Re: A Drosophila for cultural evolution

Bill Benzon (
Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:24:41 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:24:41 -0500
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Re: A Drosophila for cultural evolution

Tim Perper observes:
>By contrast, memetics has no "short" pea plants that form an otherwise
>inexplicable mystery. If anything, the transmission mechanisms of social
>phenomena are visible to everyday commonsense -- language, rumor,
>education, the printing press, and so forth. In one reading of the
>history, memetics was deliberately invented on analogy to the existing
>science of genetics, rather than emerging from the phenomena themselves.

This suggests an analogy to me. Imagine someone who explains the internal
temperature of his/her house by reference to the causal efficacy of numbers
on a dial. You dial up 72 and, in relatively short order, the space shows
up to be 72 degrees. You dial up 79, and that's what you get. Perfect
correlations. It's all in the numbers.

If you choose as your phenomena existing memes then, by definition, they
must have replicated successfully. You don't need to worry about the
conditions which made such replication possible. You can just set them
aside and get down to the job of classifying successful memes in whatever
way makes sense.

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

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