Re: reading a book

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Mon 25 Apr 2005 - 22:09:59 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: reading a book"

    At 09:40 AM 25/04/05 +0200, you wrote:
    >Keith Henson wrote:
    >>>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?
    >Memes are information but not all information is memetic. (Actually all
    >information is potentially memetic I guess - in that it can all
    >potentially be metarepresented by humans and shared between us - but not
    >all "raw" information, shall we say, is memetic.)
    >At this stage I'm sure it's not possible to say dogmatically that none of
    >the examples you give is memetic. But see my reply to Bill about how I
    >distinguish memes from non-memetic information.

    If you dig around, I have commented extensively on the difference between an idea that you don't pass to another person making the case that this fails the test of a meme, though it might be a potential meme.

    >>>. . . 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

    where to find food

    >>. If an animal picks up behavior modifying information from another
    >>animal, that's 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
    >I'd agree with this "continuum" view, although as I've said elsewhere
    >today I wouldn't therefore automatically describe what animals do as memetic.

    Did they learn if from another animal? By definition that makes it a meme, and potentially subject to the effects of evolution. (Birds opening milk bottles for example.)

    Mostly the definition of a meme is not something to worry about since the real developments of importance are where memetics and evolutionary psychology intersect. This area is important on the scale of understanding it being critical to living or dying. See my posts about xeno-phobic memes
    (remove the - in your search.)

    >[BTW, see my version of what you wrote, above. I suspect for some reason
    >I'm missing some bits of your message. On my screen these apparent gaps
    >coincided with the ends of lines.]

    My error.


    >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)

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