Re: what is a meme?

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Thu 29 Jan 2004 - 10:46:55 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Adapted Mind--where memetics fits in knowledge space"

    That (split) post took a long time to say that this is a hard problem. It also had some real howlers in it such as:

    > it is impossible to get an account of social
    > life by adding up the actions of individuals.

    This sort of thing makes clear why this area _should_ be left to biologists. The danger of argument by analogies is clear, but while we are finding our feet this isn't a problem. The argument about terms is just a frame for the argument about the nature of the beast we seek to understand.

    [And now the irresistable opining...] And btw memes don't 'move' -- a meme is an informational stucture which is _copied_ across, imperfectly, at the equivalent of the phenotypic level, followed by an attempt to fill in the encoding post-hoc -- a process akin in many ways to reverse engineering. This explains why people find that they think about / 'understand' the same thing in very different ways, especially when ideas are broken down in argument (or whatever).

    Anyway social science has little to offer at the level of explanation, what they do have is a wealth of extremely well-studied and classified phenomena. For example I loved the idea of functionalism (in a particular sense of the term) when I did some sociology -- a well characterised phenomenon, but no bottom-up explanation as such. The best sociology can hope for is to explain society the way old physicists
    (Boyle or Rayleigh for example)explained the behaviour of gases -- at the level of gross phenomena, with no recourse to molecules.

    I could revise the quote actually, to make the point:

    > it is _only possible_ to get an account of social
    > life by adding up the actions of individuals.

    Cheers, Chris.

      Chris Taylor (
      MIAPE Project --

    =============================================================== 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) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu 29 Jan 2004 - 10:59:04 GMT