Re: Definition, Please

From: Philip A.E. Jonkers (
Date: Fri Nov 30 2001 - 00:44:27 GMT

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    From: "Philip A.E. Jonkers" <>
    Organization: UC Berkeley
    Subject: Re: Definition, Please
    Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 16:44:27 -0800
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    > >It seems that
    > >you have little faith in the prospect of memetics being able to explain
    > > all the diversity of our culture. What propels you to proclaim such a
    > > heretic vision?

    > I have little faith (well, I'm not a faithful person at all, ever) in
    > anything other than sociobiology to do so, especially when the definition
    > of the word culture itself is a filthy mess. It was very nice, indeed, to
    > have a quantum of culture, to call it a meme, and then to march on, until
    > I came up against the fog created by the absence of a solid definition of
    > culture.
    > So, I give to biology all that might be biology's- birdsong and spider's
    > webs and termite mounds and even language, maybe. But, since we have
    > artifacts, made only by humans, before us, then those are special things,
    > deserving of special names. (Hey, unless they're not- unless it's all an
    > illusion, culture, human uniqueness, artifacts- it may be that that shiny
    > new Lexus in your garage is just the new mutant aphid of your symbiotic
    > colony, and all your behaviors to purchase it just the call of the
    > queen's chemtrails.)

    > Coming down on the side of artifact memes (and artifact memes only),
    > don't seem to me to be heretical at all- in fact, I'm pretty sure it's
    > one of only three choices that are available- either memes are inside, or
    > outside, or some combination of the two. After wrestling with various
    > explanations of all three, and then wrestling with the way they interact
    > with other models of life, the universe, and everything, I cut out the
    > crap with Occam's razor, and I was left with choice number one- memes are
    > outside and artifactual, period. What's inside is something else. Human
    > evolution requires sexual reproduction, and the only way memetic
    > evolution could happen would require a sexual component as well.

    Biological evolution does not require sexual reproduction per se, that's
    a subtle misconception. The three ingredients for having evolution are:
    variation, selection and retention. If organisms do not reproduce sexually
    but use kloning instead, they have to rely on the very rare event of mutation
    to facilitate variation. Hence a slow form of evolution.
    The advent of sexual reproduction, on the other hand, meant a dramatic
    increase in variation resulting in a very rapid rate of evolution.
    Hence the utility of sex in evolution, but it is by no means essential.
    Your extension to memetics is therefore unjustified. Moreover,
    variation in memetics does occur of course. Although this usually
    happens with a more heuristic flavor instead of being purely random.

    I contend memes to reside internally as well. The definition of the meme has
    to be modified to incorporate mind-memes. I agree with Gatherer however, that
    meme-representation is unique to each person and untraceable with
    neurological means. It is the (abstract) meaning the meme carries that is


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