Defining Memes [was Memes, territory and odors]

Dr I Price (
Mon, 23 Jun 1997 06:33:59 -0400

Date: Mon, 23 Jun 1997 06:33:59 -0400
From: Dr I Price <>
Subject: Defining Memes [was Memes, territory and odors]
To: "" <>


Written in a spirit of dialog and enquiry rather than assertion

>>IPmeme as 'idea/belief/ paradigm etc'
> meme as neuronal pattern
>meme as artefact...
>Rather than going on discussing which of these is 'the meme' can =

>we recognise that each stage or state is part of the meme replication =

>process. Can we even develop an agreed terminology which =

>distinguishes the different states?

MM Sure, they are all part of the meme replication process. I don't thin=
k =

they are all 'memes,' though. RNA, mitochondria, lysosomes, ribosomes, =

and cellular membranes are all part of the gene replication process, but =

we don=B9t call them all genes, though.>>


Agreed. I am asking first for clarity of definition so we know which of
the three or more we are taliking about. I want to understand meme
replication. I also want to distinguish that which 'self-replicates' from=

that which is copied/replicated in the replication process. The gene, as =
understand it, is programmed by its molecular structure to self replicate=

given a particular context. What is the equivalent auto-replicator in thi=
memetic replication process we keep discussing

>MM Terminology aside, my complaint is that the genetic analogy is
abandoned =

when using the =8Cmeme as idea=B9 construct. If all scientists had =

concluded in 1920 that Mendel=B9s 'genes' were =8Cideas,=B9 the science w=
ould =

never have gotten anywhere. The scientists that stuck with a physical =

model succeeded.>>

I don't see that it is. Granted the physical substrate was necessary for
genetics. It may be that the equivalent neuronal pattern needs
understanding before memetics is 'hard science'. It may be that pursuinbg=

the physical model will take the study of a different form of replicator
down the wrong track.

>>I=B9m adamant about this because of the epistemological implications. =
The =

real point of this exercise in memetics is learning more about our =

paradigms and epistemologies. This site is called =8CThe Journal of =

Memetics, Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission.=B9 The =

subtitle is there to insure the term memetics sticks to evolutionary =

models. The evolutionary paradigm (everything constantly changes =

without plan) is the bedrock issue. Is it internally consistent? Does =

it help us understand how the world works in areas the Platonic =

epistemology fails? Can we match our map our internal experiences into =

an evolutionary world view?>>

I'm with you but then I would say an epistemology is just a meme by anoth=
name: a pattern bent on its own replication. The evolutionary paradigm is=

indeed bedrock however I am interested less in Information Transmission p=
se as the emergence and self-maintenance of organisations which I have
proposed takes place by the meme to rule conversion. I have no hard conce=
about whether or not this is a derivative of the Platonist meme [sensu me=

>>If we are going to answer these questions, we have to have clarity. It =

just doesn=B9t work to call the physical code substrate for our mental =

activities memes and term the mental activities memes, too. My version =

of a cultural Neo-synthetic evolutionary analogy to genes may be all =

wrong, but I think it worth sticking to it until some internal =

contradictions are found.>>

Agree first sentence completely. I haven't found the internal
contradictions in my view yet, and am not even sure that our views are th=

>>IMHO, the =8Cmeme as idea=B9 is a reflection of the Platonic epistemolo=
gy=B9s =

self-protection traits. =8CMemes as ideas=B9 provide convenient homes f=
or =

homunculi (little men) with firm Platonic plans. The linguistic trick =

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 =

little guys with =8Cthe plan=B9 are taking care of things. >>

Why is it comforting? When do our interests as individuals and the
'interests' of [foresight lacking] memes diverge. =

=2E =

>>We require an element of science fiction and a genetic twist make the =

magic box seem suitably available for scientific study but impossible to =

identify. =8CMemes as ideas=B9 are well suited for this task. >>

Agreed. Even if memes as ideas are the real replicators, we can probably
only study them by, on the one hand neuroscience [may be too complicated =
don't know] and on the other by the various constructs through which they=

are transmitted. It does not mean that the construct is the replicator [i=
the Dawkins sense of the word]

>>The Neo-synthetic evolutionary model looks to the code substrate called=

genes to provide stable reproductions and mutation based adaptation. I =

think we should stick to the model for memes, moving the code substrate =

to the brain and human artifacts. Keeping our eyes on the substrate is =

necessary to remain within the evolutionary context and avoid the =

Platonic traps.>>

I don't know what the Platonic traps are, and question whether the brain
and artifacts qualify as the real substrate or whether they are some oth=
part of the overall replication process.

I hope howver that the discussion is bringing us towards clarity.

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Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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