic fuction can be studied and statistically examined. Replication and resilience become characterizations of the environmental niche not of the meme. The environmental niche embodies a much richer set of variables than does the meme. Thus, we can look at resources, energy flow, constraints, external and internal pressures, life and death cycles and rates, competition, cooperation etc.

    Are you saying that we should look for causation and prediction in environmental niches because there's already a vast literature on the subject that can be mined for useful nuggets? Sounds like the guy who lost his keys in the road but is looking for them on the sidewalk because that's where all the light is. What if, despite how promising the sidewalk is, the keys just aren't there?

    Perhaps your thesis would be more clear if we approached the question with a specific example in mind. Here's an example of a meme I came upon a few days ago:

    It's widely believed among white Americans that racial minorities often have children at a young age because they're sexually unrestrained and therefore
    "immoral." In fact, it's advantageous to a black woman in the ghetto to reproduce at a young age-- even as a teenager-- because she's still got a support network in her family to help raise the child. In other words, there's a simple economic explanation as to why poor minorities reproduce at a young age. But many white Americans resist an explanation that doesn't confer a sense of superiority to them. White racism is a meme that has long held a niche in the mental "environment" of many Americans. It propagates from one generation to the next by exploiting the unconscious desire to feel superior to others. It has adapted to changing social conditions by becoming more subtle, less obvious, but otherwise still the same old racism.

    How would you approach such an example with your semiotic method?


    > Dace wrote:
    > M. Lissack,
    > > the question is do memes replicate or are they the semiotic sign of
    > > something else that replicates?
    > > if they do not directly replicate then we can instead consider their
    role as
    > > catalysts which effect the success, resilience, and replication of the
    > > of which the memes are semiotic signs
    > > memes as replicators has been a marvelous way to talk about memes but
    > > not a useful approach for research or prediction (thus Bruce's three
    > > challenges)
    > > if memetics can meet Bruce's challenges without a redefinition great --
    i do
    > > not believe it can and so have offered an alternative
    > Can you explain how substituting memes-as-replicators with memes-as-signs
    > of replicators enables causal explanation and prediction?
    > I've read the article, and it's just not clear to me.
    > Thanks.
    > Ted Dace

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