Re: Meme Machine

t (
Sat, 10 Apr 1999 15:54:00 EDT

From: <>
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 15:54:00 EDT
Subject: Re: Meme Machine

In a message dated 4/8/99 11:26:04 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

<< Could you give me an example within molecular biology and genetics
in which meaning an intention emerges. >>

Well, let me borrow something from Robin about intentionality that I have
heard on other occassions in realtion to the word and I think even in
Dennet's use of the word.

In a message dated 4/10/99 5:19:10 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

<< I don't "really" think reality is an illusion. Nor do I think the self
is an illusion. Both are concepts, memes (as is "illusion"). Both are
apparently intentional, in the philosophical sense of that word, i.e.
they refer to something beyond themselves. >>

For our more philosophical purposes (though they may not be as rigiorous as
the purposes of a geneticist), I would say that the process by which a
certain configuration of base pairs within the context of a DNA genotype can
be reliably said to code for certain pattern of manifestation of phenotypical
features, and this pattern and coding is reliably transmitted through
heredity, represents an occurance of the emergence of meaning and intention.

>>What I would prefer is the example closest to the instant where
unintentional meaningless happenings transform from "as if" into "really"
meaningful things.<<

You may be asking for an answer that a geneticist would be more qualified to
provide. The above is as close as I can come to describing it. Someone more
professionally intimate may have more accurate criteria and purposes, though
I have no reason to doubt that they could arrive at an appropriately accurate
example. I think "as if" is an acknowlegement that these things happen in
stages, and without a clear context it might be difficult to say that "at
this moment we have clear meaning, and before this moment there was none
(only as if)." Though as clear as it can be shown, I think that there are
discrete stages in the evolution of meaning.

>>When you reread Dennett, could you do me a favor? Whenever Dennett
speaks of "as if" anything his I understand that there
is not difference between a "real" X and an "as if" X. This same point
crops up in a number of his books and I always thought it was a pretty
insightful point...if it walks like a duck and talks like a's a
duck! If he ever described an evolution from "as if" to "real"
intentionallity in such a way that they were ultimately defined as different
that would be pretty shocking to me.<<

As I said above - this is an acknowlegement of stages. X is always a
representation, and we have to consider the utility of the representation in
deciding between a "real X" and an "as if X". Dennet is a philosopher and
slightly and variously more or less removed from the more immediate
practicalities of applying his ideas. It would be a little more of a reach
into the less philosophical for him to give a concrete example (it might look
something like my example above), though I think he would insist that
concrete examples are possible and leave it for others more professionally
intimate with the particulars of the subject matter in question to make these
more pragmatic distinctions.

I think however, that discrete stages can be identified in any evolutionary
arena, where for whatever purpose the representation X serves, at some more
or less clear point we have "X" and at some more or less clear previous point
we have "as if X" where "as if X" has properties relatively similar to "X"
but not sufficient to fulfill the functions of that representation. Once
again as I said in another EM, we should not expect or look for perfect
representations, but the lack of perfect representations does not compel an
answer that "X is an illusion".


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)