From: Dace (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat 31 Jan 2004 - 22:06:40 GMT
> From: Keith Henson <email@example.com>
> At 09:31 PM 30/01/04 -0500, jeremy wrote:
> > Lashley's (1950)
> >thirty-year research agenda suggests that memes cannot be "a [distinct]
> >in the brain". Lashley found that the brain is a learning machine, with
> >areas acting as worthy substitutes for any other area; lesions reduce
> >in proportional amounts (i.e., more destruction of brain, greater
> >complexity of
> >task --> more disruption).
> I am familiar with this work. It does not present any problems for memes
> being patterns, even distinct patterns in the brain. I could use
> as an example, or better, Stego. A friend of mine, Romano Mochado, wrote
> this program which distributes the bits of a message into the lowest bits
> of a large graphic image. The fact that you can't see a text file
> distributed into the low bits of an image does not prevent it from being
> Same way with memories or learning. They certainly are distributed widely
> in the brain. There is also no doubt whatsoever that they are there.
An idea, whether remembered or just now learned, cannot exist in physical
form. The problem is that atoms and molecules, no matter how they're
arranged, consist only of themselves. The rule for matter is simple: A = A.
Ideas, on the other hand, involve "symbol" or "sign" or "representation."
The rule for representation is quite different: A = B.
You will never get a set of atoms, regardless of how complex the pattern
into which they're arranged, to represent another set of atoms. The pattern
of atoms is simply itself, nothing more, nothing less. This is the cruel
lesson of physics, and there are no exceptions.
We apply our naturalistic understanding to the farthest-flung reaches of the
universe, but when it comes to the contents of our own heads, we toss out
everything we know, finding in brains a mystical property that exempts them
from otherwise ironclad rules. Everywhere else A = A. But peer inside the
skull, and suddenly A = B.
When we look at ourselves from the external point of view-- the way a
chemist would examine us-- we find no ideas and no memes, only atoms and
chemicals arranged in patterns. It's only when we reflect on ourselves
directly, from our own point of view, that we find minds and ideas and
What gets us into trouble is our linguistic-based tendency to posit separate
identities for "mind" and "brain." We think we're dealing with two things
here, one of which is necessarily illusory and therefore reducible to the
other. In fact, neither is reducible to the other because there's only one
thing to begin with. "Brain" is "mind" from the external point of view,
while "mind" is "brain" from the internal point of view.
Memetics requires the internal point of view and cannot ever be reconciled
with a strictly external, physicalist understanding. It will never be a
"hard" science in the sense of physics and chemistry. Its role as a social science is to help clarify the mechanics of cultural evolution.
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