Mimicking in animals

Mario Vaneechoutte (Mario.Vaneechoutte@rug.ac.be)
Sun, 25 Apr 1999 21:04:33 +0200

Date: Sun, 25 Apr 1999 21:04:33 +0200
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <Mario.Vaneechoutte@rug.ac.be>
To: Memetics Discussion <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>
Subject: Mimicking in animals

Reading Jablonka's examples on rats and black birds, given the examples
of song birds mimicking acoustic patterns (songs) I mentioned in
JOM-EMIT (cultural speciation), given the example of the Japanese
macaques washing the sand off the potatoes (origin of language), my
impression is that Blackmore's claim for mimicking by humans only is
invalid. It is just another attempt to find the one and only clue which
makes us different from animals.

Gabora's idea that it is creativity rather than mimicking which
triggered our evolution may be more valuable. Than one must aks why we
all of a sudden became creative? Is it the consequence of a simple
mutation which lowered the neuronal threshold for triggering, as Liane
claims? Maybe, but given the enormous advantages of greater creativity,
one would have expected this kind of simple mutations to have occurred
many times and so to see creativity in many species.

Let us consider the word creativity. Actually, it is a confusing word,
since nothing is created. Only creationists believe in creation. What
happens is recombination. Creativity might better be named
'recombinatority' (I don't mean this, folks).
Anyway, IMO, this creativity is possible because of our increased mental
recombination capacities, compared to other animals. So, creativity is a
secondary phenomenon emergent from increased recombination capacity.
Which is the prime mover which makes this increased recombination

I'd say it is symbolic, grammatical language, which is no doubt a unique
feature of ours, and IMO the only unique feature (says someone who's
attempt to find the one and only clue to humanness ended up concluding
that it is language). So obvious to me. Every capacity which is
embryonically present in higher animals is dramatically increased and
flourishes when you add the independent reference frame of symbolic

Language is a simple and straightforward answer: it is an obviously
unique feature, it increases mimicking capacity and creativity. It
explains most of the other emergent characteristics seen in humans.

Other question about altruistic behaviour of humans: do we really need a
memetic explanation as Gabora suggests (referring to previous work of
her own, Heylighen and Evers, of which I have read only Evers: see
Symposium Memetics). If someone wants to comment on this: make it
another thread.

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