What's in a Meme? by John Wilkins

Bruce Edmonds (b.edmonds@mmu.ac.uk)
Mon, 02 Feb 1998 15:56:15 +0000

Message-Id: <34D5EC9F.41C67EA6@mmu.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 02 Feb 1998 15:56:15 +0000
From: Bruce Edmonds <b.edmonds@mmu.ac.uk>
To: jom-emit-ann@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: What's in a Meme? by John Wilkins

What's in a Meme?
Reflections from the perspective of the
history and philosophy of evolutionary

John S. Wilkins
3 Peel Grove, Mt Martha 3934, Australia.


1 - Introduction
2 - The background to the problem
3 - The Hull-Dawkins Distinction and the evolutionary gene
Sidebar: interactors and replicators
Sidebar: phenotypes, phemotypes and classification
4 - The lineages and ecologies of culture
5 - Memetic individuals
6 - Conclusion and prospectus


This paper is intended as a focal article to raise philosophical
issues about the nature of memes and memetic theory. To bring
consistency to memetic analysis, researchers need to understand
and agree upon the theoretical role of memes and the generalised
model of evolution in which it occurs as a theoretical term. To
help this, I have traced the source of Dawkins' conception of
memes from GC Williams' evolutionary gene and through to the
Hull-Dawkins Distinction between replicators and interactors and
Hull's notion of lineages and the idea of an individual in biology.
The complexity of biological modes of evolution suggests that
conceptualising memes as disease pathogens is not an alternative to
evolutionary models of memetic development. I argue for a close
and strict analogy between biology and memetics. I introduce the
idea of a memetic individual or profile to clarify the ontology of
memes and their ecologies. Some promising methods from biology
and other disciplines such as Hamming Distance and Wagner
groundplan divergence methods are suggested. A glossary of
mainly biological technical terms used and introduced neologisms
is included.

Keywords: Meme, evolution, gene, replicator, interactor,
individual, natural selection, term, mnemone, pheme, deme,
ecology, epidemiology, mind virus, Lamarckism, Dawkins, Hull,
Campbell, Williams

Bruce Edmonds,
Centre for Policy Modelling,
Manchester Metropolitan University, Aytoun Bldg.,
Aytoun St., Manchester, M1 3GH. UK.
Tel: +44 161 247 6479 Fax: +44 161 247 6802