Re: meme as catalytic indexical

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 28 Jan 2004 - 15:02:26 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "RE: memetics/memics/mimetics"

    At 10:45 AM 27/01/04 -0800, Ted wrote:
    > > From: M Lissack <>
    > >
    > > Ted:
    > >
    > > Then what is it we should find?
    > >
    > > artefacts ala Dawkins 1976

    I don't see how Mike can make this case when Dawkins specifically mentioned songs as memes. How can you class a song as an artefact? (Artifact?)

    > > 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.

    A point worth repeating often. Thanks.

    The ability to learn particulate elements of culture such as how to chip rocks or make shoes is clearly adaptive. That this ability gets occasional hijacked by a suicide cult is no more surprising than that adaptive cellular replication machinery gets occasional hijacked by a virus.

    > > 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
    > > time
    >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

    Cut to the bone, replicating (cultural) information. (Aaron made a convincing case that "replicating" implies "self" since there had to be a previous instance to replicate.)

    >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.

    Absolutely. Because memes are replicating information and a class of memories you can state that a brain contains memes. You can also state that a book or other storage medium contains memes. (Though they have no influence until they are uploaded into a brain.)

    >As you can see from my comments below, Bruce's challenges can be met with a
    >traditional definition of meme.


    > > > 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.

    I differ with you on this last point. Google classes memetics thus:

    Science > Biology > Sociobiology > Memetics

    Biology is no less a hard science now than physics or chemistry. In fact, physics determines chemical bondings, and biology is ultimately based on chemistry (with a few buckets of evolution tossed in). (Evolutionary psychology is just a politically correct name for sociobiology.) *IF* you understood everything from the physics of quarks up to and beyond the mechanisms behind why men predictably space themselves out at a line of urinals, you could probably do predictive memetics (at least in a statistical way).

    But right now the problem is like trying to do predictions on computer viruses when the computers and operating systems are unknown black boxes.

    Which is why I think serious progress in evolutionary psychology is essential to making progress in memetics.

    Keith Henson

    PS. The critique of social "science" in The Adaptive Mind is devastating.

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