Re: new review of memetics/sociobiology/EP

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sat 04 Feb 2006 - 12:14:50 GMT

  • Next message: Richard Brodie: "RE: new review of memetics/sociobiology/EP"

    >From: John Wilkins <>
    >Subject: Re: new review of memetics/sociobiology/EP
    >Date: Sat, 4 Feb 2006 16:45:00 +1000
    >On 04/02/2006, at 1:33 PM, Keith Henson wrote:
    >>At 09:39 AM 2/3/2006 +1000, you wrote:
    >>>Religion is less virulent when passed on vertically (Boyd and
    >>>Richerson's "unbiased" transmission) from parent to child, because
    >>>then the religion must adapt to the hosts' needs to reproduce. It is
    >>>more virulent when it is laterally ("biasedly") transmitted because
    >>>then the meme-complex (religion is *not* a meme - it's a memome or
    >>>something similar. A meme-complex of coadapted memes) has different
    >>>"interests" to the hosts.
    >>I don't object to your terminology, I just don't see the need for it.
    >>Memes to me are like string, any length is still string.
    >A meme is something that gets passed on entire (which of course means that
    >something can be a meme at one point in history and a meme- complex at
    So a meme is like a coin in that when it passes hands it doesn't become fragmented? Sounds like an article of faith to me. Of course metal coins will hold themselves together to a certain extent (ignoring long-term wear that results in their features deteriorating thus the different evaluations of coins in collectors value guides). Culturally relevant info OTOH could be more labile or evanescent. In some cases, especially when written down, it has fidelity in transmission, but I've heard enough of how things get botched between the quotee and quoter in newspapers that faithfulness of transmission comes nowhere near the coin example. Following up on the Greyfriar Bobby legend, in the book by Forbes MacGregor _Greyfriar's Bobby: the Real Story at Last_, newspaper accounts got the story wrong and one of the participants in the life of the dog himself apparently falsified part of the story about the dog's owner. A popular children's book got the story wrong and so did the subsequent film.
    >But something like a religion has many elements that can be differentially
    >sorted and cross-lineage transmitted. These things are memes.
    Particulate things? Sounds like it's gonna be difficult to pin down a higher level meme-plex if the elements themselves are like will-o-wisps. Does memory or artefact generation work this way? What about the relation(s) between ideas and behavior? Going beyond the tidy abstraction of memes on a string or in a beanbag, how does the *real world* actually operate?
    >>>Of course, religious evolution is somewhat faster than biological
    >>>evolution, so there is considerable slop, but overall if a religion
    >>>is vertically transmitted, it will tend to be more benign.
    >>At least it can't be too rough on host reproduction.
    >In the long run (in which we are all dead, as Keynes remarked), sure. But
    >given that meme complexes can change rapidly relative to host
    >reproduction, so long as there are sufficient new hosts for the meme to
    >inhabit, it can in fact be quite deleterious biologically. Shakers, again,
    >or (my personal favourite) the Albigensians.
    Shaker style furniture lives on. The ideas embodied in the Shaker mindset can be read about in books, but unless they are all photocopies or plagiarisms of an original source material these books will be worded differently and may have subtle variations in content. These words may affect each of us differenntly based upon our own life history. Memeticists will use the ploy of saying this is an example of a self-plex in action, but that is merely assuming the conclusion already, taking it for granted.

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