Re. re/re:is memetics necessary (alex Brown)

Brown, Alex (
Tue, 24 Jun 1997 17:32:52 +0800

From: "Brown, Alex" <>
To: "'Memetics list'" <>
Subject: Re. re/re:is memetics necessary (alex Brown)
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 1997 17:32:52 +0800

Date: 24th June 1997

A quick response -

Hans-Cees Speel writes (with reference to my reinforcement of Tim
Perpcorn's comment that: "...the theory must match the richness of the
system we study"):

" why have a theory at all then; just walk through reality! But
seriously, no theoryis as rich as everything. A theory is a model that

Of course, but what is it that is being filtered out of the reality into
the model? If as I suspect in some cases it is the richness of relations
between components and levels of organization which is being eliminated
then the model is not an accurate representation (or explanatory device)
of reality or experience. (Eg.Multiple determined Cultural phenomena
being reduced to single-hit memetic events.) While a model of experience
is inevitably not as rich in detail, it can REPRESENT the structure of
reality in a fairly accurate manner. In my opinion, complex systems does
try to do that.

".....You can reduce in many ways, and memetics does it in a way that
shows evolution, etcetera. It will surely simplify things other theories
go into much more deeply, but it can add evolution..... "

I have yet to hear an evolutionary analysis of cultural phenomena in
memetic terms. I think there is a clear distinction to be made here from
discussions so far on the list, between theories of cultural evolution
and memetics.

"......I would say this is a sensible approach [synthesizing existing
models to explain cultural evolution]. I always see memetics as
genetics: it has some theory of its own......."

Yes, but why define or model memetics (defined as a study of cultural
evolution or any other cultural phenomena) after genetics at all?? If we
are looking for processes and mechanisms we can be really quite
pragmatic about where we draw our models from. Equally, if we do find
biological models useful (which I do) then lets use suitably complex
forms of biological theory which recognize and explain the multiple
levels of the biological world - namely species, ecology, environmental
constraints, evolution, punctuated equilibrium models of speciation and
so on and so on. (And, by analogy - the vast complexities of the social
world). The application of the simple, essentially digital modelling of
the biosphere (misrepresenting the analogue continuity of the
biosphere), represented by the radical genetic perspective simply cannot
generate the necessary complexity of processes which generate social or
cultural phenomena.

"....But for real explanations of why some species go extinct or change
into a new niche, you need
ecological theories, geological theories and so on. In the same way you
can describe how theories change (as memeplexes) but then you need to
explain why by social theories, including cognitive ones probably...."

Yes, but I don't see this as the problem. It is a defintion of the task
at hand.

regards to Hans-Ceel and all


Alex Brown

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