Re: Measuring Memes

t (Mario.Vaneechoutte@rug.ac.be)
Wed, 16 Jun 1999 08:20:25 +0200

From: <Mario.Vaneechoutte@rug.ac.be>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 08:20:25 +0200
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: Re: Measuring Memes

Mark M. Mills wrote:

> Chris,
>
> Thanks for the comments.
>
> At 05:23 AM 6/16/99 +1000, you wrote:
> >>We know a great deal about how DNA plays a role in Darwinian
> >>evolution of species. It is not so clear what plays a similar role, if
> >>anything, in Darwinian evolution of culture.

As I argued before: printed text. Nothing compares as well to genes as printed
texts. Of course, their function and role is completely different to that of
genes. That could simply be because culture is still in an early developmental
stage, where semantic closure - as occurred with the first cell (leading to
natural selection, biology, life), has not yet occurred. The original roles of
genes were comparable to that of texts now. They were not (and still are not)
self replicational, but simply symbolic and permanent with unlimited
informational content. From the interaction between the prebiotic chemical
community with these nucleotide strands resulted a self-replicating system: the
cell. Possibly (actually: most probably) - and in analogy, self replicating
technology may result from the interaction of current ecological metabolism with
texts.More explanation of these hilarious ideas at:
http://allserv.rug.ac.be/~mvaneech/NYAS.html

Looking for memes as the analogs to genes in minds and behaviours is looking in
the wrong place. IMO, words like memotype, phemotype, etc. are completely
erroneous since they try to find analogies with genes where they aren't.

> >>
> >
> >I think that this is because, due to the use of external memory storage
> >(books etc), cultures can be seen to evolve along apparent Lamarckian lines
> >where the high degree of feedback forms a niche such that it is hard to
> >determine 'what/who came first?'
>
> Thanks for mentioning Lamarck. I find no useful insights in Lamarck, and
> forget that he is popular with some. I need to keep Lamarck in mind.
>
> Given your framework, could you comment on a problem I find interesting?
> I'm interested in the bifurcation of ancient primate culture into human and
> chimp subgroups. Recent work with modern chimps has shown they have a rich
> cultural heritage. Different chimp groups have unique medicinal herb and
> tool practices, just as different human groups do. These chimp practices
> are passed from generation to generation, just as in human culture.
>
> Does your blending of Darwinian and Lamarckian perspectives offer any
> insights into primate cultural bifurcation?

As I mentioned before: with regard to inheritance of acquired characteristics:
Darwin was a Lamarckist. He believed in it. I tend to think more and more that
in some instances IAC is possible to some degree. See recent publications on the
influence of double stranded RNA on characteristics, including the
inheritability of this influence.

Second, Lamarck is not needed to explain inheritability of culture in animals
and humans. When imitation is possible, there is cultural inheritability (see
also song birds). This in turn makes group selection more feasible, overruling
strict neodarwinian evolution (whereby those individuals with the best gene
combination have more offspring). With imitation, it is possible that all
members of a social group are favoured by a new cultural trait, IRRESPECTIVE of
their individual genetic make up.

>
>
> Mark
>
> ===============================================================
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--
Mario Vaneechoutte
Department Clinical Chemistry, Microbiology & Immunology
University Hospital
De Pintelaan 185
9000 GENT
Belgium
Phone: +32 9 240 36 92
Fax: +32 9 240 36 59

Mario.Vaneechoutte@rug.ac.be

=============================================================== 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) see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit