Re: Vertical vs. hoizontal transmission (was: JASSS Critical

Tim Rhodes (
Fri, 30 Apr 1999 17:49:15 -0700 (PDT)

Date: Fri, 30 Apr 1999 17:49:15 -0700 (PDT)
From: Tim Rhodes <>
Subject: Re: Vertical vs. hoizontal transmission (was: JASSS Critical
In-Reply-To: <>

On Thu, 29 Apr 1999, Aaron Lynch wrote:

> I do not argue by analogy or metaphor to genetic evolution, nor do I
> consider this necessary.

I am not asking for either analogy or metaphor. I was asking you to make the
somewhat obvious and rather direct comparison between the replication rates of
genes and the vertical transmission rates for memes.

Genes replicate through reproduction and their replication rates are, as a
result, dependent on the relative rates of reproduction within the species.
(Humans, in this case.) Similarly, the "vertical transmission" of memes you
speak of, as I understand it, result from the passing of memes from a parent to
their child. It is only obvious, therefore, that these transmission rates will
likewise be linked to the relative reproduction rates of the meme-holders.

Now if these rates are the same, as they would appear to be, we should expect
memetic changes in a population to unfold at a rate similar to those of
the genetic changes within the population. But this does not seem to be the
case. Memetic change occurs at a much higher rate and culture is much more
plastic than replication through reproduction could account for.

Horizontally transmitted memes seem more likely to govern and explain cultural
shifts, whereas vertically transmitted memes would at best function for
behaviors we might be inclined to call "instinct" or to have previously
ascribed (without proof) to genetic factors. In fact, a true vertically
transmitted behavior could appear indistiguishible from a genetic
predisposition at anything greater than the level of the DNA.

-Tim Rhodes

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