Re: Measuring Memes

Tim Rhodes (
Wed, 16 Jun 1999 18:39:16 -0700

From: "Tim Rhodes" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: Measuring Memes
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 18:39:16 -0700

Mario Vaneechoutte wrote:

>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.

But is the comparison to genes really what we need here?

Sure, they're both replicators, but beyond that, is it even fruitful to try
to match the workings of a meme to that of a gene? And why should we
imagine that this would be a useful pursuit? (Especially after seeing how
difficult it is to make that comparison in the real world.)

Do we really have any evidence that the mechanisms involved in the
transmission of cultural traits bares a similarity to that of biological
traits? Or are we just trying to fit a thing we have yet to completely
conceptualized (the meme's replication) into the clothing of something we
already understand (the gene)?

I suspect that the distinctions get so fuzzy so quickly because they simply
aren't ones that apply to this type of replicator. As you say:

>Looking for memes as the analogs to genes in minds and behaviors
>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.

And I wonder, at this stage in the game is it more useful to hypothesize
about mechanisms or about the effects of those mechanisms? In other words,
does it do any good to concentrate on pinpointing the memetic "DNA" when we
have yet to precisely describe WHY a cultural unit even NEEDS TO HAVE a
genotype/phenotype-esque dichotomy?

In the end, can that concept really stand up to Occam's razor?

-Tim Rhodes

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)