From: Derek Gatherer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu 13 Apr 2006 - 07:16:57 GMT
I'd love to reply at some length, but unfortunately the Easter hols
are coming up and I'll be away for a week. Possibly in the meantime
you'll get plenty of replies from other list members.
At 15:07 12/04/2006, you wrote:
>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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