RE: Memetics not tautological or circular

Richard Brodie (
Mon, 14 Jun 1999 09:19:11 -0700

From: "Richard Brodie" <>
To: <>
Subject: RE: Memetics not tautological or circular
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 09:19:11 -0700
In-Reply-To: <>

Derek wrote:

<<I'll try to find some more precise references for the car driving - it's
do with cerebral vs. cerebellar control of motor activity, the experienced
driver having more of the latter. The stuff about chess is in Doug. Hof.
'Goedel Escher Bach'. Basically an experienced chess player sees positions
in terms of overall configuration, whereas the learner tends to see
positions as agglomerations of individual pieces in individual positions.>>

And so the process of gaining experience, in both cases, produces a mastery
of the skill that can (perhaps only) be recreated through similar
experience. The fact that someone practices for 20 years to produce a
certain state of mind, rather than simply listens to one utterance, doesn't
bother me. They are both methods for replicating mental information, or


The functional
definition of (Dawkins B) meme is that it is in fact the same, is it not?


As 'a unit of information in the brain'? Not unless you think that brain
units are independent of brain circuitry. Is this the 'software' argument
you are using again?>>

I would use the term "mind" rather than "brain." I'm not sure what you mean
by "software argument." I typically don't argue. The idea behind memes (in
the later Dawkins sense, shared by Dennett and myself) is one of mental
information that influences behavior and thereby spreads to other minds.
Whether or not different brains store this information in a physically
similar manner is not relevant to this model, since the information is
defined operationally rather than functionally.


Where does this behavior come from if not from mentally stored information?
How are learned behaviors retained? When someone learns a behavior from
someone else, why can you see the behavior itself as a meme but not the
information in the mind that causes the behavior?


Because there is replication of behavior but not replication of any
internal neural configuration of activity. I think that memes have to be
replicators of some kind.>>

I'm still stuck on how a behavior can be replicated without a corresponding
replication of something mental. Do you see something other than the mind
interacting with stimulus as producing behavior?


Where does the behavior come from if not the mind?


It does come form the mind, but there is no one-to-one correspondence
between mental unit and behavior. So the mental units are not the things
that are replicated.>>

There is no one-to-one correspondence between gene and trait either. Memes
work as a set to produce a whole system of beliefs, attitudes, and
intentions. All of that together interacts with stimulus to produce
behavior. Changing parts of a belief system will tend to change behavior.
For instance, blanketing the airwaves with anti-smoking commercials tends to
reduce smoking in adults.

Richard Brodie
Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme"
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