Re: Astrology

Lawrence H. de Bivort (
Tue, 6 Jul 1999 21:40:07 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Tue, 6 Jul 1999 21:40:07 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Lawrence H. de Bivort" <>
Subject: Re: Astrology
In-Reply-To: <>

De Bivort:
>"In our view, memes are essentially linguistic, communicative constructs
>that have self-disseminating and self-protective architectures. Memes
>will spread best via people or other communicative channels that adopt
>them and repeat them, especially if the meme has been able to destroy
>any countervailing beliefs/linguistic constructs. Thus a meme that is
>'targeted' must have properties that enable it to proceed along the
>right channels to reach its target.
>A meme, in its linguistic physical form can lie dormant if it fails to
>be disseminated. For example, it can be embedded in a book, or a letter,
>or an email, ready to be 'activated' when conditions are ready for it.
>It can also lie latent in someone's brain, a phrase, say, that all of a
>sudden, perhaps years after it was heard, that now 'makes sense' to the
>person who has been carrying it (remembering it) but had not yet
>integrated it into the rest of their thinking or believing."

Thomas McMahan:
>Two things: You speak of memes destroying countervailing beliefs in the
>first paragraph. You then, in the second, speak of them lying dormant
>for indeterminate periods. This brings to my mind that any cultural
>agent cannot truly be destroyed. It can be discredited and fall to the
>wayside, but destroyed? No. The only way to destroy a single meme would
>be to destroy all memes, all culture, and all of the originators of that

Well, I imagine that for practical purposes that is so. And a few
characters from history have tried to destroy memes, only to find them
popping up anew when the pressure against them is removed. This brings to
mind the situation in the Balkans, or the efforts of the Ottomans to
create an international identity for itself.

>Second thing: I don't believe that memes "lie dormant" really. A meme
>needs a sentient brain to spring into existence; books are filled with
>so many meaningless symbols until the brain connects the dots. It is in
>that process that cultural evolution takes place, because the originator
>of the idea did not transfer that idea perfectly into his/her book (or
>statue or anything else.) When the second brain comes along and
>"re-connects those dots," it doesn't reconnect them in exactly the same
>way; hence, an essentially new meme is created within the brain, because
>a reader of a text cannot know what the originator of that text had in
>mind perfectly.

These matter of 'reconnecting the dots' is important and we often forget
the slippage between the intent of the communicator and the experience of
the one communicated to. But I don't think this applies only to dormant
memes: it will happen as a 'live' meme intereacts with a person, and it
will happen in any kind of communciation, whether a designed meme is part
of it or not.

A carefully crafted meme may be able to minimize the slippage, but not
eliminate it. Redundant expressions of memes may further cut down on the
slippage (though it could be argued that redundancy will actually increase
the range of possible slippage. There is time to instruct via definitions,
and a time to let the language evolve, while holding it to the desired

>If I'm retreading old ground, or seem to be disagreeing with you when I
>largely do not, I'm sorry. Like I said earlier, this is initial
>exploration for me.

I'm new to this list, as well. And without the concerns regarding the
connection between meme and gene.

Lawrence de Bivort
The Memetics Group

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