Re: On Gatherer's behaviourist stance

Bill Benzon (
Fri, 11 Sep 1998 10:18:05 -0400

Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 10:18:05 -0400
From: Bill Benzon <>
Subject: Re: On Gatherer's behaviourist stance

Mario Vaneechoutte wrote:

> OK. But these would not be valuable techniques according to Paul and Derek, since
> observing brain activity by e.g. PET scan is not observable physical behaviour.

But then, I'm not Paul and Derek and my interests are a bit different. I really am
interested in what goes on inside people's heads, even if the best we can do on that is
exceedingly speculative. However, whatever it is that goes on inside brains, it doesn't
involve memes.

And so we have to be careful about the context in which we talk about "observable
behavior." If we are talking about the ordinary processes of cultural evolution, then the
stuff inside people's heads doesn't count as the observable behavior (and artifacts)
which are the memes of cultural evolution. If we are talking about the processes of
scientific observation and theory contruction, then we can make observations about what
goes on inside brains.

> But, before all the above is misinterpreted as me wanting to reduce memetics to
> neuroscience, let us not forget that the discussion actually started around the
> proposal of Derek to reduce memetics to behaviour studies and material artefacts.
> My stance is that thoughts are constantly influenced by artefacts and behaviours and
> that behaviours and artefacts are constantly influenced by thoughts. Culture is as
> well inside one's head as it is out there.

Yes. And biological evolution involves environments and phenotypes as well as DNA & RNA
molecules and genotypes. Given that we have a particular form of evolutionary
explanation involving gene-like entities that replicate and organism-like entities that
interact with an environment, how do we assige those roles to the stuff of culture? I
want to assign the gene-like role to behaviors and artifacts, as do Derek and Paul.
There interest, apparently, stops there. I however, want to assign the organism-like
role to something inside our brains, call the paradigms. Paradigms survive or die
depending on whether or not the serve the informatic needs of brains.

Where do paradigms come from? Well, an infant is born and it constructs the paradigms of
its culture over a considerable period of time though interacting with the memes
(observable behaviors and artifacts) it encounters.

Bill B

William Benzon
Senior Scientist
Meta4 Incorporated
33-41 Newark Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030 USA
voice: 201.656.0906
fax:   201.656.0901
home page:

=============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see: