RE: socially selected memes

John Wilkins (
Thu, 29 Jul 1999 17:22:18 +1000

Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 17:22:18 +1000
From: John Wilkins <>
Subject: RE: socially selected memes
In-Reply-To: <>

On Thu, 29 Jul 1999 09:08:05 +0200
(Gatherer, D. (Derek)) wrote:

>If Popper is a Fisherian, Feyerabend is a Wrightean. He likes variation
>and drift.
>Indeed, and one might even say that Kuhn was a Eldredge/Gould-ian

Except that Kuhn was a progressionist (see the afterword to the 1970
edition of SSR):

Imagine an evolutionary tree representing the development of the modern
scientific specialities from their common origins in, say, primitive
natural philosophy and the crafts. A line drawn up that tree, never
doubling back, from the trunk to the tip of some branch would trace a
succession of theories related by descent. Considering any two such
theories, chosen from points not too near their origin, it should be
easy to design a list of criteria that would enable an uncommitted
observer to distinguish the earlier from the more recent theory time
after time. Among the most useful would be: accuracy of prediction,
particularly of quantitative prediction; the balance between esoteric
and everyday subject matter; and the number of different problems
solved. - Those lists are not yet the ones required, but I have no doubt
they can be completed. If they can, then scientific development is, like
biological, a unidirectional and irreversible process. Later scientific
theories are better than earlier ones for solving puzzles in the often
quite different environments to which they are applied. That is not a
relativist's position, and it displays the sense in which I am a
convinced believer in scientific progress. (Kuhn 1970: 205f)

It's also more a Scala Naturae version of evolution, akin to Lamarck's,
than Darwinian. One could imagine a memetic Gouldian having kittens at
such a statement.

Some attempts to apply PE to culture can be found in the latter essays

Peterson, Steven A., and Albert Somit. The dynamics of evolution: the
punctuated equilibrium debate in the natural and social sciences.
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992.


John Wilkins, Head, Graphic Production The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Melbourne, Australia <mailto:wilkins@WEHI.EDU.AU><> Homo homini aut deus aut lupus - Erasmus of Rotterdam

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