Re: Is a meme a thing?

Bruce Howlett (
Mon, 25 Jan 1999 18:34:08 +0000

Date: Mon, 25 Jan 1999 18:34:08 +0000
From: Bruce Howlett <>
Subject: Re: Is a meme a thing?

Richard, Mark, Bob & Jay,

I knew this thread would take off like a rocket as it represents the
most basic area of disagreement in this discipline. Unfortunately, Jay
asked a nonsense question (no offense meant), which I tried to point out
gently in my first post. The dictionary definition of a *thing*
includes: *concept considered as being a separate entity*. So Jay asked
* Is a meme a thing (or collection of things), or is it an abstraction
(or property, or idea)?* which correctly translated means * Is a meme a
thing (or collection of things), or is it a thing (or thing, or thing)?
Of course its a thing. *Thing* is a general noun that allows us to
communicate the idea (concept) of being in existence (perception of
reality) without using a more specific term. It can even apply to an
action as in *do one's own thing*. One of the major problems on this
list has been the correct use of language.

Richard is right, *All that we call things are concepts*, that is the
basis of semantics. ie: agreeing on meanings so that our conversation
makes sense. But Mark has taken my answer to mean I fit into a specific
category of memeticists that believe *genes are things, memes are
things*. Not so. I don't care to be categorised at all, and I don't
think that this particular categorical logic is helpful in advancing our
unerstanding of memetics.

The problem continues to be the lack of a universally acceptable
definition of a *meme*. I think this is also a language problem. We
may have to invent some new language to adequately describe this concept
before we get a majority agreement.

Bob correctly states *we never "truly" know these things except in our
own unique manner*, a thought I usually express as *our perception IS
our reality*. Thank you for introducing me to the word
*verisimilitude*, I had to look that one up in the trusty old
dictionary. Many people, even scientists, are fooled by the appearance
or semblance of reality. Even riskier when the entire subject matter is
about belief structures.



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)