Re: re.Cultural Evolution (units of analysis)

Bill Benzon (
Fri, 13 Jun 1997 07:50:48 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 1997 07:50:48 -0500
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Re: re.Cultural Evolution (units of analysis)

Aaron Lynch,

You've provided the following definition of a meme:
>MEME. Noun. A memory item, or portion of an organism=EDs neurally-stored
>information, identified using the abstraction system of the observer, whose
>instantiation depended critically on causation by prior instantiation of
>the same memory item in one or more other organisms=ED nervous systems.
>("Sameness" of memory items is determined with respect to the
>above-mentioned abstraction system of the observer.)
I don't have much trouble understanding that definition, nor, I would
imagine, most folks posting to this list. What I do question is whether or
not those entities play a role in cultural evolution which is analogous to
that played by genes in biological evolution. I don't see where you or
anyone else has made a convicing demonstration of that.

What I do see is a lot of talk about the power of things like "God is Love"
etc. Since those things obviously correpond to, are produced by, whatever,
entities which match your definition of a meme, those things must be memes.
And since memes, by definition, are to culture what genes are to life, it
follows that your discussion of those things is ipso facto a discussion of
cultural evolution.

I don't buy it.

What I think is going on is that the homunculus in the brain has been cut
into pieces which are then parcelled to these "memes." The biological
analogy is being used as hocus pocus to blind us to the casual nature of
the arguments being made about these other things.

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

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