What does the replicating?

Randy Groves (rgroves@art01.ferris.edu)
Sat, 7 Jun 1997 13:22:17 EST

From: Randy Groves <rgroves@art01.ferris.edu>
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Date: Sat, 7 Jun 1997 13:22:17 EST
Subject: What does the replicating?

Dear Memetics Investigators:

I have been following the discussions with interest concerning the
replication of memes. I am not a biologist (my area if the philosophy
of history), so I may just be betraying my ignorance of things memetic,
but it seems that there is a key disanalogy between the replication of
memes and the replication of genes. Genes have their own replication
mechanism while Memes do not. Memes depend upon something
external, minds (most of the time), to replicate them, while genes'
replication occurs internally.

The reason I see this as problematic for memetics, as applied to
history, for example, is that when we then talk about the greater or
lesser influence of some cultural ideas over others, the argument
must focus on the minds influenced by the meme rather than some
internal mechanism in the meme. In other words, we are back to
traditional questions of influence where we discuss the historical
background and everything else we deal with in such arguments. The
role of memetics doesn't seem to loom very large.

Take, for example, the idea of an afterlife. When we discuss its
appeal, we do not look for an internal mechanism; we look at more
mundane interests, like Freudian "wish-fulfillment." It is easy to
see why people would want an afterlife. Death is a bitch. It isn't
clear how moving to memetic explanation would be any more

The above may sound rather negative, but I am willing to be educated
on the matter if I have missed something.

Randy Groves

J. Randall Groves, M.A.,M.A., Ph.D
Associate Professor of Humanities
Ferris State University
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