Re: reading a book

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Mon 25 Apr 2005 - 01:58:07 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Re: reading a book"

    At 08:00 PM 24/04/05 +0200, you wrote:
    >Bill Spight wrote:
    >>Dear Kate,
    >>>I'd hesitate to describe myself as a purist of any sort, but I
    >>>certainly don't see any threat to meme theory from the claim that
    >>>some cultural information may not be memetic. After all many people
    >>>would want to describe many animals as having culture, without being
    >>>willing to label it as memetic.
    >>Why not?
    >Because there is a qualitative difference between human and (most?) animal
    >culture which even the most ardent anti-speciesist wouldn't deny . . .

    If memes, elements of culture, are just information, what's the problem with whale songs, bird songs and tool making, and chimps termite hunting with tools and cracking nuts on anvil stones being memes?

    >>>Similarly human culture, if it is
    >>>memetic now, must have evolved from a point at which it was not
    >>*Must* have? Again, how come?
    >. . . and this - together with emerging evidence about the potential
    >cultural sophistication of at least some individual animals - leads me to
    >believe in a continuum between non-human and human culture, with memes
    >evolving from more primitive mental/cultural replicators (or insert
    >alternative word here if you prefer.

    If it is replicating information that is passed from one animal to another, by learning or imitation is defined as a meme than animals that start doing it are replicating memes.

    Animals were able to learn from their environment, such matters as where their den was located or . If an animal picks up behavior modifying information from another animal, that a meme being passed. The ability to pass information from one animal to another comes originally from animal's ability to learn.

    Mammals are generally good at this, primates are very good, great apes even better, and humans unsurpassed. It isn't hard to see where the mental capacity to support culture comes from (where memes are elements of culture).


    Keith Henson

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