Re: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.

t (MemeLab@aol.com)
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 18:14:37 EST

From: <MemeLab@aol.com>
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 18:14:37 EST
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: Re: A more "sciency"-sounding mysticism.

>>Just to clarify my own position on one or two things. IMVHO the concept of
memes, as imitated information stored in the brain, seems to be derived from
inductive reasoning and is therefore essentially philosophical in nature. It
will remain unfalsifiable until we have the capability of "reading" brains.<<

Certainly if memes are entirely "in the brain", they will remain philosophical
for a long time to come.

>>However, it is a philosophical idea which appears quite intuitive to me
(what ever little that is worth). It is one which I would not like to give up
easily.<<

Really? Well, me too. Sort of odd to me, however, how you would give up on
free will. I guess if we throw a little "subjective mental experience" into
witches brew, its all over for you. Or is it? Maybe if we couldn't have any
experiences of it at all, and all we could do is philosophize about it, it
would seem more intuitively right?

>>The alternative concept of memes as observable replicable cultural items ,
allows empirical research and deductive reasoning and is therefore scientific
in nature. However, I cannot help but feel this more pragmatic definition
takes away some of the attraction which memetics holds for me.<<

I don't think this is the entire picture of the approach you describe.

The way Bill Benzon has described it (if he ever gets his website back up so
you can actually read it), the physical manifestations - the cultural objects
themselves - are what would be the memotype (correllates to genotype). The
environment created within our brains - the mind - is where the pheMotype
(correllates to phenotype) would manifest. This makes sense because this is
where the selection takes place. Just like in biology, the selection occurs
through the phenotype, not directly on the genotype.

Genes are not really located anywhere in the organism. The DNA contains the
information that is the genotype, and the organism itself is the phenotype.
The selection occurs through the agency of the phenotype, and the selective
retention (heredity) occurs through the genotype.

According to this model, memes are not really located anywhere either. In
some measure we can say that they occur in the brain pheMotypically (which
might keep this philosophically and intuitively appealing to you), but
retained in the environment memotypically.

When I think of this in terms of words and philosophy - I think of the
memotype as the actual written words or representations - like the ones that
appear on your monitor as you read my message. The pheMotype is the meaning
of those words and representations - not just the metalingual definition of
the words as you might find in a dictionary - but the conceptual/relational
landscape underlying the words - how the words *relate* to our shared
experiences - be they "subjective", "empirical", "mental", "emotional",
"physical", "objective" or otherwise. Depending on these complex
relationships invoked by the memotypical representations, certain
relational/conceptual pheMotypes (meanings) will be selected over others.

This conception of memes does not leave studying them at the more dryly
objective level of say, an archeological dig. In fact if it did, it would be
difficult, if not impossible in some cases, to distinguish an exercise in
memetics from an exercise in archeology. However, I would think that there
would remain some similar elements, and that the science would be more
accessible than just a circle of philosopher kings, mystically engaging in
mental onanism, waiting for that spiritual day of glory when we obtain
telepathic technology.

Certainly the pheMotype will remain decidedly subjective (perhaps that is the
appeal you like), but it may become more accessible when we have a much more
objective memotype to refer to.

>>Graham (one of the mystical atheistic folk from AOL!!)<<

Yes, it was a pleasure to see you "out here". I guess I will have to be more
careful what I say out here about you AOL atheist folks "in there" now that
they have a spy to tag me and report back! ;-)

-Jake

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