Re: testing memetics

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Wed, 10 Dec 1997 09:40:26 -0800

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 1997 09:40:26 -0800
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: testing memetics

Aaron Lynch wrote:

> A new paper at
> goes into the quantitative methods
> and other considerations in testing population memetics. (Contains some
> material and a similar title as an earlier paper.)
> ---------------
> An evolutionary recursive replicator theory of mental/brain information is
> presented. Noting that all replicator theories rest at least tacitly upon
> the fundamental notions of causation and of calling two or more entities
> "the same" with respect to an abstraction, the concept is rendered explicit
> in defining the terms "mnemon" and "meme." It is argued that there may be
> no "absolute" system of abstractions for memetics much as there is no
> absolute coordinate system (framework of space-time abstractions) in
> physics. A symbolic calculus of mnemon conjugations and replication events
> is introduced. The term "meme" is given a concise technical definition, and
> reasons are offered for avoiding more expansive definitions. Arguments that
> meme sets are generally only partially ordered then provide a formal reason
> for rejecting the idea of mnemon "size" as a crucial element in defining
> the word meme. Differential equations are developed for meme host
> population versus time in a two-meme system, modeling the dynamics whereby
> events at the individual level give rise to trends at the population level.
> This lays a foundation for computerized simulations and the falsification
> or validation of specific memetic hypotheses. As memetic hypotheses
> generally involve observable communication events they are found to have
> stronger empirical standing than hypotheses involving unidentified genes.
> Mechanisms of creativity as a population phenomenon are examined, with the
> memetic perspective yielding a novel explanation for the temporal
> clustering of independent co-creations.

>Creation and propagation are integrated into a theory of evolution by >variation and natural selection of memes.

A criticism (not on the main issue, but on the last sentence only):

I think that natural selection of memes is a contradictio in terminis.
Natural selection is about different reproductive success of organisms
(interactors) which influences the gene ('replicator') frequency. Memes
are also selected but not because they are in some organism of which
they help to determine the reproductive success, like genes do.

Given variation and an environment there will always be selection (one
could say that radio-active decay is still ongoing culling selection of
those atomic configurations which are unstable under the physical laws
of our universe), but only genes can be naturally selected.

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)