Re: What/who selects memes?

From: salice (
Date: Wed Oct 03 2001 - 23:30:34 BST

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    Subject: Re: What/who selects memes?
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    > What is this meme-handling stuff?
    > What happens in brains is colloquially called thinking, and by

    The brain does not only think consciously. You can observe your
    thoughts but it won't be everything that happens in your brain.

    A lot of behaviors get copied without consciously noticing them, as
    memes get copied in the same way. This is why i differentiate between
    thinking and "meme-handling". You can remember memes. You can
    remember certain sentences or you can consciously be aware of the
    fact that something someone said changed your thinking.
    At the same time there is just too much (meme)-input that the brain
    could handle it all consciously. And most people do these
    unconscious meme-handling without knowing what they really do.

    Dawkin put the example of one meme of a professer, who would look
    down and think 2 minutes before he'd answer. As he wrote he found
    this "funny". Why he found this funny he might not have consciously
    been aware of. But the fact is, that this meme-input made
    him smile or laugh, therefore something resulted from this meme in
    his brain making him laugh and remembering the meme.

    > But all these are behaviors. There were no recommendations about thinking.

    Your behavior can change other's people thinking. Therefore it was an
    recommendation about selecting memes (why do you think it was posted
    on a memetics mailing list?) and showing certain behaviors therefore
    influencing other peoples thinking.
    > >> But Stone Age people _didn't know_, that's the whole point.
    > >Sure they knew, they wouldn't have survived otherwise.
    > >Some might died, but others learned from them who died, they received
    > this meme and survived because of it.
    > No, how can you say that they knew what was going on?

    Even if they didn't know that doesn't explain anything either for
    your or for my view.

    Nevertheless, if they were able to handle memes, to copy behavior,
    those who would copy the behavior of the person who died after
    eating certain food would probably have died too. Those who copied
    the right behavior, -not- to eat those things survived. So those
    survived who copied the right behavior, those who selected the right

    > >wouldn't let this meme survive and spread. Obvious.
    > No, not obvious. It wouldn't depend on whether or not
    > they realized that drinking petrol was harmful.
    > They would die just the same. The meme would become extinct even
    >without any knowledge of the >

    So every meme and behavior gets copied automatically?
    So why don't you buy a gun and shoot people? You surely saw it on TV.
    So what let's you not copy this?

    Looking at the petroleum-example:
    Let's assume i travel back in time, somewhere where language was
    invented but petroleum and it's effect weren't known.
    Now, i would tell these people back then "Drinking petroleum is good"
    and i would drink some liters right after. People could see how i
    painfully die. If my meme would spread it would only be in the sense
    of "what is not right", if at all.

    > Well, if it's in the brain, maybe you can show me how
    > I would identify it in a brain?

    Okay. Here's a meme for you: "God is dead."
    Read it? Look at it again. Got it? Now look away and try to remember
    it... Still there? Fine.

    >You can only point to memes as artefacts and behaviors.

    Memes in artefacts and behaviors are a result of thinking just the
    same way that thinking can be a result of artefacts or behaviors.

    >No, I merely found the argument too unconvincing to merit a
    >response. You are positing 'storage' and 'handling' capabilities for
    >which there is no precedent in neurobiology. If you are going to
    >play the 'memes are in the head' card, you have to be able to be
    >more specific.

    I can't give you a more specific description, it is to be questioned
    whether this is really possible anyway. My point is that is has to
    happen in the brain because it can't happen anywhere else. How it
    exactly happens is a different key.

    Anyways, there is so much evidence in reality that it can't be
    overlooked. People select memes all the time.

    Some publisher gets a book by a new author and decides to publish it.
    You go to a bookstore and decide to buy a certain book.
    You express your ideas in your mails, not mine.
    Hitler said: "Kill the Jews", some agreed, some did not.
    A professor looks down and thinks for 2 minutes before he answers,
    someone might find this funny and copies it, most don't.
    Some people want to imitate their star and start smoking, others not.

    And so on and on and on.

    If you have a different theory how memes get selected then do what
    you ask of me: give a detailed description of this process. Where it
    happens, how it happens. You won't even get close to my level of

    You can't explain everything in detail. You have to get step by step
    to knowledge. Darwin didn't know about dna but he observed nature and
    based his theory on this observations. Later on this theory was
    grounded when dna was discovered.

    Your theory like my theory lacks detailed description of how
    memes get selected but i think my theory is based on observation
    while your theory is not really based on anything which could explain
    real-life situations.

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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