Re: Memes inside brain

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Thu Oct 04 2001 - 23:54:31 BST

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    From: Bill Spight <>
    Subject: Re: Memes inside brain
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    Dear Salice,

    > > Such a state of affairs would be more analogous to memetics than actual
    > > genetics is, particularly if we assume that memes reside in brains.
    > > Memory is not a process of copying. In the 19th century psychologists
    > > and neurologists believed that, but by the time of Bartlett's classic,
    > > "Remembering", we knew better. Memory is a process of reconstruction.
    > > Any memory based theory of memes has to meet that fact head on.
    > How human memory works sure has an influence on memes storage in
    > brains. Because people remember things differently. But i don't think
    > that there is any research on this.

    Where have you been the last century? Do read "Remembering". You'll like
    it. :-)

    > Especially interesting is that
    > people kind of forget or change words in the same "style".
    > So you could argue that artists remember memes not correctly but the
    > thing is that they remember them wrongly in a certain way! Some
    > people use basically the language they learned, others come up with
    > new 'adjusted' words all the time. So this process of reconstruction
    > must be different in their head. Why this is so and how this does
    > happen has to be researched.
    > > Dawkins conceived of memes as residing in the brain and as reproducing
    > > by imitation, i. e., by copying. He's a biologist, not a psychologist.
    > > That view of memory is naive, passe.
    > I think Dawkin also knows that memes aren't a fixed structure in the
    > brain. And memes get reproduced by imitation, copying. What else?

    I don't think that he has faced the inherent contradictions.

    Please do not assume that imitation is copying, nor that imitation is
    the only way that memes are reproduced. Consider the complaint of the
    young mother that she is treating her children in ways that her mother
    treated her that she hates. This is a fairly clear case of memetic
    inheritance, but there is no evidence of imitation.

    People talk about the analogy between genes and memes. By that analogy,
    it is natural to say that memes are copied from brain to brain, as genes
    are copied. But, as Dawkins' original presentation in "The Selfish Gene"
    points out, memes satisfy the requirements of evolutionary units without
    any analogy. Relying on the gene/meme analogy has at least two dangers.
    First, ideas from genetics may be applied without sufficient reflection.
    Second, and to me more importantly, what is really going on with memetic
    replication, selection, and variation is glossed over with insufficient
    investigation. Both of these things will change with time, if memetics
    continues to develop.

    > When the brain of a person reconstructs a meme in memory differently
    > it has a reason which might even be evolutionary caused. And this
    > reconstruction happens differently among people.
    > I think that's the whole point about arts and science, to take the
    > given meme/culture structure and change it a bit, to reconstruct it a
    > bit 'wrong'.

    Do you want to call that "imitation"?



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