Richard Brodie (
Wed, 1 Sep 1999 17:09:10 -0700

From: "Richard Brodie" <>
To: <>
Subject: RE: JOM
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 17:09:10 -0700
In-Reply-To: <000801bef4cf$bacf2da0$>

Buck wrote:

<<It appears unclear whether "ALL" refers to a comprehensive set of related
conditions, or each possible conceptual granule within a cultural

I don't know what you mean by either of those choices.

<< If we are defining meme as the indivisible core (or at least a very
small set) of a replicating concept, and a larger set of grouped ideas as
memeplexes then the complex forms of replication appear likely regions of
memetics most useful investigations.>>

A meme is a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events
such that more copies of itself get created in other minds. [Virus of the
Mind, p. 27]

<<The indivisible component of that compound (the molecule) is referred to
as "water", not ice, so a proper analogy is an objection to reference of ALL
related states by using the granular term.>>

You missed the point. My objection is to the use of "meme," a specifically
defined term meaning mental replicators, to refer to all information
involved in replicating processes. The analogy to "water" would be

<< You very properly violate your own principle, however, with the useful
explanation of ice as frozen water. Granted, it is different than what we
normally think of as water, and thus "dilutes" the meaning of water in our
mind by including solid crystals, but it is useful, even crucial for
understanding many physical processes.>>

EXACTLY. That's why we have a special word for "meme."

<<Ice melts and evaporates, or sublimates, forming water vapor, which
may rise sufficiently high to the point that it condenses and freezes, once
again forming ice.>>

<<Here again we see the usefulness of introducing the atomic term toward a
more complex understanding, just as memes are involved directly in complex
and non-intuitively recognized cultural evolution. >>

No, the analogy is to the way behaviors, artifacts, and other kinds of
vehicles are involved in the transmission of memes, although they are not
memes themselves.

<<Like the water analogy, if what comes out of the chaotic interaction
between the carrier and the infected is the carrier's original meme, we can
absolutely say that at least a component or catalyst of the meme was encoded
and present. In the water analogy, we can say that any material added to a
container that results in water, this would include adding a spark
(catalyst) to a tank containing hydrogen and oxygen.>>

So you would say water is present in a tank containing H and O2? I wouldn't.
But I suppose you could look at it either way.

The point is that we choose to name things for our own purposes. In science,
we generally choose names that aid us in making useful predictions. There is
no natural law that the thing named by the name has to be present
continuously throughout time.

Richard Brodie
Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme"
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