RE: Wilkins on the meme:engram relation

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Thu Dec 06 2001 - 12:46:45 GMT

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Wilkins on the meme:engram relation
    Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2001 12:46:45 -0000 
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    'even social scientists'?

    That's a bit like arguments where someone goes 'even slugs have brains, of
    sorts'. I assume you didn't mean that in the pejorative sense? :-)


    > ----------
    > From:
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Wednesday, December 5, 2001 23:02 PM
    > To:
    > Subject: Re: Wilkins on the meme:engram relation
    > In a message dated 12/4/2001 10:40:28 PM Central Standard Time, John
    > Wilkins
    > <> writes:
    > > Exactly this sort of confusion arises in the context of "gene" -
    > > initially it was well-defined (by Johannsen, IIRC) as a Mendelian
    > > hereditary factor (ie, anything that assorted in the Mendelian ratio).
    > > As the context broadened, it was gradually less exact, and people had
    > to
    > > coin new terms like cistron, intron, codon, and the like to become more
    > > exact. When molecular biology realised that a "functional" gene could
    > be
    > > anything at all from a single codon to an entire karyotype (in the case
    > > of some asexuals), it became clear that the term had exceeded its
    > useful
    > > life. You generally will find people being very restricted in their use
    > > of the word in the primary literature (eg, the Bcl-2 gene, or the
    > > eyeless gene), so that it has an implicit subscript or index.
    > >
    > > Memes do not assort in a ratio that requires this sort of definition.
    > > They are defined (by Dawkins) as those things that are transmitted
    > "with
    > > appreciable frequency" after the definition by GC Williams in his 1966
    > > book. This makes memes definitional objects - they are nominal things,
    > > not actual ones. A meme is whatever we can recognise as being
    > > transmitted, for whatever reason, with appreciable frequency, and so is
    > > subject to selection.
    > >
    > Hi John.
    > In the case of "meme," we already have some more specific terms available
    > for
    > the kinds of things to which the term "meme" has been applied. These
    > include
    > "idea," "artifact," "behavior," "institution," etc. Because these terms
    > are
    > older and used by as many as a billion people, their meaning cannot easily
    > make a dramatic change in the course of a scientist's career. Both the
    > wide
    > prevalence and the slowness of change in meaning can reduce the
    > possibility
    > of confusion when using these terms.
    > The word "gene" also did not suffer any confusions arising from analogy to
    > some other field. The word "meme," on the other hand, does suffer such
    > confusions. Its meaning evolves not only by the influence from studies of
    > culture, but also according to how closely it resembles various meanings
    > for
    > "gene." One of the distractions, for instance, is the idea that someone
    > must
    > be able to view a "meme" under a microscope -- an idea that Dawkins
    > himself
    > introduced in The Extended Phenotype (1982).
    > --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)
    > see:

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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) see:

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