Re: What does the replicating?

Bill Benzon (
Sun, 8 Jun 1997 12:17:32 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sun, 8 Jun 1997 12:17:32 -0500
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Re: What does the replicating?

Omar de la Cruz:
>In a similar way, when a human being communicates an "idea" (allow me to
>use this imprecise term for a moment) to another human being, we can see
>that process in two ways: the way I just used, namely, the *person* is
>communicating the idea, or alternatively, that the idea is replicating itself.
>To make more clear the analogy, the idea is replicating using "materials"
>(the mind or the brain of the second person) and energy, the energy used in
>the communication by the two persons and any medium they may have used.
>Clearly, ideas cannot "replicate" in a vacuum, that is, in the absence
>of people, but they can do so when in the "mental soup", a collective of
>minds that can communicate with each other.
> of the problems I have with orthodox memetics is that its
account of this replication (& what?) is mostly wishful
handwaving. In the case of biological viruses, we know quite a good deal
about the mechanisms of replication. And in the case of computer viruses
one could argue that we know all there is to know about their mechanisms of
replication, since we design and engineer them for just that purpose. But
in the case of memes/ideas...the verdict is out. We don't know what's
going on in the brain. So memetics seems to be taking the form of a causal
theory in biology, applying it to culture, and merely assuming that some
day comparable replication mechanisms will be found. Until then, we're
stuck with believing that memes replicate because that's what memes do.
Seems kinda' circular.

Now, if you have a Platonic love of the circle as an ideal form, well then
memetics is perfect. But if you're looking for causes....

>This parable suggests that widespread religions must have an internal
>structure that stimulates its memetic replication, not just the fulfillment
>of the metaphysical needs of the believers.

It seems to me the obvious point of your story is that one of our
philosophers communicates his belief to others while the other doesn't. Is
there any surprise that one of these belief systems survives and the other
doesn't? What benefit do we get from translating this into memetic terms?

William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA

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)