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Browsing through older JoM articles I took a gander at John Wilkins's
commentary on Derek Gatherer's "Why the "Thought Contagion" Metaphor is
Retarding the Progress of Memetics". Wilkins's article is called "Memes
ain't (just) in the head"
I especiaaly like the paragraph beginning: "However, the engram proposal is,
I agree, quite wrong." The part about many:many mapping is important and far
more cogent than I could muster. Implicit here is the conceptual connection
between the engram, mnemon, and L-meme. The engram was coined by Richard
Semon and utilized later by Karl Lashley. The mnemon was used by both J.Z.
Young and Arthur Cherkin, later adopted by Aaron Lynch. The L-meme is how
Lynch's mnemon appears to be referred to by some on this list, though Lynch
seems to think the meme term expendable.
Implicit in what Wilkins has said about the engram is, I assume, the
specific usage by Aaron Lynch, not the engram as memory trace stance in some
memory research, though the engram concept (sans any memetic connections)
may itself be mistaken in its formulations.
Wilkins's many:many objection has bad implications for the Lynchian mnemon
(or L-meme?). Shortcomings of the engram/mnemon concept in memory research
would also have bad implications for the meme as neural entity stance, since
this stance automatically inherits the same set of problems, not to mention
several of its own. Adopting Lynch's mnemon view or the Dawkins B definition
bring the baggage of memory research problems along. Tack on the problems of
the meme concept itself (see Adam Kuper's critique "If memes are the answer,
what is the question?" in _Darwinizing Culture: the Status of Memetics as a
Science_ for example) and where are we?
The best part about Wilkins's discussion of mnemons and engrams is that it
strengthens my view that Dawkins B harkens back to Semon, though I don't
think this may be a case of cryptomnesia as one might assume from reading
Laurent's "A Note on the Origin of Memes/Mnemes
(http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit/1999/vol3/laurent_j.htm). There may be
analogous parallels sans homology or perhaps one of those "in the air"
instances. Interestingly Dawkins offered his own speculation about memory
based on neuron death before arriving at the meme conception.
See: Dawkins R. 1971. Selective neurone death as a possible memory
mechanism. Nature (229): 118-9
So Dawkins may have had familiarity with the memory literature.
The part I see missing from Wilkins's article is the history of the mnemon
concept, which via Cherkin, harkens back to Semon as he says: "The name
proposed for the unit is the "mnemon" (mneme = memory; -on = suffix denoting
a fundamental particle)." There's a note referencing Semon.
Cherkin A. 1966. Toward a quantitative view of the engram. PNAS (55): 88-91
Lynch has referenced Cherkin with regard to the mnemon. William Calvin, in
1997, referenced J. Z. Young
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