Re: ply to Grant

From: Jeremy Bradley (
Date: Mon Feb 04 2002 - 05:22:25 GMT

  • Next message: "Re: Selfish meme?"

    Received: by id FAA12998 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Mon, 4 Feb 2002 05:34:10 GMT
    X-Authentication-Warning: Host [] claimed to be green-machine
    Message-Id: <>
    X-Mailer: Windows Eudora Light Version 3.0.1 (32)
    Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2002 16:22:25 +1100
    From: Jeremy Bradley <>
    Subject: Re: ply to Grant
    In-Reply-To: <>
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
    Precedence: bulk

    At 07:45 AM 3/02/02 -0800, you wrote:
    >>Subject: Re: ply to Grant
    >>Date: Sun, 03 Feb 2002 22:36:55 +1100
    >>At 07:52 AM 14/01/02 -0800, Grant wrote:

    The problem we are having is
    how to separate memes from things that are not memes. In other words, the
    definition of a meme. Everyone wants to draw the line in a different place
    and include things other people won't accept. Is a meme an idea? Is it
    behavior? Is it something you can name? Or is it all of these?

    Hi Grant
    I have cut up your post so as to answer its various parts

    My definition of a meme dates back to Dawkins' original concept that a meme
    is to a culture what a gene is to a biological organism. Therefore, if a
    gene is a codified strand which exists within every cell of an organism,
    then a meme is a code which exists within every unit of a culture. As a
    gene enables the recognition of appropriate cells to the body of that
    organism, a meme enables the recognition (within a culture) of artefacts
    which are then perceived as valid or invalid to that culture. Acceptance or
    rejection is therefore predicated by the presence, or absence, of
    sufficient memetic 'switches'. Thoughts, activities, behaviours, ethics and
    other artefacts can only become infectious if they either contain enough of
    the relevant cultural meme/code, or if they can deceive the cultural body
    into perceiving/believing that they do.

    Snip…………..Grant wrote
    Mostly, the people who concern themselves with this problem are
    reductionists. They are searching for the smallest unit from which the
    whole of culture is created. They want to use this dichotomy to create a
    formulaic method of predicting how memes are created and propagated. Is the
    idea you borrow and use really a meme? Or is it just the original idea we
    can call a meme?

    My reply
    A geneticist is not accused of reductionism because they study "the
    smallest unit" from which the organism is created. A gene is what it is,
    and a meme is what it is. They are both small but potent.

    Snip…………..Grant wrote
    What we all seem to agree on, though, is that the culture we have built
    around us to support us was created in bits and pieces that emerged into
    something greater than the sum of its parts. It evolved as the new parts
    replaced old ones and the old provided the material from which to create
    what never existed before. Methods and materials were created that changed
    how we organize ourselves and the kinds of dwellings we live in, how we get
    from place to place, and the kinds of food we eat as well as the utensils we
    use in the process. All of civilization is a result of this memetic
    evolution and we want to understand it so we can use it, just like we use
    everything else in our environment. We think we won't be able to do this
    until we understand exactly where to draw the line.

    That, at any rate, is my take on the situation.


    My reply
    I agree with most of what you say here Grant with the exception of your use
    of the singular "civilisation". There are many civilisations and some of
    them have more respect for the environment than we Westerners do. Also, as
    a narratologist, I question whether cultures evolve or are the result of
    conscious introductions, exclusions and re-defining of cultural elements.
    For example, a successful propaganda campaign must be rooted in the
    cultural values (ie contain the meme code) but is able to engineer a change
    in those values so that the change is accepted by the cultural body as the
    If we "built our culture around us" as you suggest, then it is engineered
    rather than evolved. As Aaron wrote recently the mastery of memetic
    manipulation could be "worth billions", or it may just preserve something
    for our children's children.
    This is an important field of research whatever your "take on it" is.

    ===============================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)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Feb 04 2002 - 05:42:46 GMT