From: Christopher Kelley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed 12 Apr 2006 - 14:07:40 GMT
Dear list members,
First off, thank you for providing this excellent list-serve & Journal.
I've just recently joined the list and I'm very excited that it exists.
My name is Christopher Kelley and I'm a graduate student in Buddhist
studies at Columbia University in New York City. Presently I'm working
on a memetic analysis of Buddhist philosophical culture.
My purpose in posting today is to elicit your feedback on Robert
Aunger's thought provoking essay in the new anthology, "Richard
Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed The Way We Think." I've not had a
chance to read the entire book, but I thought his essay raised some
important points that deserve professional reflection.
Below I've enumerated some excerpts, but obviously it would be ideal to
read them in context.
1/ ". . . no significant body of empirical research has grown up around
the meme concept (the birdsong work being the sole, limited exception),
nor has memetics made empirically testable propositions or generated
much in the way of novel experimental or observational data. In fact
the memetic literature remains devoted almost exclusively to
theoretical antagonisms, internecine battles, and scholastic
elucidations of prior writings on memes" .
2/ "Why is memetic science ailing? I think most of the problems have to
do with the lack of a useful definition" .
3/ "As we will see, getting specific about the nature of memes leads to
questions about whether there is indeed any subject matter for memetics
to study" .
4/ ". . .what makes the meme concept special as an account of cultural
evolution is its role as a replicator in culture. . . replication can
be defined as a special relationship between a source and a copy such
that four conditions hold: causation. . similarity. . information
transfer. . . duplication" 
5/ " . . replication of information is unlikely to be how most social
learning occurs. Neither are memes necessary to explain cultural
traditions. . . So taking the stability of culture as prima facie
evidence of the existence of memes is mistaken. Replication is not a
necessary component of an interesting Darwinian process, and may not be
involved in the explanation of human culture" [185-86].
6/ "My attempt to provide a more precise definition of memes has,
ironically, shown that memetics appears to be in search of subject
matter because its central claim, the meme hypothesis, lacks substance"
7/ ". . .it will be difficult to deny memes a role in the future of
cultural evolutionary studies. This is because the meme meme has
already become part of the culture it was supposed to explain . . .
people will continue to use the word 'meme' in a vague way when
discussing cultural change. . . but . . . memetics is unlikely ever to
become an empirical science, because when we define memes in a manner
precise enough to start making testable predictions, we find that we
have largely defined them out of existence" .
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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