Re: meme lineages

Robert G. Grimes (
Thu, 03 Jul 1997 14:52:32 -0400

Date: Thu, 03 Jul 1997 14:52:32 -0400
From: "Robert G. Grimes" <>
Subject: Re: meme lineages

Bill Benzon wrote:
> Robert G. Grimes wrote:
> > Bill,
> >
> > Your comments take me back to discussions held on Alt.memetics
> > sometime
> > back where we discussed that a meme couldn't exist outside of the mind
> >
> > but that only the "husk or seed" of a meme, i.e., the symbology
> > representing the meme in its milieu, could be spoken, written, etc.
> > The
> > physical construct of the meme with its associative references and
> > electro-chemical attributes (including any neural transmitters or
> > hormones possibly stimulated when the meme is "accessed") would
> > actually
> > be unique in each and every individual but the "effect or image" as
> > stimulated by the symbology would be as close of a "replication" as
> > could be achieved under the circumstances (such as perceived color to
> > true color).
> I don't understand this paragraph. My best guess is that you are
> asserting a mind/brain dualism in which memes are in minds (which are
> somehow connected up with brains) and memes can be acceptably identical
> between people (what you call "effect or image") despite arbitrarily
> different & individually unique "physical construct" in their respective
> brains.


Yes, mind/brain is a satisfactory way to label what I called "mind."
I've never seen a mind sans the body nor sans a brain. Mind was used to
simplify as it refers to the cognitive processing center, its referents
(axonal/dendritic network including RAM, chemistry and electrical
potentials), and the assortment of memes (thought constructs that
replicate and evolve). Milieu refers to the same thing but accentuates
the constantly changing electrochemical tensions, effects and
interactions, i.e., the cognitive enviroment.

Thus, I assumed that it was an apriori assumption that each individual's
receptive cognition is "subjective" in that every external stimuli is
filtered by the sensory pathway and the subsequent referents and somatic
milieu. Vice versa, when effecting communication the cognition is again
reduced to the effector network and subsequent filtration. Given that
the same thing happens with each individual we obviously have a great
deal of difficulty if we don't consider the meme a unique entity within
each cognitive milieu. Since each individual sensorium would complexly
filter everything, uniquely, to that cognitive milieu. That was what I
was referring to with "true color - perceived color" since it has been
demonstrated that folks don't see colors truly but only approximately
for the same reasons.

Mind/brain dualism is an old and well-accepted philosophical
> position, but I'm probably not terribly sympathetic to it. However..


I have no "dualism" involved in my own conceptions about this. Value
systems are usually infinitely variable and the word dualism (two-valued
- in my mind) is so primitive that it usually only hangs around in
ancient metaphysical religious stuff, "right/wrong, light/dark,
heaven/hell, positive/negative, etc."

> I have no difficulty with the idea that there is substantial agreement
> between people on a wide range of concepts; social life would be
> impossible without it. But I think that agreement needs to be explained.
> Somehow it is the result of a social processes in which people interact
> by exchanging "meme husks" with one another. Among many other things, I
> want to know how this social process works.

That was my reference to Chomsky's evolutionary linguistic theories,
i.e., built in language referential system. If you are familiar with
his thoughts on the subject, he uses some interesting statistics that
lead one to consider that he is on firm ground. If, evolutionarly
speaking, we have a cognitive system preprogramed for grammars, etc.,
then, if the meme concept is valid, it would appear to me that it could
follow that there would be preconditioned tools for meme handling.
> > This conceptually takes care of problems associated with language
> > differences, the descriptive narrative of a meme - spoken or written - and other storable or recordable constructs, i.e., digitized
> > representations.
> That is, it eliminates from consideration much of what actually happens
> in human interaction.

No, that is my error if I implied that it eliminated such interactions,
only that we know they are there but we still have the "effect" of
approximation that is very difficult, at times, to distinguish from
actually transmitting the "true meaning," (see my commments below on
"particles" for a parallel) yet we still "know" that they must be
> > The implications attributed to linguistic evolutionary "prewiring or
> > hardwiring" elaborated by Noam Chomsky could easily be associated with
> >meme identities, i.e., a predilection toward conscious imagery
> > constructs of verisimilitude,
> What are these things? Patterns of physical energy in the brain?
> Disembodied memes in disembodied minds? Where does the verisimilitude
> come from?

It is the appearance of verisimilitude, of plausability that concepts
are the same (even when they can only be unique), quite in line with
Korzybski's theories of anthropology, our nervous system and General
Semantics (which he said he wished he had named General Anthropology).

Hark back to the days of electrical mapping of the cortex when, for
example, truly "structural" arrangements of "thought processes" in the
form of dreams, epilileptic auras, motor movements, visions (subjects
actually "dreamed" under electrical stimulation while awake)
demonstrated these structural relationships. As to what they are in
regard to memes, our discussions have considered spatial relationships
of "charged" neurons within associative networks which are the somatic
equivalent of "ideas." When one draws an anology with molecular biology
and organic chemistry, i.e, molecule or cellular receptor shapes of such
constructs that are neurotransmitter antagonists or protagonists, etc.,
one begins to have a concept of a meme construct, how infinitely varible
such arrangements can be, and how powerful a "simple" meme could
manifest itself. Obviously, different but so, so similar in causal

Personally, I call this concept of uniqueness, "approximation," and it
handles physics as well as cognitive functions, i.e., "particles"
(already an approximation) are approximations of their class and energy
level but each is unique - they may have the same "approximate charge,"
their spin may be in the same direction but the distribution of density
or energy, polar orientation or spatial coordinates with relation to a
nucleous, etc., would not be expected to be the same as another of the
class. Our calculations take this into consideration, naturally, as we
take things to be "identical" within margins of error but,
philosophically, usually the scientist does not accept true identity,
only approximations for which we cannot experimentally tell the
difference (and when we can we change our theories).
> > Thus, "equivalent" memes can exist and operate (evolve and replicate)
> > in
> > various races and linguistic groups when the symbology is entirely
> > different.
> How do you know they are equivalent? Because you have defined them to
> be? Do the people speaking different languages know that they are
> talking about the same things?

Well, not just because of definition but by pragmatic and empiric
examples that convince us that we "are thinking or speaking of the same
thing," even though fundamentally we know that everything is unique. We
really mean "the same thing *for our purposes*." At least, I meant that.
Even when in the presence of a translator it becomes readily apparent
with nodding, head shaking, etc., that quite a bit of communication
takes place even under difficult conditions of language, not to mention
cognitive milieu.

Therefore, the process is to hypothecate certain conditions regarding
the meme and its functions, construction, etc., and, if such hypothesis
leads to little or no contradiction and the ability to predict future
activity based on the hypothesis within our margins of error, then we
are right and will act upon such a prognosis until proven wrong.

Personally, I find the memetic "nomenclature" extremely handy, whether
it proves to be as we think it is or not. In other words, until
something better comes along, it is quite handy for social answers and
prognosis or, at least it has seemed so to me. Now, I never, for a
moment, considered the "printed word" a meme nor a volume on Democratic
Principles a meme, nor a computer program a meme, etc. For my money, the
meme exists only in minds and, in its simplest form, is quite complex
considering the varibles involved in referents, chemistry, electrical
potentials, etc.

Thus, it is astounding to me that we would consider the transfer
symbology as the meme, as I would simply consider that the "seed, germ,
husk, or armature" through which the true meme is replicated
(approximated) in the receptive organism. If one again compares it with
a gene the comparison would, in my mind, fail, as only the analogy is
appropriate, not the reality. Again, to compare with genes and genetics,
not one of us would consider the best set of identical twins to actually
be "identical." Nor, would most scientists truly consider the genes of
the same type to be "identical" but certainly, "close enough for
government work."

Thanks, Bill, for making me think further about this and I hope that my
further elucidation has proved helpful in a "meeting of the minds." It
has always seemed to me that this is "where the rub" comes in when I
read argumentation about memes. There always seems to be too much
attributed to the symbology but there is no doubt that the symbology
carries the seed of the meme, otherwise, as you have stated, we couldn't
communicate at all. Yet, when one sees an "idea catch on" and the chain
reactions of replication take place, our analogy of molecular biology
and perhaps the stimulation of endorphins or other neural transmitters
associated with the particular meme construct is apparent. The "idea"
carries itself with the causal effect on the host organisms and the
chain activity that follows. When one then immerses oneself in the
apparent chaos of populations awash with such activity it does make the
delineation of the process appear terribly difficult because of the
multiple interactions and "meme triage" that subsequently occurs.

Again, thanks for your post, I enjoyed chewing this over again....



Bob Grimes Jacksonville, Florida

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore....."

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