Re: memes and cultural evolution -Reply

Peter Bentley (
Thu, 05 Jun 1997 11:23:36 +0100

Date: Thu, 05 Jun 1997 11:23:36 +0100
From: Peter Bentley <>
Subject: Re: memes and cultural evolution -Reply

Hardman DK wrote:

> Perhaps we can consider the answer to these questions by analogy with
> the
> gene. When is a gene extinct? DNA can be retrieved not just from dead
> organisms, but extinct ones. In the latter case, genes which no longer
> play any part in the world nonetheless exist in a physical sense. In
> principle - the Jurassic Park scenario - these genes could be pressed
> back
> into service to do their original job.

Biologists usually use the word 'extinct' when referring to creatures,
phenotypes, not separate genes. Hence, a Dodo is extinct, but it's
is perfectly preserved in the museum exibits.

Perhaps this is why everyone was having trouble defining whether a meme
is extinct or not.

Thus, a language not in use any more could be described as being
extinct, even
if a complete written record of it exists.


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