Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id NAA15303 (8.6.9/5.3[ref email@example.com] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from firstname.lastname@example.org); Thu, 30 Aug 2001 13:31:19 +0100 Message-ID: <2D1C159B783DD211808A006008062D3101746066@inchna.stir.ac.uk> From: Vincent Campbell <email@example.com> To: "'firstname.lastname@example.org'" <email@example.com> Subject: RE: Cichlids & Memes Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2001 13:26:27 +0100 X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2650.21) Content-Type: text/plain X-Filter-Info: UoS MailScan 0.1 [D 1] Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
>>Of course whether fish really have culture or memes is, I suspect,
>>of some contention.
<It's more a contention in some quarters to say, hmmm, with all
> and birds and other creatures employing behavioral algorithms, why should
> we have any cause to claim _another_ mechanism (culture/memes) for our
> behaviors- and could we then not say that culture is a complex formation
> of these algorithms, and the admitted complication of language and
> artifact-making? (Not to mention consciousness, but, that might be along
> for the ride with language anyway.)
> Perhaps it's more of a blunting of Occam to call into existence memes.>
Well, yes. Again there's that possiblity rearing its head.
As I was typing about cichlids in isolated pools, I started thinking
about tribes isolated by mountain ranges, or large rivers, or whatever, and
the resultant changes in language, belief systems etc.
A good example might be Easter Island. It appears there was a major
transition in belief from a kind of personality cult surrounding past rulers
(presumably) that relates to the famous statues, to a belief system relating
to birds, particularly, IIRC, the Frigate bird. Now, why did this change
occur? Could, at the most fundamental root, it have been related to the
changing ecology of the island? It used to be forested, but humans
basically deforested the entire island, affecting, of course, their food
supplies as well as the wildlife. Perhaps a changing lifestyle related to
the sea emerged, and seabirds became more appropriate symbols for that
different lifestyle. Evidence of niche construction writ large perhaps?
How might a memetics approach to this transition offer (to use
Chris' useful comment from a few days ago) a better/more complete/simpler
Perhaps that's not a fair example. Perhaps we need to explore the
tranistion from one cultural trend to another, within a society without that
kind of major environmental change going on.
Interestingly, a recent series on the BBC ('Ancient Apocalypse')
offered a number of very intriguing suggestions as to why several ancient
civilisations fell (the Egyptian Old Kingdom- due to a major drought; the
Minoans on Crete- due to to a huge volcanic eruption that destroyed a key
port in the Minoan empire, and severely damage Minos itself; and some others
that I missed through being on holiday). A far more ambitious, yet very
similar claim was made by David Keys in his book 'Catastrophe', where he
reckons that a mega-volcanic eruption at Krakatoa in the 7th century AD
affected the entire world (by blotting out the sun for months causing crops
to fail, famines etc. etc.), and had significant politico-religious
consequences all round the world (e.g. environmental pressures added to the
political unrest in the Middle East, helping to foster Islam is one of his
bolder claims). The physical evidence for such major environmental changes
is there in ice-core, and tree ring data. Keys probably goes way too far
(and his book isn't very well written actually, especially for a
journalist), but the stuff on the TV series was quite persuasive.
Anyway, again the implication here is that some major historical
events may have, at their root, environmental, natural causes. (The ten
plagues of Egypt explanation is brilliant in this regard too). Are we
simply too close to more recent historical events to see underlying
environmental causal factors in them?
-- The University of Stirling is a university established in Scotland by charter at Stirling, FK9 4LA. Privileged/Confidential Information may be contained in this message. If you are not the addressee indicated in this message (or responsible for delivery of the message to such person), you may not disclose, copy or deliver this message to anyone and any action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance on it, is prohibited and may be unlawful. In such case, you should destroy this message and kindly notify the sender by reply email. Please advise immediately if you or your employer do not consent to Internet email for messages of this kind. Opinions, conclusions and other information in this message that do not relate to the official business of the University of Stirling shall be understood as neither given nor endorsed by it.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Aug 30 2001 - 13:35:59 BST