Re: Durkheim on historical origin versus current utility

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri 13 Feb 2004 - 12:30:12 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: what is a meme?"

    At 05:16 AM 13/02/04 -0800, you wrote:
    >"If the laws governing natural life are found also in
    >society, they are
    >found in different forms and with specific
    >characteristics which do not
    >permit conjecture by analogy and can only be
    >understood by direct
    >Durkheim understood what the majority of writers to
    >this list do not:

    We would have to poll this group to see if it is actually a majority. I sure hope not.

    >conjecture by analogy does not a
    >"law" make.

    I certainly agree with you here.

    >Analogy includes DIFFERENCE you point out
    >the similarities by analogy but by definition unless
    >the analogy is the same as "equal" there are
    >differences. Laws as such must take into account such
    >differences and therefore will be different "laws."

    Certainly in detail. Memes, genes and computer viruses are all members of the class "replicators." Thus they have some features in common such as increasing or decreasing over time and being subject to competition and selection in their "natural" environment.

    >Differences are not contained within the stated
    >analogy but must be observed.
    >The majority of those who post here seem to have a
    >naive belief that the analogy of meme=gene

    Before certain recent discussions I didn't believe there was even *one* person who thought that memes equal genes. If there are such persons now, I agree with you that "naive belief" is a good description.

    >and of
    >ideas spread via Darwinian evolution is a law.

    "Law" isn't the word I would use but it is probably close enough to "model" that I should not quibble.

    But Darwinian evolution is what happens when you have replicators with variation and selection. Selection simply means that some genes or memes become more common over time through processes we largely understand. Variation, whatever the origin--random noise, conscious choice--is what selection works on.

    The earliest memes for making simplest stone tools were replaced (over time) by memes for making more elaborate stone tools in a process that looks to me like an application of Darwinian selection acting on the memes.

    >WE need to move PAST the starting point folks. And we
    >need to stop trying to assert that the similarities of
    >an analogy override the differences.

    I would have no problem with listing the differences between classes of replicators. They are certainly obvious enough to me.

    But if you are objecting to applying variation and selection to memes, you must have a different model you want to apply. Could you use examples such as rock chipping memes and elaborate?

    Keith Henson

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