Re: Measuring Memes

t (JakeSapien@aol.com)
Tue, 1 Jun 1999 16:18:30 EDT

From: <JakeSapien@aol.com>
Date: Tue, 1 Jun 1999 16:18:30 EDT
Subject: Re: Measuring Memes
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk

In a message dated 6/1/99 10:10:58 AM Central Daylight Time,
hanss@sepa.tudelft.nl writes:

>>> 1. Has the definition of memes got anything to do with the notion of
> entailment? Does a meme imply its subsets/subordinates? What is the
> definition of memes?

There are many definitions. They about all share that a meme is a
replicator, and thus defined by heritage. It is thus an historic
definition, as it is with genes. But beyond being a replicator, there
are many definitions. Form memes being ideas, to being behaviors,
to being artifacts. Since it is historci, I do not know if you can
speak of subsets and so on. Perhaps in memeplexes. Others have
ideas?<<

Finding a definition of meme, beyond just "cultural replicator" is quite a
quarrelsome affair. Even then people occassionally object to that because it
sounds too active - memes are replicated they don't replicate on their own.
But I think enough people understand that such that we can still safely say
that memes are "cultural replicators" without causing confusion or
disagreement.

Despite my otherwise disagreements with S. Blackmore's ideas, her book did
introduce a meme to me called "Campbell's rule". Which roughly says that
memes are not genes therefore we should not expect complete correllations
between memes and genes. Discovering the extent that Campbell's rule does
and doesn't apply is one effort in defining memes through abstractions, and
it does at least give us some points of reference within biology. A typical
dispute over Campbell's rule would be whether memes have identifiable
memotypes and pheMotypes that would correlate with genotypes and phenotypes
in genes, where genotype/memotype are most associated in the process of
selective *retention* (heredity) and where phenotype/pheMotype are most
associated in the process of natural *selection* through manifestation.
Without such an identifiable distinction, memeticists must then address
accusations of Lamarckianism (how memetics is not, or if it is how that
doesn't make any difference). With them, memeticists can afford to be more
unconcerned about such accusations.

Beyond these kinds of abstract arguments over definition, are arguments over
manifestation, mechanism and measurement of memes. Examples of manifestation
arguments are over whether memes are "in the head", "in the environment",
some of both, behavior, thought, or just information or some combination
thereof. Examples of mechanism arguments are whether memes are based
imitation, information, or language. People with more of a strictly
behaviorist background might be more likely to say that memes are based on
imitation, that they are manifest in behavior, and would probably be more at
home with Blackmore's insistence that selves are merely meme illusions
(whether or not they buy the rest of her Buddhist bag). People who are more
at home with cognitive models and semiotics might be more likely to say that
memes are based on language, manifest in thought, and would probably be less
inclined to accept Blackmore's insistence that selves are merely meme
illusions (this is more of my position.) Actual measurement of memes would
be sensitive to how issues like these are resolved.

These are just some examples of themes, though there seem to be almost as
many distinct definitions as there are memeticists to talk about memes. So
feel free to jump in.

-JS

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