Re: Is memetics needed. Was: A Drosophila for cultural evolution

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Tue, 24 Jun 1997 09:17:12 -0700

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 1997 09:17:12 -0700
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: Is memetics needed. Was: A Drosophila for cultural evolution

Mark Mills wrote:
> Tim and Martha,
> >The meme analogy is fetching, but memetics still has no
> >inexplicable observations, like the inheritance of shortness
> >in pea plants, that demand a novel explanation. To a doubter,
> >memetics seems little more than complex
> >jargon for discussing what we already know about.
> >This boils down to saying that memetics does not seem to
> >be *necessary* the way Mendelian genetics was necessary
> >for explaining particulate
> Since our questions are generally created from problems within our
> paradigm set (epistemology), it is not surprising that memetics might
> strike many as unnecessary. A similar situation faced Darwin. Fossils
> were known in ancient times, but they were conveniently described as the
> bones of a variety of magical beings. There were few questions in the
> popular mind about these objects, current paradigm explained them.
> I'll suggest a couple of places where glaring inexplicable observations
> are available for memetics to answer, but most will think them areas
> where memetics has little hope of impacting. The first is the origin of
> human language, both as sign system and inborn human ability. The
> second is origin of human writing systems.

I agree that here one can find new explanations for old observations.
The origin of language itself may be not all that important (although it
is a very intriguing matter) but what we should study is the impact on
behaviour, its interaction with our animal emotions. I'd say memetics
start where spoken language starts and that science starts very soon
after written - printed language starts. As simple as that.

Of course, it is not because memetics starts that genetic behaviours
stop and not because science starts that memetic driving forces stop to
exist. Looking at these three levels of 'behavior' and how they interact
in a human mind can provide many answers, also about ourselves and about
our biases and memes.

Mario Vaneechoutte

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