Re: Lamarckism and Category (?) Mistakes

N Rose (
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 12:57:01 +0000

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 12:57:01 +0000
From: N Rose <>
Subject: Re: Lamarckism and Category (?) Mistakes

Reply to Paul and Bill

Nick Rose wrote:
>>If culture proceeds by evolution; then it cannot have
>>foresight: If it does have foresight, then we do not need a
>>theory of evolution to help us understand culture.

Paul wrote:
>I think you are wrong on the second point Nick because there are
>many different evolutionary theories from Marxism to Lamarkism;
>evolution by natural selection is only one variant of evolution,
>which is I, and I agr= ee with you here, is blind (you first
>point). It might seem obvious to you that memetics works
>through a blind process of natural selection, but the
>consequences are adopting this position are huge - one of them,
>as Tim Perper has pointed out, is you are going to have to wave
>good bye to free will.

I agree that there is more than one theory of evolution, but the
only one that makes much sense for me is the one based in
Darwinism; evolution natural selection. Darwinism is the only
one which adequately describes complexity and apparent design
within nature without the need of a designer. If all I have to
do in order to import this 'universal acid' over to culture is
'wave good bye to free will', then the price is cheap. I've
never had free-will, so I won't miss it!

If 'self' is defined as 'free-will' stuff, then I reject the
notion that the 'self' can select anything. If 'self' is a
co-adapted meme complex [and Bill has a point in that we *do*
need to think about what is the environment for a meme which
determines it's success] then the 'self' can select memes; memes
already in situ in the brain are *bound* to bias the acceptance
and expression of new memes. e.g. the 'meme' "'I' believe that
faith is good, testing things is bad." will bias the system into
accepting certain types of memes and rejecting others.

Once we reject the notion of 'free-will' selecting memes, then
the question becomes; what is? This is the point that Bill was
raising, and one which memetics *must* attempt to answer. I
suspect that much of cognitive psychology (memory, etc) will give
us a starting point. We know that long complicated 'ideas' are
difficult to remember (e.g. how to do wave equations in quantum
mechanics); whereas simple 'ideas' are more easily stored, and
transmitted (e.g. God loves you!). Thus, by natural meme
selection we might expect the world to fill up with simple (as
defined by cognitive science) memes.

Bill challenges me on the fact that natural selection in
biological evolution acts at the level of the phenotype, not the
genes themselves; in memetics we tend to use the word 'meme' to
refer to both the instruction in the brain, and the cultural
artifacts and behaviour those instruction cause. My very first
e-mail questioned this (see i-culture and m-culture). The
distinction between 'memeotype' and memetic phenotype is
important if we are ever to answer Bill question to his
satisfaction. If we can see meme selection acting upon the meme
phenotype, then perhaps that gives us hope for a science of
culture without a 'soul'.

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