RE: Wilkins on the meme:engram relation

From: Price, Ilfryn (
Date: Tue Dec 04 2001 - 14:35:36 GMT

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    Subject: RE: Wilkins on the meme:engram relation
    Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2001 14:35:36 -0000
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    If citing Gell Mann

    > > "In the case of societal evolution, the schemata consist
    > of laws, customs,
    > > myths, traditions, and so forth. The pieces of such a schema are
    > > often called memes"
    > >
    > > Gell-Mann, M. (1996) Address to the US National Defence
    > University http:// <http://>
    > >
    > >
    > > I read that as support for 'memetics' as short hand for
    > 'evolutionary
    > > societal schematics' and as Jojh pointed out a few messages back,
    > > there is more future in trying to design and apply various
    > approaches to
    > > such a science than worrying now about the precise definition of
    > > 'meme'. When (if) we knwo more we will find the right "neologisms".


    > Hi If.
    > I am not sure that Gell-Mann was trying to settle a
    > definition issue for
    > memetics. If he was, his use of the terms "schema" and
    > "schemata" become
    > important.

    I was not saying he was. Whatever we call them the replication of the kind of phenomena he was talking about is what interests me, and meme
    is as good a collective noun as any and the only one with its origins in a general theory of evolution.

    > That said, I will add that if Gell-Mann had made a mess of
    > the word "quark,"
    > quantum chromodynamics would most likely still have
    > developed, even if under
    > a different name.

    Agreed and in the world of nobel prize winning thermodynamics precise definition is a precondition of replication. In the world of internet
    discussion and even the emergence of a research based study of memetics it is less important. Evolutionary Theories of Social Science (ETSS)
    have staggered along without agreeing what exactly it was that replicated for a long time. Some, though not all, of the contributors to ETSS
    <> are making the same suggestion.

    One can think of all sorts of vague ways
    > that Gell-Mann
    > might have coined a word, perhaps referring to almost any subnuclear
    > particle, for instance. But if he had, then physicists would
    > have probably
    > ignored the term and some other term would have emerged in
    > connection with
    > very similar theoretical constructs.

    That's part of the schema / meme plex of physics

    > There may be areas of cultural evolution research that really need a
    > neologism corresponding to a specific theoretical construct
    > or concept. If
    > the word "meme" is used in those lines of research, I think
    > it will be
    > important for readers to be able to see that a neologism is
    > needed or at
    > least extremely useful for communication.
    ETSS has not yet (and may not) reached the stage of development / evidence where the space esists for the neoloogistic precison of quantum
    physics. Until it does Gell Mann's generalisation works for me.
    Reactions such as
    > the quote Scott
    > Chase gave us from Ernst Mayr suggest that many readers do
    > not see how the
    > word "meme" is necessary for good communication. That, in
    > turn, leads readers
    > into the whole distracting subject of "why coin this new
    > word?", which is
    > only a part of the distraction that has arisen around the word.
    Substitute 'concept' for meme in the quote above. It does not seem quite so precise somehow.


    If Price
    Facilities Management Graduate Centre
    Sheffield Hallam University
    Unit 7, Science Park, Sheffield S1 1WB
    P +44 [0]114 225 4032
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