Re: Morphic memes

From: Dace (
Date: Sat Aug 11 2001 - 06:46:27 BST

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    Subject: Re: Morphic memes
    Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 22:46:27 -0700
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    From: Scott Chase

    > >When he first coined the term, Dawkins located "memes" in the brain. If
    > >the
    > >brain is reducible to genes, then memes are functions of genes. But if
    > >brain is informed by past, similar brains, then memes are patterns of
    > >neurotransmission that follow habitually from previous, similar patterns.
    > >
    > >
    > Well, if there is a social heredity or means of cultural transmission,
    > whether Dawkinsian memes or the noogenetic/noetic patterns of Julian
    > (somewhat following in the footsteps of Teilhard), the brain could be
    > informed by past "similar" brains without the spooky MR principle. This
    > means of social heredity need not be tightly leashed by genes either.

    This doesn't tell us anything about memes, which are units of culture that
    propagate under their own power. Yes, phrases, ideas, and tunes are
    transmitted through the usual cultural channels. But what is it that makes
    one tune "catchy" while another is dead on arrival? I'm suggesting that the
    terrain of competition between tunes is in their degree of resonance with
    our pre-existent musical sensibilities. Ideas propagate under their own
    power to the extent that they appeal to our intellectual orientations.
    Tunes and ideas are manifest in the brain in terms of arrays of
    neurotransmission. I'm assuming that whatever we think is in some sense a
    neurological event. So the resonance of memes with pre-existent biases
    plays out synaptically. Genes are involved in this process only to the
    extent that they predispose us to one kind of music, for instance, over
    another, such as classical over pop or vice versa.

    It all depends on whether memory is defined morphically as the resonance of
    current structures with past structures or materially as the storage of
    information. If it's the former, then brains are built through resonance
    with previous brains. If it's the latter, then brains, despite encoding
    personal memories, are themselves expressions of genetic memory. So memes
    are reducible either to resonance or genes. There's no in-between.

    Ted Dace

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