Re: Memes, territory and odors

Mark Mills (mmmills@OnRamp.NET)
Sat, 21 Jun 1997 20:14:59 +0000

Date: Sat, 21 Jun 1997 20:14:59 +0000
From: Mark Mills <mmmills@OnRamp.NET>
Subject: Re: Memes, territory and odors


Mark said:
>It is my belief that territorial markings are both
>cultural and memetic. Additionally, the system is
>pre-conscious. Humans don't have an exclusive ability
>to play this memetic game

If said:
>You are suggesting, if I read you correctly, that it might be part of
>the phemotype - that is transmitted without reference to a
>genetic code. Does anyone have data?

In the human domain, examples of marking without genetic involvement are
easy to find.

Is that what you are asking?

Human languages include excellent marking features. 'No trespassing'
signs do a fairly good job. 'Keep off the lawn,' 'property deeds,'
'Men's room' (at least in US), etc. None of these are referenced by
genetic code, though the actual words invoke a large body of cultural
rules to produce the expected territorial behavior.

While on the subject, it can be pointed out that no human language has
used a Baldwin effect to get into the genes. Human linguistic sign
systems are not genetic, but the genes seem to predispose human children
for linguistic mimicry and memorization (inflection, cadence, tonal
quality, etc). (a feature lost in most adults) Thus, the actual
expression of territorial linguistic behavior is entirely cultural but
stands upon a genetic foundation.

As to wolves and cats, there is probably a higher level of genetic
involvement in marking activities, but I doubt it varies from the human
linguist model. Mammalian infants and mothers do not identify
themselves based on an ability to genetically recognize the sight or
smell of the other. The reality of 'identification' is sight and smell
memorization. All mammalian mothers can be easily mislead into caring
for the wrong child. A basic skill that is missing in wolves, cats and
other mammals is a highly developed sound mimicry talent.

>I use replicator in what I understand to be the Dawkins sense -
>an entity with an inbuilt tendency to seek to make copies
>of itself in other hosts.

That sounds fine to me, but only covers a part of Darkin's proposal.
You have avoided Dawkin's allusion to 'genetics' and 'genes.' These are
important aspects of his proposal for the construct 'meme.' He is
suggesting that cultural evolution has an alternative physical code
substrate for stabilizing the replication processes. Genes are units of
code substrate (DNA) stabilizing biological replication. Thus, the
construct 'meme' should refer to an alternative physical code substrate
stabilizing replication of cultural entities. Like genes, memes should
be available for physical examination.

Mark Mills

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