Re: On Gatherer's behaviourist stance

Nick Rose (
Thu, 24 Sep 1998 10:06:32 -0400 (EDT)

From: Nick Rose <>
Subject: Re: On Gatherer's behaviourist stance
In-Reply-To: <>
Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 10:06:32 -0400 (EDT)

Aaron wrote;
> There is an inconsistency between the above 2 paragraphs.
> If a meme is a *behavior* (such as running a maze) then
> it is not something "stored" or "memorized." What is
> "stored" or "memorized" is not the behavior itself (e.g.,
> an internal homunculus forever running the maze), but a
> neural condition that may *cause* the behavior at a later
> time.

Fine, I said behaviours have to be 'stored' or 'memorised'
at some stage. There's nothing in that to suggest
that the behaviours cannot be stored in a 'neural
condition'. However, the hypothesis that those memes
maintain any kind of identifyable (by us) structure (e.g.
neural structure, informational structure) inside the
nervous system is currently untestable. Rather than worry
about untestable hypotheses I think we can do a lot (e.g.
understanding selection mechanisms) by putting the issue to
one side - if only until neuroscience catches up with us.

> If I take a rat, temporarily shut down its brain, and use
> spinal electrodes to make it run a maze, then this is a
> case of the animal exhibiting the behavior without having
> a meme or a mnemon for that behavior. As I see it, the
> behavior alone is not eligible for consideration as a
> mnemon or a meme.

Err... if _you_ are guiding the rat around the maze; surely
it is your behaviour (presumably instantiated in your
nervous system) that is being expressed - not the rat's.
The behaviour is _yours_ not the poor unfortunate rat's!

> I am not sure which, if any, participants in this
> discussion are not interested in human behavior. Human
> behavior is a main consideration in my work. The word
> "behavior" and its derivatives come up dozens of times in
> my book, for instance. And the effect of neurally stored
> learning on behavior is crucial to 100% of the topics I
> cover. I would hope that those who call for considering
> *only* behavior and artifacts as "memes" do not imply
> either by mistake or polemics that they are the only
> memeticists interested in behavior!

At the moment the only things we can measure about human
behaviour is _human behaviour_ - we don't have access to
whatever mechanism stores memes, and have no way of knowing
whether competing models of meme storage are true or not
(such models are untestable at this time - you agree?).

In addition, I would think that most internalists would
agree that all we can copy/imitate is the 'behaviour'.
Recessive 'memes' never get passsed on - because they are
never seen. It is the 'behaviour' which we judge to be
similiar or the same (for identification of memes / meme
varients). And - In truth we have no idea whether the same
behaviours (in different individuals) are stored in
identifiable ways. If memeticists are interested in human
behaviour - what is wrong with focussing on human behaviour?

Nick Rose
"University of the West of England"

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