Re: the cargo of the cult

Mark M. Mills (
Fri, 27 Aug 1999 15:24:19 +0100

Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 15:24:19 +0100
From: "Mark M. Mills" <>
Subject: Re: the cargo of the cult
In-Reply-To: <[

>This is not, I think, what we are talking about.
>This is what we are talking about-

>>The fact that the information is only available under
>>certain circumstances does not mean that it is not there.

>And I disagree with you. Other than forensic information, I see no reason
>to assume there is any cultural information without the culture to see
>it. Like I said, in the culture of the cargo cult, there is no
>information other than religious totem to a toaster. Those 'certain
>circumstances' are the entirety of cultural information.
>Yes, no?

I take the perspective that 'the meaning of the message is determined by
the receiver.' Though counter intuitive, it is a simple physiological
reality. In the case of biological organisms, all meaning (information)
results from the neural system's procesing of stimulus. Our neural system
cannot 'read' information, only data.

Our neural systems are very well tuned for feedback, though. By combining
inherited cognitive processes, feedback and data, we generally seem to
agree with message senders on a common meaning for the message. Message
senders and receivers are generally happy with the process.

Feedback largely occurs unconsciously. It is impossible to quantify
verbally. Thus, we just forget to acknowledge it's role. It is far easier
to simply say 'the information comes with the message.'

Your cargo cult example shows what happens when the feedback is not
present. The meaning ascribed by the receiver has nothing to do with that
of the sender.


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)