Date: Wed, 03 Jun 1998 20:58:18 -0700
Subject: memes, testestosterone and consilience
Very interesting stuff indeed. I looked around for the two articles you
mentioned but came up blank. Are they unpublished? The connection
between memetic instantiation, replication, neurophysiology and
evolutionary psychology establishes a couple of promising avenues for
empirical research. The idea conforms with E.O. Wilson's idea of
"consilience." To agree with Wade Smith, I would have to say that his
book is provocative and definitely worth the read.
By applying emerging techniques for brain imaging, the physical basis of
memes may be established including the involvement of emotional factors
moderated by various hormones and neurotransmitters/ inhibitors. Here at
Los Alamos Bob Kraus and others have made significant progress in
magnetoenchephalography using a combination of shielding and
superconducting quantum interference devices. What I would anticipate is
that the study of physical memetics may become possible as techniques
such as these are honed.
Though the physical configuration of memetic instantiation events would
be unlikely to be duplicated from one host to another I would expect
that certain aspects of the events will be congruent in ways that can be
statistically marked out. For example, memetic instantiation events
involving human aggression or submission responses (ie. drunken rednecks
at sporting events) may very well prove to be distinguishable from those
tickling religious ecstatic neural nets. In considering the evolutionary
origins of various behavioral regimes the biological roots of the human
sentiments becomes decipherable. How does this relate to memetics?
By the coevolution of genes and culture certain epigenetic rules (E.O
Wilson) or values (Pugh by way of Durham) predispose the human mind to
specific categories of memetic occupation. Memes associated with
material artifacts will be successful to the extent that they satisfy
various cost/benefit calculations installed by evolutionary processes.
The meme associated with the artifact may directly relate to the most
basic genetic drives (Viagra) or may be indirectly related by way of
anticipated advantages in the domain of social status ("sexy" cars).
Ideological memes, such as those making up religious doctrine, satisfy
different rules and values. Regardless of the material accoutrements of
a given meme, the connection to the functioning brain and cultivated
mind cannot be ignored.
>From the physical basis of memetic instantiation through the
psychological basis of epigenetic rules one may then approach the
sociocultural outcomes and dynamics including selection and
transmission. In my homely opinion, it seems unlikely that any other
route holds comparable promise for the establishment of memetics as
science. There must be a solid hook to biology otherwise memetics will
just be fluffering along as another lame social science.
Thanks for the input Bob. And don't forget the chips and beer. Between
the Stanley Cup, World Cup and NBA championship there a little something
for everybody this summer...OOOORAH!!
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