Re: Memes, territory and odors

Mark Mills (mmmills@OnRamp.NET)
Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:46:22 +0000

Date: Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:46:22 +0000
From: Mark Mills <mmmills@OnRamp.NET>
Subject: Re: Memes, territory and odors


Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your willingness to continue the=20

>meme as 'idea/belief/ paradigm etc'
> meme as neuronal pattern
>meme as artefact...
>Rather than going on discussing which of these is 'the meme' can=20
>we recognise that each stage or state is part of the meme replication=20
>process. Can we even develop an agreed terminology which=20
>distinguishes the different states?

Sure, they are all part of the meme replication process. I don't think=20
they are all 'memes,' though. RNA, mitochondria, lysosomes, ribosomes,=20
and cellular membranes are all part of the gene replication process, but=20
we don=B9t call them all genes, though.

Terminology aside, my complaint is that the genetic analogy is abandoned=20
when using the =8Cmeme as idea=B9 construct. If all scientists had=20
concluded in 1920 that Mendel=B9s 'genes' were =8Cideas,=B9 the science w=
never have gotten anywhere. The scientists that stuck with a physical=20
model succeeded.

I=B9m adamant about this because of the epistemological implications. Th=
real point of this exercise in memetics is learning more about our=20
paradigms and epistemologies. This site is called =8CThe Journal of=20
Memetics, Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission.=B9 The=20
subtitle is there to insure the term memetics sticks to evolutionary=20
models. The evolutionary paradigm (everything constantly changes=20
without plan) is the bedrock issue. Is it internally consistent? Does=20
it help us understand how the world works in areas the Platonic=20
epistemology fails? Can we match our map our internal experiences into=20
an evolutionary world view?

If we are going to answer these questions, we have to have clarity. It=20
just doesn=B9t work to call the physical code substrate for our mental=20
activities memes and term the mental activities memes, too. My version=20
of a cultural Neo-synthetic evolutionary analogy to genes may be all=20
wrong, but I think it worth sticking to it until some internal=20
contradictions are found.

IMHO, the =8Cmeme as idea=B9 is a reflection of the Platonic epistemology=
self-protection traits. =8CMemes as ideas=B9 provide convenient homes f=
homunculi (little men) with firm Platonic plans. The linguistic trick=20
of saying =8Cthe chicken is just a way for eggs to reproduce themselves=B9=
plays on our weakness for homunculi. It is comforting to think these=20
little guys with =8Cthe plan=B9 are taking care of things. If we thought=
homunculi ran chicken thought processes, we can be tricked into the=20
equally dubious idea that homunculi run the egg, too.

Descartes maintained his Platonic world view by putting the contact=20
between soul and body at the pineal gland. We are more sophisticated. =20
We require an element of science fiction and a genetic twist make the=20
magic box seem suitably available for scientific study but impossible to=20
identify. =8CMemes as ideas=B9 are well suited for this task.=20

The Neo-synthetic evolutionary model looks to the code substrate called=20
genes to provide stable reproductions and mutation based adaptation. I=20
think we should stick to the model for memes, moving the code substrate=20
to the brain and human artifacts. Keeping our eyes on the substrate is=20
necessary to remain within the evolutionary context and avoid the=20
Platonic traps.


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