Re: Wilkins on the meme:engram relation

From: Joe Dees (
Date: Tue Dec 04 2001 - 07:37:30 GMT

  • Next message: Joe Dees: "Re: Wilkins on the meme:engram relation"

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    Subject: Re: Wilkins on the meme:engram relation
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    > <>Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2001 10:30:58 EST
    > Re: Wilkins on the meme:engram relation
    >In a message dated 12/3/2001 2:01:22 AM Central Standard Time, Joe Dees
    ><> writes:
    >> even now, there is much debate as to what evolution generally is, with
    >> objections being more reasonable (gradualism vs. punctuated equilibrium),
    >> some less (Lamarckianism, morphic resonance, etc.). This process is itself
    >> evolutionary, and every objection voiced adds to the evolution of our
    >> understanding, either by the inclusion of valid ideas or the exclusion of
    >> unsound ones. Why should we be perturbed by such an evolution, which was
    >> much more robust in the infancy of evolutionary understanding generally,
    >> taking place before our eyes and with our active participation, concerning
    >> memetics specifically? If we truly acknowledge the ubiquity of the
    >> evolutionary process in all things natural and cultural, we should nod
    >> than flinch at its inevitable precession in this matter.
    >Hi Joe.
    >Interestingly, Darwinian evolution managed to be introduced over a period of
    >many years before the word "gene" was introduced. The term even followed
    >Mendel's work by decades. People who might otherwise have been distracted by
    >a quickly introduced neologism were given a chance to see that there was a
    >cogent theory even without the word.
    >In the case of quarks, a mathematically well-defined theoretical construct
    >was formed first, and then a neologism applied to it. The definition has been
    >generalized in well-described ways due to theoretical and empirical work
    >since then. This sort of evolution has been constrained by the methods of
    >science. Evolution is part of the process of science. Having evolution in
    >science is not a problem as long as it proceeds within certain constraints
    >that make science science.
    >In the case of "meme," Dawkins did not give an explicit definition, let alone
    >a mathematical definition or a definition ready to use in mathematical
    >analysis. He does not even call attention to works that have event diagrams,
    >such as Cloak's 1973. He gives some clarification in The Extended Phenotype
    >(1982), but then several years later in The Blind Watchmaker (1986) he
    >dramatically changes the word's meaning without even noting that he was
    >making a change, let alone explaining the change. People naturally concluded
    >that Dawkins needed help with the definition, and that seems to have brought
    >in a range of still further definitions and usages.
    >Murray Gell-Mann could have made a mess of the word "quark" if he either
    >wanted to or if he simply did not treat the matter seriously enough. Dawkins
    >could have made less of a mess of the word "meme," too. Even if he had
    >explicitly defined it in some way radically different from anything he has
    >said so far, I think all of us would have been better served by at least
    >knowing what role if any the word should play in our scientific
    Your points are well taken; they lead me, however to my previous conclusion that the term 'meme' deserves refinement to something (asymptotically) approaching operational consensus rather than extinction.
    >--Aaron Lynch
    >This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    >For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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