Re: Do monkeys have memes

Mark Mills (
Wed, 5 Nov 97 09:31:31 -0600

Message-Id: <>
Subject: Re: Do monkeys have memes
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 97 09:31:31 -0600
From: Mark Mills <>
To: "memetics list" <>


>wouldnt you agree
>that some memes work against their substrate while
>others help out genes as far as replication is concerned?

I agree that memes can have an impact on genetic reproduction. My
complaint with the term 'recruited' related to the sense of 'agency' you
deposit upon the meme construct. The gene or meme is not a little man
(homunculi). I would rather describe genes and memes as emergent
features of life processes. They are features without any ability to act
with their own sense of identity.

Systems can respond to the environment and maintain equilibrium. Objects
are inert. Genes and memes are objects (coded units of substrate). Of
course, all objects are assemblies of systems so the best we can do is
pick a statistical range of interest and do what seems useful with the

Dawkins posits a sense of 'agency' upon genes and memes in the Selfish
Gene, so you might ask who am I to disagree with the terminology. My
reading of the book found Dawkins using homunculi as a rhetorical tool to
puncture popular notions about the elevated role of 'human nature' and
'human agency.' More specifically, Dawkins was breaking down
neo-Platonic notions about the existence of ideal 'forms' in nature, and
the ability of humans to discern them.

Dawkins' larger purpose was expansion of evolutionary epistemology, a
view of knowledge that requires no ideals or unique ability to discern
them. Flow and change are the 'static' elements of evolutionary systems.

The 'selfish gene' with its homunculi is a useful intellectual trap. It
gets all sorts of people to consider alternative epistimologies.


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)