Re: On Gatherer's behaviourist stance

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Fri, 11 Sep 1998 16:49:10 +0200

Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 16:49:10 +0200
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: On Gatherer's behaviourist stance

Bill Benzon wrote:

> 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.

OK, neither am I, but we were discussing Gatherer's behaviourist stance.

> 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.

I can see what you mean, I think. But than, imagine the child is laying in bed and starts
thinking. Because it is dark, it does not observe objects or behaviours, but it uses mental
representations of these objects to do its thinking. Isn't it having mental memes? Aren't
there representations of real objects, or of statements it has heard (like: Marc Dutroux is
evil) inside the child's brain? Can't we call these Dawkinian B memes?

Do you have some of your ideas online?


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)