Re: On Gatherer's behaviourist stance

Aaron Lynch (
Sun, 13 Sep 1998 12:36:02 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sun, 13 Sep 1998 12:36:02 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: On Gatherer's behaviourist stance
In-Reply-To: <>

At 12:01 PM 9/11/98 -0600, Lloyd Robertson wrote:

>So is it a matter of crossed semantics? Some people choose to define memes
>so tht thoughts are made up of them, others so that they exist outside of
>one's head. It's like comparing apples and oranges when the only name we
>have for either is "pear".

That's a nice, succinct way of expressing our terminological problem, Lloyd.

Dawkins has very explicitly explained that the word he coined refers to
brain-stored information. See, for instance, p. 329 of the 1989 revised
edition of _The Selfish Gene_, or the meme section of _The Extended
Phenotype_ (Dawkins, 1982). Yet we have people who want to use mere
"trendiness" of the term as a basis for calling artifacts and behaviors
"memes." We may also have people willing to sacrifice specificity in order
to have the term "memetics" explicitly lay claim to as much territory as
possible. Neither of these motives constitute scientifically valid reasons
for changing the word's meaning, but only constitute possible reasons for
adding a few new words for other kinds of replicators. If there is no such
thing as replicated information residing in the brain, then good science
dictates DROPPING THE WORD MEME from the accepted science vocabulary.
Physicists have mostly abandoned the word "tachyon" due to lack of evidence
for faster than light particles. Those arguing against brain-stored
replicated information should refrain from trying to appropriate the word
"meme" for other uses, and argue instead for relegating the term to the
scrap heap of scientific terms that turned out not to fit real phenomena.

--Aaron Lynch

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)