RE: Parody of Science

Dale Fletter (
Sat, 14 Aug 1999 19:08:45 -0700

From: Dale Fletter <>
To: "''" <>
Subject: RE: Parody of Science
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999 19:08:45 -0700

Yes, you are correct that don't want to engage in an extended debate into
whether or not there is non-memetic behavior. I would rather posit that
there is behavior that is memetic and behavior that is non-memetic simply
because I am not in trying to come up with a grand unified theory of
memetics as my introduction to the topic. I believe that there is behavior
that is above memetic, more on the order of chaotic behavior and behavior
that is below memetic such as reflexive or genetically instinctual
behavior. I am open to the possibility that these may indeed be judged to
be memetic but that is not where I spend most of my time thinking about
memetics. While the question might be simple but I find the justification
for the grand unified theory a daunting challenge and one that I am not
interested in pursuing.

As another more specific example, I look to language for suggestions as to
where my thoughts go. Language is after all a complex behavior and one
which has both genetic and learned components. Chomsky talks of deep
structures in the brain which would be genetically determined but which are
insufficient of themselves to create language. Early childhood experiences
set brain patterns that last a lifetime and cannot be duplicated by later
exposure to the same stimuli. While the information that results in the
meme may be the same to both a child and an adult, the meme can be
implanted in the child but not in the adult. The adult can modify its
behavior, ie learn a different language, and even cause the language gene
to be transmitted to their child yet that is different than the more
natural method of language transmission from one generation to the next.

I could argue for both a memetic or non-memetic interpretation for
intra-generational slang. Children will do things with language for the
express purpose of differentiating themselves from their parents. However I
find a qualitative difference between what these pre-adolescents do with
language and the effects of imprinting on the formative brain that become
more permanently part of that person. Both memes that are held in the
brain? Perhaps one at a deeper level that is harder to displace and one at
a more shallow level that can be knocked out by a later or stronger meme?
What do you think?

re: stock markets and ships--to speak of these inanimate objects as having
human qualities is poetic anthropomorphism. It is discriptive and
communicates ideas about these objects yet stock markets and ships
themselves have no equivalent of a genome no less a (memome? I forgot the
correct term). However there is a constellation of memes that cause the
human society to build ships and participate in stock markets. This however
is very different.

re: Websters, brain function and behavior--at its crudest level, a
brain/body system is a finite state machine that creates outputs that
depend upon the combination of current state and input. The output that can
be observed by another is behavior. The current state is a combination of
genetic wiring and learned behavior ie. neural connections. Regardless of
how you want to define these things for everyday language, for memetics
this is the starting point unless you want to bring metaphysics into play
which reaches beyond what I consider science. Do you see it differently?
What I was casually refering to as higher brain function (an admittedly
loose term) was just to make a distinction between behavior we might find
in another species from what we might see in humans. Again, this is not to
suggest that a good memetic theory might not include other species, only
that it is outside the scope of my interest to have an opinion that I care
to argue. I just don't think I have the right to an opinion in light of the
weight on this list.

On Saturday, August 14, 1999 6:09 PM, Mark M. Mills
[] wrote:
> Dale,
> At 04:26 PM 8/13/99 -0700, you wrote:
> >At this time I
> >am not prepared to state that all behavior might not eventually be
> >explainable via memetic theories only that I have no interest in
> >such a grand thesis.
> Got it. What convinces you the answer to this simple question would
> distract you from your goal?
> >I would not consider a kick reflex to be behavior
> >since it is exhibited even when no higher brain functions are involved.
> >Perhaps you could consider it memetics but my personal semantics don't.
> Most people and Webster's dictionary make no connection between brain
> function and behavior. I commonly hear statements such as 'the ship
> behaves well' or 'the stock market behaved badly, today.' I don't think
> ships or stock markets have higher brain functions.
> Can you defend your requirement that behavior requires 'higher brain
> function'?
> >I think it is interesting that you think of sexual behavior as a purely
> >genetic one.
> I don't. I was suggesting there might be some that hold the belief,
> though. Many people think sexual activity in fish or reptiles entirely
> sourced by genetic code. Many people in the US use the term 'sexual
> interchangeably with 'sexual instincts.' I agree that most people would
> have a difficult time identifying purely instinctual sexual behavior,
> >As a specific example of what I am thinking about, consider child and
> >spousal abuse. These are specific behaviors that passed through early
> >childhood experiences and are often only changed with some form of
> I suspect from your comments that you would rather not defend your
> incidental use 'non-memetic behavior' and get back to the main point of
> your post.
> Mark
> ===============================================================
> This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
> Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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> see:

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)