Re: Measuring Memes

Tim Rhodes (
Thu, 17 Jun 1999 02:53:42 -0700

From: "Tim Rhodes" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: Measuring Memes
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 02:53:42 -0700

Mario wrote (of memes and genes):

>I wrote:
>> Sure, they're both replicators,
>Sure, none of them is.


>> Do we really have any evidence that the mechanisms involved in the
>> transmission of cultural traits bares a similarity to that of biological
>> traits?
>No, we don't, and there isn't basically, because in biology we
>are dealing with autonomously replicating systems (cells and
>the multicellular colonies they make - not genes), while in
>culture we deal with elements of information which are replicated
>and are transmitted. [....]

After reading your paper at I
think I understand what your getting at here. But I must admit that my
regrettable lack of knowledge concerning the intricacies of organic
chemistry is probably be keeping me from fully understanding your analogy to
prebiotic chemical processes. (But I can't let a little thing like that
stop me from giving it a shot, now can I?)

So, as I understand what your saying (and in strictly layman's terms), the
precursors to self-replicating cells were (in some sort of way) localized
groups of constituent chemicals, some of which happened to encode
information while others happened to be able to decode (or maybe
transcript?) that information into another form. (enzymes?) Because this
wasn't yet a self contained unit, the coded information didn't have to
include instructions for making the enzymes(?) that could decode it, and as
such had a greater freedom to vary without running up against variations
which would adversely effected its ability to get itself copied. (Close so

After the cell became an enclosed unit, only those variations that also
preserved the ability to produce all the necessary decoding enzymes could be
functionally viable. So that the amount of variation possible in early
cells would have been significantly less than when encoding and decoding had
been accomplished by separate entities.

(Again, please excuse me if I'm complete slaughtering your idea here 'cause
I don't fully grasp the chemical processes involved. I hope you'll correct
me if I have.)

So, if I have all that right (?), you go on to see the relationship between
memes and brains to be similar to that before the enclosed cell--where the
encoded information doesn't need to include instructions for its own
replication because another agency (the brain) takes care of that part of
the process.

Assuming I've understood all that correctly, my question is this: Do we have
any examples of kind of prebiotic situation you describe from which we might
be able to extrapolate (and possibly make projections about) the
evolutionary rates for the analogous memes? Could you provide some, if such
exists? (Preferably in as dumbed-down a language as you can muster.)

Hoping you've been patient so far-
-Tim Rhodes

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