Re: meme generation & evolution

Bill Benzon (
Sat, 26 Jul 1997 07:43:16 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sat, 26 Jul 1997 07:43:16 -0500
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Re: meme generation & evolution

>>From Alex

>Finally, I would suggest that we do not only need to study 'catchy
>tunes', circulating 'rumours', Coca Cola adverts or religious fads to
>note the remarkable complexity and order which prevades culture. I am
>always surprised when the study of cultural evolution employs such small
>scale and ephemeral phenomena.

There are people who study cultural evolution who are interested in
large-scale phenomena, but, alas, they seem not to be memeticists.

I've recently been reading _Conceptual Revolutions_ by Paul Thagard, who
thinks of himselve as a computational philosopher of science. In this book
he's looking at scientific revolutions -- from phlogistion theory to oxygen
theory in chemistry, creationism to evolutionism in biology, the
copernican, relativistic, and quantumm revolutions in physics, the
emergence of plate tectonics in geology. In each case he develops a
cognitive model for the "before" and "after" theories. This involves
figuring out what the basic concepts are and how they are related to one
another and listing the basic observations, hypotheses, and explanations
which were offered in the literature during the course of these various
scientific revolutions. Thagard then argues that the "after" theory was
accepted because it had greater explanatory coherence than the "before"
theory. His notion of explanatory coherence is implemented as a
connectionist computational model.

Now, if one starts thinking of explanatory coherence as a selective force,
one could begin to see Thagard's theory as an evolutionary one -- though he
would certainly resist the notion (he explicitly critiques David Hull at
one point and asserts that his computational view is superior to the
evolutionary analogy).

It's a substantive and impressive piece of work.

William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA

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