Re: Explanatory coherence

Bill Benzon (
Tue, 05 Aug 1997 16:46:12 -0400

Date: Tue, 05 Aug 1997 16:46:12 -0400
From: Bill Benzon <>
Subject: Re: Explanatory coherence

Mark Mills wrote:

> >> If memes are outside the body, publically available to all, where
> did
> >> they first come from?
> >
> >Well, you speak and the air vibrates. You pound on a log and the air
> >vibrates. You put some pigment on a cave wall and there's a picture.
> Bill,
> In all three of your examples, conscious action was the source from
> which
> the meme was created (speaking, pounding, painting). If memes are out
> in
> the environment, for everyone to see, they must have been there prior
> to
> conscious activity. Otherwise, they are results of human activity,
> just
> a by product of some internal human process. Rather than being
> replicators, they are some sort of vehicle.
> Am I missing something?

Yes. My point of view.

You seem to think that, because those things are just inanimate physical
phenomena, they cannot be replicators for they contain no causal force
of their own. I recall Mario arguing that it is cells which replicate,
not genes. So, I'm thinking of brains as doing for external physical
memes what cells do for genes -- which just happen to be inside the
physical envelope of the cell. Without cells, naked genes can't
replicate. Without human brains, naked tunes and utterances and
paintings can't replicate.

> Going back to the genetics analogy, DNA replication is dependent upon
> a
> rich environment of nucleotide bases. Without this already in
> existence,
> the replication process would never have started. If draws an analogy
> to
> this in the cultural domain, what would be the 'pre-replication' brew
> that offered a starting point for cultural replication?

Stripping twigs of leaves and using them to fish for termites? Washing
potatos? Banging sticks on the ground?

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)