RE: Definition please

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Tue Nov 27 2001 - 04:18:18 GMT

  • Next message: Joe Dees: "Re: Definition, Please"

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    Subject: RE: Definition please
    Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 23:18:18 -0500
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    >From: Ray Recchia <>
    >Subject: RE: Definition please
    >Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 21:03:13 -0500
    >On 11/26/01 07:25, Ray Recchia said this-
    > >>Are the branches memes? If not, why not?
    > >Were these chimps observed without prior human contact? I have to know
    > >about the protocol of this observation to give it credence.
    >I seriously doubt that a chimpanzee gripping branches in its prehensile
    >toes and using them to protect its feet was something that it learned from
    >a human. Unless it was a very special human.
    >In any case the observations were made by a primatologist named Rosalind
    >Alp and were reported in 'American Journal of Primatology' 41, 45-52
    >(1997). I haven't read the original. I quoting it as an excerpt from
    >'Wild Minds' (2000) page 21 by Marc Hauser, a professor at Harvard.
    > >Likewise for the other example. But, I won't go out on a limb and say
    > >there _aren't_ memes there- I'm just not convinced we have an unbiased or
    > >untampered set of observations- or just like the hundreth monkey- a hoax.
    > >(Or Sheldrake, but that's another issue... or is it?)
    >The other example I got comes from 'The Ape and the Sushi Master' (2001) by
    >Frans de Waal. I am not particularly familiar with who is and is not a
    >credible primatologist but his biography claims that he works at Emory
    >University, runs a center for primatology, and is regarded as one of the
    >leading authorities on the subject. Blurbs on the back are from
    >individuals at Stanford and George Mason University. His bibliography
    >lists a few other books and publications in 'Science' and 'Nature'.
    >Apparently recorded observations of the nut cracking behavior go back to
    >the 1600's and have been made by a few modern primatologists. (pp.
    >239-242). He also notes that "According to field workers, their expertise
    >(chimpanzees) far exceeds that of any human who tries it for the first
    >time." p. 227. People attempting it found that the 1kg stones used by the
    >chimpanzees in one case were too heavy for humans to use effectively, while
    >another study indicates that at times 10kg stones were used. pp. 239-240.
    >Now quoting from another post of yours.
    > >> My point was that, though you only use the wheel, they don't
    > >> reinvent it,
    > >> but imitate it.
    > >Ah. But they use it too- and they mutate it via their use.
    > >Otherwise, all memetics would be is cloning, and it ain't.
    > >- Wade
    >There are villagers nearby who use a very similar technique to crack their
    >nuts. However, the stones they use are considerably smaller. 'Id.' at
    >239. De Waal admits that it is unclear whether the chimps acquired the
    >technique from humans
    >, the humans acquired the technique from the chimps, or they arose
    >independently. It does appear though that they have been doing it for at
    >least 300 years and if they acquired it from humans, they have mutated it
    >to their use by using larger tools.
    > >>No artifacts are required to produce a 'B' that is capable of producing
    > >>more fit 'C'.
    > >But, hey- that ain't true with memes. Or memetics. Or culture. Artifacts
    > >are absolutely required to make a better B.
    > >I ain't disagreeing with -
    > >>incremental
    > >>acquisition of characteristics. Reproduction, variation, and selection
    > >>producing greater fitness. Pattern at state 'A' produces offspring,
    > >>offspring are selected for and a state 'B' survives and reproduces.
    >If you can get to 'The Star Spangled Banner' without artifacts but it
    >requires input from other humans then we have met those criteria and it has
    >to be seen as an evolutionary phenomenon. You are left with a definition of
    >memetics that excludes a whole class of evolutionary phenomena.
    > >- at all. But I am asking that the mechanism of memetic offspring be
    > >explained, and the only way _I_ can do it, and involve memes _at all_
    > >(rather than throw them out entirely), is have them be cultural
    > >artifacts, and only cultural artifacts, and to involve some analog of
    > >sexual contact, since I really don't think there is any evidence to show
    > >sheer mutation as the only operative, as Joe pointed out.
    > >And, I did try to choose the inside meme, and the shared meme, as a
    > >mechanism, but, the inside meme depends way too much on things we simply
    > >don't know yet- that region between perception and behavior is just too
    > >unknown. And the shared meme requires a leap into illogic that remains
    > >impossible for me.
    >Let me start answering this one by going back to de Waal and the work done
    >by primatologists. Their work involves a much larger leap into the unknown
    >in the assumptions that are made about the inner workings of the mind of
    >animals. Primatologists regularly attach human emotions and motivations to
    >the behavior of primates. Chapter 1 of 'The Ape and the Sushi Master' is
    >devoted to explaining the value and necessity of this methodology and I
    >would advise reading it in its totality as rather the snippets I will offer
    >here can't quite capture the argument as effectively. In justifying this
    >scientifically de Waal argues that "The human hunter anticipates the moves
    >of his prey by attributing intentions and taking an anthropomorphic stance
    >when it comes to what animals think, feel, or want. Somehow, this stance
    >is highly effective in getting to know and predict animals." pp.
    >63-64. "Isn't it far more economical to assume that if two closely related
    >species act in a similar way, the underlying mental processes are similar
    >too?" p. 70. "In the same way that parents learn to see through their
    >children's eyes, the empathic observer learns what is important to his or
    >her animals, what frightens them, under which circumstances they feel at
    >ease, and so on." p. 76. Of course these assumptions get modified it is
    >learned that a smile doesn't signify happiness to a primate.
    Have you read the part of _The Ape and the Sushi Master_ where de Waal talks
    about memes? Would you say he casts memetics in a favorable light overall?

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