Re: Review of "The Selfish Meme" part II (2)

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Wed 29 Jun 2005 - 19:02:53 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Re: Review of "The Selfish Meme" part II (3)"

    Ray Recchia wrote:
    > At 02:59 PM 6/21/2005, you wrote:

    >> But, see above, "yellow" is a representation, not a
    >> meta-representation. What I claim as special to humans is our ability
    >> not just to identify a range of objects as yellow or round or wooden,
    >> but to think about those ways of identifying objects, and ask
    >> questions at a whole different level. Questions like: "I wonder how
    >> the dog represented this colour that I call 'yellow'? Did he see it
    >> as I see it - one colour amongst many that I can also identify - or
    >> did he not really 'represent' it, as such? Was there, rather,
    >> something about the way that this colour impacted upon his brain
    >> (damaged by abuse that he had suffered as a puppy, as it happens)
    >> which deranged him temporarily?" Questions like: "What is the French
    >> for 'yellow'?" or "What is the wavelength range of the colour that I
    >> call 'yellow', and is this the same wavelength range as the colour
    >> that you call 'jaune'?". Questions like "I wonder why the colour
    >> yellow is associated with cowardice?"
    >> I'm guessing that Alex would have struggled with these questions.
    > Alex would of course have a had a bit of trouble recognizing French, but
    > then so would I. He does though engage in self-reflection. When left
    > alone, he babbles to himself, combining the words he has in to different
    > combinations.
    > I still think that you are underestimating the reasoning capacity of
    > animals. Let me give you another example: a rhesus monkey was observed
    > trying to climb a tree with very thorny bark. The monkey found some
    > leaves and wrapped them around its feet, and then made its climb.
    > Clearly, the monkey was doing some pretty complicated thinking there.

    Pretty complicated, but not even half so complicated as the sorts of processes that go on in the evolution of human footwear on a daily basis. Any more than a stick used for termite-dipping is even remotely comparable to the computer on which I'm typing this reply. These are not trivial or humanly arrogant points that I'm making. There is just no comparison between human culture and the culture of any other species on earth. I'm suggesting that the reason for this is our unique capacity for reflecting on the way in which we think about the world. Being aware of what we've done, and modifying it next time. Thinking up new ways to think about problems. Meta-representing.

    >> Again there's a misunderstanding of the meta-representation concept
    >> here. In my book I discuss different levels of imitation and how they
    >> apply to meme transmission. See especially pages 136-9, where I make
    >> use of the insights offered in Richard Byrne and Anne
    >> Russon's "Learning by imitation: a hierarchical approach", Behavioural
    >> and Brain Sciences 21(5):667-84, 1998.
    > Doesn't discernment through these advanced forms of imitation require
    > outside information? If it is going to be something other than rote
    > copying, doesn't there have to be another representation to compare to
    > and draw infererences from?

    No. As Byrne & Russon put it, the move to higher-level imitation/understanding is not an additional learning task but rather a matter of insight, involving "a recoding of previously available but unlinked bits of information".

    > And doesn't this run into exactly the same
    > problem you allege for copying of artifacts?

    No - see above.


    =============================================================== 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) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed 29 Jun 2005 - 19:20:47 GMT