Mutation in an evolutionary hypothesis

From: Rodrigo da Silva Guerra (
Date: Tue 12 Oct 2004 - 15:57:58 GMT

  • Next message: Paul S Prueitt: "RE: Mutation in an evolutionary hypothesis"

    I recently started getting in touch with memetic related papers so maybe I am already late in the discussion of topics of some 6 years ago. Nevertheless, I would appreciate to share some opinions with people more used to the subject. The main reason I started reading about memetics was my search for missing aspects on the synthetic approach of developmental robotics towards the understanding of human intelligence.
      One of the first things which happened to draw my attention was Ms. Blackmore firm persistence on her claim that one should consider "true imitation" (not emulation) alone as the only memetic process, excluding all other kinds of social learning. I read some replies of authors from different backgrounds convictively arguing that any social learning should be accounted for memetics because of the presence of the basic principles of a selection process
    (replication, mutation, selection).
      From my point of view it really seems to be the case that those so beautiful and illustrative examples of the birds pecking bottles, and others may happen to take some advantage of the memetic evolutionary approach. I realized those authors who defend these social learning as a selection process argue that the replication is not in the motor pattern itself but on the specific rising of new behaviors in different context. For instance, as some argue, one should not account for the "birds pecking" itself but for the "bird pecking bottles" as the replicated meme, maybe to be considered as a mutation of standard
    "birds pecking trees".
      But it also happens for me to agree with most of Ms. Blackmore arguments, which for some reason lead me to question about one important aspect that seems to be of crucial importance on the effectiveness of any evolutionary system: mutation. I am not a biologist but it seems quite obvious for me that the power of an evolutionary process somehow lies on its capacity of building increasingly complex structures by the continuous improvement of replicas evolved through selection. My questions are: Where does it lie the mutation aspects of, let's say, "birds pecking bottles"? In which sense is it really possible for such a "meme" to "evolve"?
      From my understanding it seems that memetics approach is powerful for accounting for the population level phenomena of the spread of new behaviors such as "birds pecking bottles", but these behaviors still seem to be more close to genetic selection processes than for memetic processes. I'm very new to the subject of memetics, and I cannot make a sharp division here (if there is such), but isn't human memes evolution quite a different process?
      Regards, Rodrigo da Silva Guerra
      The memetics references I mainly studied up to now were:
    @Book{Dawkins:76, author = "Richard Dawkins", title = "The Selfish Gene", publisher = "Oxford University Press", year = "1976",
    @Article{Gabora:96, author = "Liane Gabora", title = "A Day in the Life of a Meme", journal = "Philosophica", year = "1996", number = "57", pages = "901-938",
    @Article{Blackmore:98, author = "Susan Blackmore", title = "Imitation and the definition of a meme", journal = "Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission", year = "1998", volume = "2", number = "2", pages = "159-170", month = "December",
    @Article{Reader:99, author = "Simon M. Reader and Kevin N. Laland", title = "Do Animals Have Memes?", journal = "Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission", year = "1999", volume = "3", number = "2", pages = "100-108",

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