From: Dace (email@example.com)
Date: Tue 27 Jan 2004 - 18:45:45 GMT
> From: M Lissack <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Then what is it we should find?
> artefacts ala Dawkins 1976
> mind patterns ala Dawkins 1982
> representations of mind patterns?
If memes are real we should find pathological beliefs and behaviors, as well
as occasionally artifacts reflecting those beliefs. By this I don't mean to
sugest that memes are necessarily pathological. I focus on deviant trends
for the same reason neuroresearchers focus on brain diseases. Sometimes the
best way to study normal function is by examing dysfunctions.
> the problem I have with the whole discussion is that
> we have abused the word token meme such that it seems
> to mean whatever a user thinks is convenient at the
There's a certain flexibility to the term that makes it useful in addressing
issues related to mind and culture, not exactly the most cut-and-dry topics.
That it's flexible doesn't mean it's incoherent. Memes are self-replicating
units of cultural information and therefore subject to evolutionary
Ultimately, memes are nothing more than memories, but memories that
circulate and therefore become matters of cultural rather than merely
personal development. In circulating they replicate and evolve.
As you can see from my comments below, Bruce's challenges can be met with a
traditional definition of meme.
> - --- Dace <email@example.com> wrote:
> > > From: M Lissack <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > >
> > > Bruce's 3 Challenges:
> > >
> > > Challenge 1: A conclusive case study
> > One case study, no matter how convincing, is never
> > adequate. While there's
> > no definitive number of case studies that must be
> > established for a theory
> > to be convincing, it's a lot more than one.
> > > The purpose of this is to clearly demonstrate that
> > there is at least one
> > cultural
> > > process that is of an evolutionary nature, where
> > `evolutionary' is taken
> > in a
> > > narrow sense.
> > As I've stated, that cultures evolve is a perfectly
> > banal point that no one
> > disputes. The question is whether such evolution
> > proceeds according to a
> > process akin to natural selection of genes. Can
> > culture be regarded in
> > terms of autonomous units that are environmentally
> > selected?
> > > This needs to be robust against serious criticism.
> > In my opinion this
> > needs to
> > > achieve the following as a minimum.
> > >
> > >
> > > Exhibit a replicator mechanism - this needs to be
> > something physical and
> > not
> > > in the mind.
> > Since we are dealing with human culture, not nature,
> > this point is clearly
> > bogus. There's no such thing as "culture" without
> > mentality. Without a
> > human mind to interpret it, a painting is just so
> > many pigments and a song
> > just so many soundwaves. It's all in the mind,
> > folks. If you don't like
> > that, go to another field.
> > > The mechanism must provide a testable cause of the
> > claimed evolutionary
> > > process. It must faithfully replicate with a low
> > level of error or change
> > (although
> > > there must be some variation). There must be no
> > doubt that particular
> > > inheritable patterns have been accurately
> > replicated many times over.
> > This is no different, in principle, from perusing
> > the genetic and geological
> > record for speciation. Of course, such speciation
> > must be matched up with
> > the environmental context that caused it to proceed
> > in one direction and not
> > another.
> > [...]
> > > Challenge 2: A theoretical model for when it is
> > more appropriate to use a
> > > memetic model.
> > >
> > > What is needed is some (falsifiable) theory that
> > (under some specified
> > > conditions) tells us when a memetic analysis is
> > more helpful than a more
> > > traditional one. Such a theory would have to meet
> > the following criteria.
> > >
> > > It would have to make some sort of prediction of
> > when a memetic model was
> > > appropriate - i.e. it had explanatory or
> > predictive value - and when not.
> > In other
> > > words when it is helpful to model a pattern that
> > has been copied as a
> > self-
> > >interested meme.
> > If memes are real, then we will see cultural trends
> > taking on a life of
> > their own, even when they are harmful to human
> > interests. Since cultural
> > trends that are not harmful can be chalked up to
> > individuals simply
> > following their capacity to reason, the memetic
> > model is appropriate in
> > pathological cases only. That memes also promote
> > normal cultural
> > developments must be inferred from the pathological
> > cases.
> > Why, for instance, is there a growing international
> > movement dedicated to
> > eliminating vaccinations? We know that the
> > incidence of whooping cough, to
> > take a single example, declined considerably when
> > most children were
> > vaccinated, while in those countries in which
> > anti-vaccination hysteria took
> > hold, whooping cough rebounded to 19th century
> > levels. We also know that
> > only a minute fraction of children react negatively
> > to the vaccination,
> > nowhere near the number who would otherwise have
> > come down with his horrible
> > illness. It's one thing for a single person to be
> > irrational. It's quite
> > another when numerous people get drawn into the same
> > irrational belief. The
> > existence of such collective pathology tells us that
> > individual minds can be
> > colonized, so to speak, by a pathological meme.
> > From this we infer that our
> > minds are also colonized by benign memes.
> > > The theory would be workable on information that
> > was sometimes possible to
> > > obtain, i.e. not based on unobtainable information
> > (e.g. the composition
> > of
> > > mental states).
> > Such as hysteria? Again, there's no memetics
> > without considering mental
> > states. Nor would there be any such thing as a
> > genuine psychology (as
> > opposed to the fraudulent "psychology" of
> > behaviorism).
> > [...]
> > > Challenge 3: A simulation model showing the true
> > emergence of a memetic
> > > process
> > While modelling a process is valuable, it doesn't
> > prove anything (though the
> > inability to do so would be significant). So too,
> > the equations developed
> > to describe a model don't prove that the process is
> > literally determined by
> > those equations.
> > [...]
> > Like any other social science, the main thing is a
> > theory of what we should
> > find and then numerous case studies demonstrating
> > that we do indeed find it.
> > The central delusion of memetics is that it makes
> > the study of culture into
> > a "hard" science. Trying to do memetics like
> > physics will get us nowhere.
> > Ted
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed 28 Jan 2004 - 09:40:06 GMT