Re: Aunger vs. Pinker on Galton

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Thu 21 Apr 2005 - 02:15:30 GMT

  • Next message: John Wilkins: "Re: Aunger vs. Pinker on Galton"

    --- Bill Spight <> wrote:

    > Dear Bill,
    > > Aunger's first half-dozon or so chapters are
    > pretty good. But his neural
    > > memetics is gibberish. It's embarrassing to read
    > it.
    > >
    > One of the joys of memetics is its interdisciplinary
    > character. It
    > really lies at the intersection of quite a number of
    > fields. :-) But
    > that is also a source of difficulty.
    > One thing that attracted me to Aunger is the fact
    > that he is an
    > anthropologist. Since anthropologists study culture,
    > I looked forward to
    > his take on memetics. But as a psychology grad
    > student, I have studied
    > enough neuroscience to cringe at his ideas about
    > neural memetics. (As I
    > have mentioned before, they are reminiscent of
    > Calvin's speculations
    > about replicating patterns of activation in the
    > cerebral cortex, but
    > Calvin is a neurobiologist. He makes sense.)
    Aunger cites someone named Juan Delius in an endnote. He calls Delius "a prominent neuroethologist" (page 347). Not familiar with Delius firsthand yet. In this endnote Aunger also references the Hebbian synapse.

    For Calvin's work Aunger says "my schematic approach to replication shares little with Calvin's sophisticated neuroscientfic approach".

    BTW, as you might have read, I've been reading grandpa Hebb's work on the cell assembly. Doesn't Calvin fashion himself after Hebb in a way?

    All neuromemetic roads will lead back to the problems Hebb and Lashley grappled with and I'd hope that someone who calls themselves a neuromemeticist would address the work of these pioneers adequately, by some detailed treatment of the original source material. Lashley's classic "In search of the engram" can be found in Orbach's _The Neuropsychological Theories of Lashley and Hebb_. Lashley talks about multiple representation towards the end of that article and says, "Somehow, equivalent traces are established throughout the functional area." He makes an analogy to wave action and patterns of interference, but his notion of reduplication is quite curious as it seems to imply a redundancy of the engram(s). Aunger should address stuff like this before he dismisses Lashley's work with the magical wave of a hand and goes on to talk about the distributed nature of memory. Lashley was well aware of localization problems...ummm...that's what he was addressing in his work! He even has an article exploring electric field theories via placing gold foil ribbons upon the cortex of monkeys. Another article addresses evolution of the mind, oh my!

    And if Lashley asked himself about what reduplication of the memory trace might entail, could the resultant equivalent traces be considered "replicated" through the cortex in a sense? That's what multiple representation implies to me. Maybe Kate could chime in since representation is her forte.

    Just a mutant thought...

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