Re: i-memes and m-memes

Robin Faichney (
Tue, 31 Aug 1999 10:27:36 +0100

Date: Tue, 31 Aug 1999 10:27:36 +0100
From: Robin Faichney <>
Subject: Re: i-memes and m-memes
In-Reply-To: <>

In message <2CDFE2C8F598D21197C800C04F911B2034934B@DELTA.newhouse.akzono>, Gatherer, D. (Derek) <>
>How will you know an i-meme when you see one?
>James McComb:
>I am not a behaviorist. I am happy to create theoretical entities, provided
>they have explanatory power and are indirectly testable.
>But do they:
>a) have explanatory power? The biggest problem with the Dawkins B
>definition is that it doesn't because it equates hosting the meme with
>manisfestation of the behaviour that the meme is supposed to neurally
>encode. This is circular, and thus lacks explanatory power.
>b) permit even indirect testing? If you can suggest an indirect test, I'd
>be very interested.
>I know you said you didn't want to start this debate again, but if you can
>solve the above 2 objections, that would be a considerable contribution to
>the world of memetics.

Let's look at the alternative to starting the "behaviourist vs.
mentalist" thing again.

Consider: every meme has a life cycle consisting of two main stages --
storage in the brain, and transmission via behaviour. Artefactual
transmission is a special case of behavioural transmission, requiring
for example writing and reading behaviours.

In this scenario, observed imitative behaviour is sufficient evidence of
brain involvement. Because the "i-meme" (I prefer "i-form") is not
isolated, as it is in the Dawkins B scenario, it does not require
independent verification. All of the empirical work can be done on
behaviours, with the brain brought in as and when appropriate to
complete the explanations.

This seems to me to combine the best of both "external" and "internal"
worlds, with the additional benefit of allowing analysis in terms of
information storage/processing/transmission. If anyone can see any
problems with it, I'd be grateful to have them pointed out to me.

Robin Faichney
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