RE: Durkheim redux

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Tue 19 Apr 2005 - 22:35:20 GMT

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    --- "Price, Ilfryn" <> wrote:

    > Kate wrote
    > >
    > I don't think it's off the topic: I'm pretty sure it
    > is a root to memes.
    > As you say, the capacity to represent, to carry
    > the idea from one
    > context to another, is crucial. I believe that
    > humans' (almost
    > certainly unique) ability to metarepresent - or in
    > other words to carry
    > the idea from one representational system to
    > another; to reflect on
    > *how* it is represented - is the key to memes
    > themselves. But there
    > seem to be degrees/types of representation, with
    > some creatures capable
    > of much simpler types than others, and I'm sure
    > there's a spectrum here.>
    > Yes, we can verbalise a greater range of sounds and
    > make artefacts - the naked, talking, tool making
    > ape. Those abilities may be
    > exaptions but they created an environment for
    > memetic replication not apparently matched elsewhere
    > in our planet's biosphere. The
    > rest is history (or pre history).
    So would you agree with Gould that our large, complex brain that itself was crafted by selection in ancestral environments may have some byproducts that in themselves are nonaptive and could be co-opted into various uses (perhaps as exaptions or as functional shifts)?

    If cultural changes themselves were a byproduct of a ccomplex brain with lots of architectural space to doodle with, maybe replication of cultural products or mentifacts could be one such nonaptive byproduct and thus make Blackmore's memetic drive hypothesis unnecessary? Here the brain would already be big and culture secondary a a result.

    Sorry for the hand-waving, but I'm just aproaching this at the "just so" level without anything handy to use as a good example. Due to Pinker/Chomsky language might be out as something that can be explained away by memes, but perhaps religion could be somewhere to look for answers. Gould would have kicked me, but if we could say that the EEA resulted in some serious modularity of the mind, these modules would have possible ways of being co-opted or might have nonaptive consequences. Gould looked to Freud for the idea that our large noggins resulted in our ancestors contemplating mortality and looking for stories to make the uncertainities of the world make sense. Gould would have kicked me for suggesting cultural
    "evolution", but perhaps here we can see the emergence of culture and certain mental and/or social level stuff strarting to accrete that might not have developed the ability to replicate in most instances, but maybe sometimes. I'm thinking of Dan Sperber and Maurice Bloch's arguments about transformation and re-creation as a case where replication doesn't apply. I think Sperber says that replication would be a special case when transformation nears zero.

    So all these ideas about mortality get passed around from generation to generation and myths get started, but anyone who has reat Bartlett's _Remembering_ realizes how stories can shift around when passed down the line. If there are innate schema that these stories can "attract" to, maybe these themes are less apt to be distorted (hero, wise old man, mothers, etc.)

    Or two cultures can converge upon a flood myth, like the stories of Noah and Gilgamesh, or was the latter borrowed by the tellers of the Noah story? Any place where people live along a river prone to flooding is going to incorporate floods into there mythology, just like they will objectify the sun and moon and animals. This convergence wouldn't be the evoked culture that ev psychers talk about, but only a matter of ecological convergence. Evoked culture might share similarities due to homologous mental structure
    (paging Dr. Jung) and elements of myths would reflect these slight innate tendencies. The differences in myth would be developed and transmitted within a culture via a combination of vertical, oblique, and horizontal means. Yet, transmission does not imply replication. Transmission is necessary but not sufficient for replication to occur. Looking to Sperber and Bloch, tranformation or recreation might be the norm and replication the exception.

    Sorry I must have misplaced my typically critical demeanor somewhere, maybe I dropped it next to the refrigerator.

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