Re: The Memetics Stance and the SSSM

Robert G. Grimes (
Wed, 09 Sep 1998 13:45:48 -0400

Date: Wed, 09 Sep 1998 13:45:48 -0400
From: "Robert G. Grimes" <>
Subject: Re: The Memetics Stance and the SSSM

Paul Marsden wrote:

> Snip for space

> A big problem
> has resulted from the popularisation of psychology where members of the
> public have started reading about these models, and some individuals have
> mistaken these models for actual processes going on in the brain (probably
> by not getting beyond page 3.). You may think this is ridiculous, but it is
> true! Some poor souls actually think there are real things such as beliefs,
> attitudes and values in the brain and that if we opened up their heads we
> would find them as real observable and measurable entities. They didn't
> realise that a thought is an arbitrary set, bearing absolutely no a priori
> relation to brain activity whatsoever (I wonder what colour these poor
> misguided souls think the thought of the colour blue is?) I doubt anyone on
> the list believes this preposterous stuff, but there's no limit to public
> gullibility.

Snip Snip for space

Fine but without a pocket PET scanner how are you going to do mental

> memetics?


This may be one of the most cogent statements thus far. We do not want to get
into the same bind that Classical Physics and Quantum Physics acquired, i.e., we
must have a "model" that we can use as an analogue, etc., and when one could not
create a wavicle model we were stymied until physicists did just that, created a
wavicle model but a totally mathematical one, an abstract one. Making an
empirical model and experimenting became a distinctly different thing and if
one thinks that one can continue investigating particle physics sans a bigger
and better accelerator, et al, then one does not realize why particle physicists
are all rushing into other fields, such as molecular biology, etc. We are
beyond the days of Crook's Radiometers, pitchblende and film, and simple
mechanisms to show evidence of these things and are paying the price for not
continuing with the super-cooled supercollider, etc. The penalty will be paid

We may just have to have pet scanner time and techniques available for the
necessary empirical studies in order to make "real" progress.

> snip

> You can't just say (well, you can but it won't get you very far), "The
> established social sciences who have been researching human culture for over
> a century might be respected and funded - but I think they are all wrong - I
> haven't bothered reading what they have to offer, but take it from me, I
> know. And I'm not going to tell you why - it's an (internal :-) secret.
> But, don't worry I have a better idea (memetics)."

The necessity of getting beyond this clash of abstractions may be a large part
of the problem... Our best analogue to date, in my opinion, has been a
cybernetic approach with the use of such things as fuzzy logic, construction of
neural networks, inference engines, etc., utilizing concepts well expressed,
perhaps, by Minsky's "The Society of Mind." Clumsy all when compared to the
human cognitive system, but still a different nomenclature that enables one to
explore new concepts in thinking in an empirical manner sans old baggage.
Someone made a comparison between the brain and RAM and pointed to our
phylogenetic preprogramming as falling outside of that sphere. I would reply
that ROM would be the nomenclature to represent such instinctual, organic or
preprogrammed apparatus (such as Chomsky's and others language mechanisms, LAD,
Vaneechoutte's Music Acquisition Device, etc. ), with RAM to represent the
potential learning and relationships, microneme relationships (Minsky), etc.,
and CACHE(n1) for example, to represent a "consciousness" of perhaps a verbal
level, CACHE(n2) a consciousness for other sense(2) "memories" (Cache(n+x) for
aural, visual, deep muscle response, tactile, et al) and CACHE(n+~) a
consciousness for relational aspects of these caches (microneme, etc.).... In
other words, perhaps what we need (and are doing somewhat with "memetic
representations") is a new vocabulary or nomenclature for representing differing
concepts of these mental processes and their interrelationship with overt
behavior that do not "carry over" the abstractions of the past because of those
very established prior imageries and their conclusions. In other words, this
problem may be so much like previous problems in scientific development, i.e.,
Aristotelian vs Non-Aristotlean, Platonic vs Minkowski, Finite mathematics vs
Calculus modalities, etc. If we are equipped with an armament of pre designated
associations (say memetic supremacy conflict, behavioral vs cognitive, learned
vs evolutionary, etc., etc.) we will all attempt to "convert" to our own lingua
franca and resist creating the new, necessary, interim steps such as physics did
with quantum dynamics, quantum electro dynamics, quantum chromo dynamics, etc.,
miss creating our stepping stones to whatever "new age" (I know that I shouldn't
use those words) descriptive protocols will become the equivalent of the
Copenhagen model or any of the front-line cosmological models that will enable
the next great step in understanding the organic antecedents and their
relationships in "thinking, communication, and behavior" (I'm glad that I used
that last word).

> If you have a better idea, support it with argument and evidence!
> >Snip

I believe that is what we are all trying to do but not necessarily present it in
the language of the prior approaches. If we must do empirical models then we
must use human processes, not AI or some other discipline, for our
experimentation and we may just have to work a little cloning into this thing in
the future. We may really have to have time available on a PET scanner for
serious work to demonstrate how some of the activities resonate or mirror

Now, this does NOT mean addressing prior social science concepts scornfully or
arguing about artifacts vs natural, etc., but it does mean that if we do have
something in the memetic concepts that truly represent new science then we must
be prepared to test these new approaches in a manner that enables us to fully
explore them and their consequences. I well remember when first learning
electrocardiography that discerning certain "artifacts" from actual cardiac
electrical manifestations in a volume conductor could be difficult and I have no
doubt that similar problems develop with EEGs or PET scans as well. But we
will not know until we work with the new concepts for a time sufficient to
determine the difference between what might be called "archaic parasitic memetic
conflicts" and errors of commission/omission in the new techniques.

As one who entertained a career in clinical psychology of a behavioral approach,
I find every day (or to paraphrase Gilbert and Sullivan, "almost every...") that
my original leanings toward "nurture oriented concepts" have almost been
completely replaced by "nature oriented concepts," that, although gradual, was
somewhat like the almost sudden change of medical journals from pathogens and
symptomatic treatments to genetics and organ predisposition approaches.

So, in summary, I believe that the representatives of the older behavioral
school and the new-comer memetic school are both "right" but that we must
entertain more uses of the memetic nomenclature and its manifestations by
formulating and testing (including PET scans, etc.) so that we can form an
effective bridging of these approaches. We may end up throwing out memetics
entirely or, more likely, forming a workable and more predictive combination of
knowledge that will enable us to make much more progress. For example, we find
that "memetic replication" is a self serving definition that will not stand on
its own feet or be demonstrable empirically as a we think, but rather, is an
illusion created by the reproduction of the meme by the organism because of "the
rush of the meme" - the concurrent physiological rewards or satisfactions, and
and purely definable by other examples of semantic stimulation rather than by
any inherent memetic mechanism or prompting to the organism. Still, the current
nomenclature might still be more predictive of future behavior unless and until
we discover such other effects, in which case we would still have made enormous
progress and become empowered of even better behavioral predictive capabilities
(as compared to semantic "explanatory" capabilities), which is our end desire,
in my opinion.



Bob Grimes Jacksonville, Florida

Man is not in control, but the man who knows he is not in control is more in control...

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore....."

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