Re: The necessity of mental memes

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Mon Jan 21 2002 - 23:02:10 GMT

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    From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    Subject: Re: The necessity of mental memes
    Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 15:02:10 -0800
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    >>>Anyway, since I already have been using the various terms "idea,"
    >>>"behavior," "artifact," "thought contagion," "doctrine," "opinion,"
    >>>system," and "urban legend," I find no communication difficulty arising
    >>>not using the word "meme" alongside them. My book chapter "Evolutionary
    >>>Contagion in Mental Software"
    >>What I dislike in the choice of the word "contagion" to describe the
    >>of information is the implication that the receiver has no choice but to
    >>"infected" by the idea. It also has connotations of sickness and a
    >>that leads to death. Most of the bacteria and a lot of the viruses that
    >>invade our body do so harmlessly. Some are killers. But we have little
    >>choice about catching the flu or HIV. I don't believe this is the case
    >>memes. Although some memes, if taken up by a large enough number of
    >>can lead to sickness within a society and the death of many of its
    >>the overall effect of memes is to make the society stronger and allow us
    >>adapt to a changing environment that is changing too quickly for genetic
    >>evolution to keep up with. It seems to me the terms "virus" and
    >>were chosen to create fear and controversey. They are loaded with
    >>baggage from historical attempts to survive plagues and their aftermath.
    >>Emotion laden terminology should be kept out of the study of culture and
    >>mind if we are to reach objective conclusions about them.
    >"Contagion" may be apt for uses in certain cases though not a term to focus
    >upon to the exclusion of other possibilities. I'm an agnostic on memes so
    >I'm open to other terms and other views.
    >There's a plethora of terms (erroneous or not) out there which refer to
    >stuff influencing human individual and social behavior. It might be neat to
    >construct a taxonomy of these terms, though I'm only aware of a limited
    >number such as meme, mind virus, contagion, culturgen, engram, mnemon,
    >complex, idee' fixe, collective representation, archetype and so on.
    I think ONE of the reasons we chose to couch the ideas of science, law and
    medicine in Latin and Greek words is bacause they didn't carry with them the
    emotional baggage of words we use to talk about our daily lives. Words like
    honor, duty, country and faith rouse certain emotions that have been drilled
    into us since birth. For scientific purposes and objectivity we have to
    separate what we see from what we feel about it. Many a false theory has
    sprung up because the researcher wanted to believe in it. My theory can
    sometimes have as much of an emotional influence as my wife, my children, my
    home or my faith. Emotions often shape what we believe rather than being
    shaped by it.


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