Re: List of meme definitions

Aaron Lynch (
Sat, 18 Apr 1998 01:05:23 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sat, 18 Apr 1998 01:05:23 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: List of meme definitions
In-Reply-To: <004401bd6a6f$efb0d6e0$2570cacc@lil--elvis>

>Chris wrote:
>>The encoding, by the human nervous system, of its memes in
>>extra-neural media (such as paper, stone, vibrating air, etc.) is for
>>the purpose of transmission of them to other human nervous systems.
>>The meme is not a meme without the nervous system.
>This returns to a question I ask a couple months ago without getting much in
>the way of an answer: "If a meme is ONLY a meme inside a mind, what term
>will we choose for the encoded material of transmission?"

See the discussion of cultural repliconics (the immediate superset of
memetics) in my paper. Vast confusion in the field arises from the fact
that there clearly is an evolutionary replicator theory superset to the
field based solely on the term meme, and the fact that the word does not
have a coinage or standard usage history to support the multitude of add-on

>In other words, if the bible is not itself full of memes (since a book is
>not a nervous system), what does it contain? If the Bill Gates e-mail Aaron
>posted is not a meme, what is it? I suppose we could continue to call them
>"memes encoded into extra-neural media", but that is a clumsy and awkward
>terminology at best.

The email specimen can go by various terms: cultural replicon, meme relic,
meme phenotype, and text contagion. (See my paper, sections 10-11.) As a
meme phenotype, the behavior of sending that email can still be called a
memetic trait. (The sending from a believer is the phenotypic trait of a
different meme than is the sending that came from me.) The study of memetic
traits can still at times be considered broadly part of memetics much as
the study of hemophelia (a gene phenotype) can still at times be considered
broadly part of genetics.

Bear in mind that using the word "meme" in accordance with the
clarification on p. 109 of The Extended Phenotype does not necessitate an
attempt to exclude evolutionary models of non-meme cultural repliconics
form the Journal.

If you read my paper, you will note that I discuss analyzing protein
enzymes as (highly indirect) replicators--ones whose replication mechanisms
always involve nucleic acids at some stage. Enzymes are still not
considered to be or contain "genes." Neither are prions. So biological
repliconics does not consist of pure genetics any more than cultural
repliconics consists of pure memetics. Much of the confusion has been akin
to having many blind people feeling many parts of the elephant and coming
up with different answers about what it is. Recognizing that there is a
superset of memetics without pulling the word "meme" in all sorts of
inconsistent directions is essential to ending the confusion.

>Let's face it, if we, who are creating this new science of memes, cannot
>even package our _own science_ in good memes, who do we think we're foolin'
>here? :-)

"Cultural repliconics" is coined to have a nice ring to it. We have to
expect a handful of new terms in a new science, rather than insisting one
little word carry all of our new meanings for us.

>>>>>>If we say that the "meme" is _the configuration_, what term will
>>we chose for _the products_ of that configuration, the parts which
>>actually transmit and replicate the configuration in another
>>Please clarify, give example(s), of what you mean by "_the
>>products_"/"parts which actually transmit..".
>See above.
>I think is important to distinguish between the meme as it exists
>internally, in the "host" mind, and the rough and often inaccurate form it
>is encoded into for transmission (be these words or drawings or gestures).
>A vital link in the process of transmission is the memes ability to trigger
>that encoding process in the host. I simply think it would be valuable to
>define some terms we can all agree on for the encoded offspring of the meme,
>in order to speak about this part of the process more clearly.
>With curiosity about what a "meme" really is-
>-Tim Rhodes

--Aaron Lynch

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