Non-human memes (again)

Robin Faichney (
Sun, 29 Aug 1999 10:15:09 +0100

Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1999 10:15:09 +0100
From: Robin Faichney <>
Subject: Non-human memes (again)
In-Reply-To: <>

In message <>, Wade T.Smith
<> writes
>>you left out the bit about the monkeys on nearby islands 'suddenly' adopting
>>the same behaviour without any perceived contact with the original group.
>It is my considered opinion, and I am not alone, that this whole
>monkey-washing-fruit thing is _not_ evidence, and in fact has been shown
>to be fraudulent.
>It is _not_ evidence of memetic replication in non-humans at all.

How about this:

<begin quote>
True imitation does occur in birds... Many songbirds have long
traditions. The young learn what to sing by imitating their parents or
neighbours. In chaffinches, for example, the nestling may hear its
father sing long before it is capable of singing itself. A few months
later it begins to make a wide variety of sounds, gradually narrowing
down to the song it heard as a chick. Experiments show that there is a
critical period for learning and that the bird has to hear its own song
and match it to the remembered song it is imitating. Hand-raised birds
can learn songs from tape recorders and adopted birds sing songs more
like their adopted, not biological, parents. Some species learn many
songs from neighbours and a few, like parrots and mynahs, can imitate
human speech. So we can count birdsong as a meme.
<end quote>
Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine, p49.

Robin Faichney
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