Re: List of meme definitions

Hans-Cees Speel (
Fri, 10 Apr 1998 09:19:55 +0000

From: "Hans-Cees Speel" <>
To: Aaron Lynch <>,
Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 09:19:55 +0000
Subject: Re: List of meme definitions

Dear Aaron,
if the message does not appear on the memetics list, could you
forward it? I am not sure my address at home works with the list.

> Hans,
> It is possible that you don't understand me correctly, due to arguments in
> biology using specialized meanings for the word "replicator."

Of course.

I use a very
> fundamental definition for "replicator," meaning only "that which came into
> being by replication." I regard this word to be a general term in the
> English language, and not the special property of Richard Dawkins.

I am Dutch so ' please correct my English which stinks" as Eddy
Murphy once said in a movy ;-)

Thus, I
> do not adhere to his view that only privileged classes of entities may ever
> be considered "replicators" for reasons other than having been caused by
> prior instances of "the same" entity. "Replicator" as I use it is defined
> thus:
> Replicator: Noun.
> An entity, identified using the abstraction system of the observer,

This part of the definition makes the definitio rather loose I think.

> instantiation depended critically on causation by prior instantiation of
> the same entity entiy. ("Sameness" of entities is determined with respect
> to the above-mentioned abstraction system of the observer.)

So this makes a gene a replicator, but only a gene that is involved
in replication direct? I guess not, but I do not know what you think.

Also is an organism thena replicator? If so you definition is really
different from the Dawkins/Hull definitions.

> Note too, that I retain the very broad meaning of the word "entity," such
> that anything understood to exist (including electrons, interactors, etc.)
> is considered an "entity."

That is common I think.

> By my definition, anything said to "reproduce," for instance, has
> "replicated" with respect to some abstraction in use by the observer. This
> includes organisms, which are therefore "replicators."

I see, you do have a different interpretation at least. I count
organisms out.

Dawkins's thesis
> that the gene is THE unit of selection thus becomes a thesis that the gene
> is the only replicator worth analyzing.

Hull on the other hand sais that Dawkins and he agree that if there
are different entities that replciate their structure directly
they count as replicators too. So for instance their example of a
part of I believe it was a part of the cell-wall in an organism was
also a replicator.

(This is his thesis, not mine, and
> it is up to him, not me, to defend it.) I, on the other hand, have never
> advanced a thesis that the meme is THE unit of cultural selection. It is
> possible to adhere to a substrate-specific and level-specific meaning of
> the term "meme" without insisting that no other classes of entities be
> considered as replicators or interactors. I am just insisting on using the
> word consistently.

Me too, just differenty I quess.

Likewise, it is perfectly possible to call attention to
> biological interactors without trying to broaden the term "gene" such that
> whole organisms must be considered "genes." (You can even discuss genes as
> interactors without defining them as such--as you have noted.)


> I do not insist that the analysis of replicators exclude consideration of
> interactors. Nor do I insist that processes cannot be discussed as
> replicators or interactors. (Indeed, some, most, or all memories might be
> considered processes, but my definition does not require answering this
> question.) Many replicators are not memes just as many replicators are not
> genes.


> In any case, I'm not sure how your comment disagrees with my earlier
> statement:
> "Yet if you do write about memes as replicators, then you need a definition
> that makes sure that ALL of the instances labeled as "memes" are indeed
> replicators.

As I see it what you are saying is that if you write about memes as
repliciators they can only be replciators and nothing else. If I
mis-read then that is where we go wrong in understand each other.
If so this means you are saying that memes cannot be interactors.

If you do not, then people will rightly regard you as
> mislabeling all sorts of non-replicated and non-replicating mnemons that
> occur as private re-invented thoughts in some but imitated thoughts in
> others."
> If you want to say that memes are by definition always replicators (whether
> or not they are sometimes also interactors), then it is replication, not
> interaction, that needs to be embedded in the definition.

I agree wih that last sentense: memes ar defined as replicators, but
can also be interactors now and then (or more often:-).

I think thus we have for a large part the same definition (exept the
part on the oart on the observer's systems) , but we interpreted it
differently. I think an organism does not count, nor should a
replicator be involved in its own replication. This is of course
strictly definition stuff.

greetings, I have learned something!


Theories come and go, the frog stays [F. Jacob]
Hans-Cees Speel
Managing Editor "Journal of Memetics Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission"

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