Memes implemented, was Re: A Question for Wade

From: John Wilkins (
Date: Thu Nov 29 2001 - 02:51:57 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "the hook"

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    Subject: Memes implemented, was Re: A Question for Wade
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    On Thursday, November 29, 2001, at 01:26 PM, Wade T.Smith wrote:
    > Problem with a lot of professions is, all they can do is profess.
    You know what they say - those who *really* can, teach; those who can't,
    earn enormous salaries pretending they can...

    As to the implementation of memes, I think it already happened by
    default when the statistical methods developed by Pearson and Fisher to
    analyse biometric data (on purely Darwinian grounds) were taken over to
    social research. So we might not expect that much effect from the
    metaphor that is memetics will result. Except in one case - phylogenetic
    analysis. The taxonomy debate is not merely about where to draw
    arbitrary lines in the sand but about how to classify so that two goals
    can be met.

    The first is to arrange things that are similar due to descent in
    "natural" ways so that inferences can be inductively extended from one
    taxon to a related one. This is an economical way to make use of our
    knowledge; and it presents us with anomalous (ie, evolved) situations
    that are worth pursuing in detail, rather than just doing stamp
    collection science.

    The second is to reconstruct as best we can the *history* of modern
    diversity; initially in terms of the branching order of taxa, and then
    in terms of the dates of the branches. The *only* way to do this is
    through phylogenetic analysis, because historical records are as
    incomplete in many ways as the fossil record.

    There is a paper by Price and Lord in a recent JoM, which attempts to do
    a classification in terms of cluster analysis, which is known in
    biotaxonomy as "phenetics". This is not, in my view, useful for either
    purpose, but tat least it is a start in the right direction. [If, I know
    you are on this list - want to comment?]

    John Wilkins
    Head Communication Services, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of
    Medical Research, Melbourne Australia
    Personal page: <>

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