From: Steven Thiele (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu 19 Feb 2004 - 23:29:14 GMT
The theoretical debate in biology about the importance of genes, organisms,
species or ecosystems is, for all practical purposes, largely irrelevant.
Biological life can be, and is, examined at all of these levels. If one
level is exaggerated over the others, then questionable notions arise - for
example, at the 'lower' level you get 'the selfish gene', at the higher
level you get 'gaia'. But mostly biologists just do what they do with
considerable success without paying attention to this exaggeration. Darwin,
after all, had a lot to say about species without knowing anything about genes.
But when it comes to understanding social life, this debate becomes
enormously important. First, the idea of memes derives, by analogy, from
one of the exaggerations (the selfish gene), and suffers massively from it.
Second, it is necessary to lay out the 'levels' that exist in social life,
such as individuals and social organisations. Memeticians would, obviously
enough, like to include memes. Some social theorists have suggested
'selves' and have argued that individuals have multiple selves. Others have argued for the existences of 'discourses', that is, ways of thinking liked to sets of practices.
Memeticians are so caught up in the idea of memes that they are like a
biologist who sees only genes (with the rest as phenotype and environment).
Of course, in recognition of this, some have suggested, for example, that
social insitutions are memes, but this is doubly deficient because it is
the result of an attempt to repair an irrepairable narrowness. The repair
just adds to the problem.
If anyone claims to be explaining social life, the first thing they need to
do is to lay out what they are trying to explain. What are the phenomena
that constitute social life? This requires both investigation and a long
conversation with sociology. To begin with the assumption that there are
memes and then to look around to see what it explains (and to turn a blind
eye to what it doesn't) is to approach matters back to front isn't it?
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 : Thu 19 Feb 2004 - 23:48:48 GMT