Re: reading a book

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Thu 28 Apr 2005 - 07:19:06 GMT

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

    Scott Chase wrote:

    > You makee excellent points, but my main concern is
    > that, given chimps are our closest kins, is anything
    > they do remotely similar to transmitted culture? Some
    > hardcore sociobio types might question the existence
    > of transmitted culture in humans, going more for the
    > possibility of thin veneer evoked stuff Aunger talks
    > about. I Follow Aunger on this issue thinking culture
    > transmits in humans, but does it transmit in chimps?
    > Another barrier to cross theoretically is whther
    > cultural stuff replicates in humans. And again the
    > same question in chimps. I think Blackmore talked
    > about how the tits opening milk bottles was more a
    > case of local enhancement or facilitation, where an
    > animal might see that another is doing something and
    > thus have a greater chance of being in the same area
    > and sort of learning how to do a similar act pretty
    > much on its own, versus using the other animal's
    > actions as a model to imitate. I think this is a valid
    > critical point to reflect on when we attribute
    > culture, cultural transmission and/or replication of
    > behavior to non-humans.

    Clearly there is a difference between the blue tit first learning to peck, and then learning where that behaviour might again be useful. But this doesn't make it obvious to me that one sort of learning is disqualified from being memetic (actually I don't think either example is memetic, but that's not the point). Why should information about where to apply a skill be any different from information about how to acquire that skill, or information about anything else for that matter?
      It's all information.

    Blackmore says the milk-bottle-pecking isn't memetic because the birds that do it already knew how to peck, so they haven't really imitated anything. I'd suggest that this is because in her head "imitation" is synonymous with "replication" - so whenever something doesn't count as imitation it is automatically *defined* as not being memetic.

    [Climbs down from hobby-horse.]

    As a matter of interest, I have had milk bottles delivered to my doorstep all my life, and never to my knowledge had any vandalized by birds of any description. I have moved around the UK *a lot*. But my mother-in-law (in the North East of England) always leaves an empty can out for the milk-lady to pop over the top of her milk bottles, since otherwise she is plagued by marauding blue tits. Bizarre.


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