Re: reading a book

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Tue 26 Apr 2005 - 07:49:40 GMT

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    Keith Henson wrote:

    >>> . 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).
    >>> snip
    >>> 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.)
    > Keith

    OK - as you say, this is mostly a terminological quibble. I've found it useful to distinguish between the sort of culture that can "take off" in its evolution in the way that human culture has, and the sort that is context-bound in the way that (most? all?) animal culture is. Just as genes will have evolved from some more primitive biological stuff, so it makes sense to me that memes will have evolved from some more primitive mental/cultural "stuff" (which is merely a lazy use of language rather than a crack in the door through which Descartes can slip!). And, as I've said, the distinction strikes me as useful.


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