Re: memes and cultural evolution -Reply -Repl

Bill Ramsay (
Wed, 04 Jun 1997 16:09:24 +0100

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 04 Jun 1997 16:09:24 +0100
From: Bill Ramsay <>
Subject: Re: memes and cultural evolution -Reply -Repl

N. Rose writes in reply to Perper & Coleman:

>The first problem simply stated is;
>"Is a photocopier a replicator?"; after all it *appears* to copy
>things. The answer is obviously no, in my opinion. But I recall
>some debate about this some time back, perhaps on alt.memetics?
>The problem comes down to how you define a 'replicator'; For
>"A bird is just the nest's way of making another nest." is
>certainly wrong, because there is nothing within a nest that
>could be called a replicator. The replicator is quite rightly
>the bird's genes which lead to the construction of nests (the
>extended phenotype of the genes, e.g. Dawkins The Extended
>My suggestion was that by calling artifacts of culture (like
>photocopiers), 'memes' - as presumably you have to if you side
>with the pre-biotic position - it is easy to create confusion
>regarding what is actually doing the replicating.
>The second problem;
>"Can a book or a blue print contain a meme?" After all it
>*appears* to contain the instructions for a replicator. This was
>apparent in a part of the argument over meme extinction. Again
>the question involves the definition of a meme, as an
>instruction, as a replicator. The answer, in my opinion, is no
>again; because the contents of a book cannot replicate
>Once again, by calling artifacts of culture, memes, it is easy to
>create confusion over the definition of a meme.

Coming to this new, could I suggest with some diffidence that if replication
is a dynamic process, then a replicator must be dynamic. A photocopier or a
blueprint (does anyone actually make these anymore?) is not. Without the
dynamic there is little or no possibility of variation (OK the copier is
short of toner..), which, suggests Calvin, is one of the 'six essentials',
and without which the concept of 'meme' would seem to be redundant. Thus a
tracer tracing a blueprint MAY be a replicator, but the blueprint itself
cannot be.

Bill Ramsay

W. Ramsay,
Dept. of Educational Studies,
University of Strathclyde,
Jordanhill Campus,
G13 1PP,

'phone: +44 (0)141 950 3364 (direct dial-in)
fax: +44 (0)141 950 3367
'fax: +44 (0)141 950 3367

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