Re: Doing the neural walk

Mark Mills (
Mon, 14 Sep 98 13:52:19 -0600

Subject: Re: Doing the neural walk
Date: Mon, 14 Sep 98 13:52:19 -0600
From: Mark Mills <>
To: "Memetics List" <>
Message-Id: <>

Bill Benzon wrote:

>> I'm interested in where people place themselves in my matrix of 4
>> possible gene/meme models. Comments would be appreciated.

>I don't much care where you place me, for these considerations are not
>what is driving my thinking.


>I am concerned about the overall formal requirements of
>evolutionary explanation. On the one hand we need an arena where things are
>selected and we need things in that arena to be selected. On the other
>hand we need an arena where things are replicated and we need
>things in that arena to be replicated. Without these components you
>don't have an evolutionary explanation.

As I read this, you are requiring an interactor/replicator model.
Something is replicated, something selected. 'Thing' in both phrases is
emphasized. The interactor/replicator metaphor is a 'thing' based model.

>Now, we can give "meme" an intentional definition in terms of this story.
>Memes are the things that get replicated. OK.

Ok. That parallels the gene model. Both genes and memes get replicated.

>Now we can ask about the extension of the term "meme."
>Given that intentional definition, can you
>point out some memes? That's the step where I say that memes are in the
>environment, as behaviors and artifacts which humans can copy
>(individually or in concert with others).

You define gene as a substance or 'thing.' Thus, it is clear that the
things getting copied in our environment are memes, by definition.

This clearly puts you in the memes parallel genes category. You want to
have a logical parallel between genes and memes. The common hybrid
doesn't work for you.

>This has nothing to do with whether memes are processes or substances.

Only in the sense that your intentional definitions and logic take no
interest in the question. On the other hand, if you are talking with
someone who has used the intentional definition meme = process or gene =
process, there will be misunderstandings.

Additionally, some like Wilkins, will say the entire
interactor/replicator logic falls apart under scrutiny. Logically,
Wilkins claims, it is an over simplification. Experimentally, problems
occur since genes are clearly interactors as well as replicators.
Discussing this difference of opinion will be very difficult without an
understanding of fundamental definitions.

>And my preference for this position has nothing to do with the
>difficulties about thinking about the brain.


>After all, I still
>have to think about that since I locate the cultural phenotypes
>in brains, as exceeding complex patterns of
>neural processing.

Of course. The interactors have to be somewhere for the primary
assumption (an interactors/replicators model) to hold.

Since I'm a bit puzzled by the mental phenotype model, I have a question.
Are you saying the selective environment is entirely mental, too? If
the phenotypes are mental representations, do they compete entirely
within one mind?

As always, thanks for the comments.


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