Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999 15:46:32 EDT
Subject: Re: implied or inferred memes
In a message dated 9/20/99 12:26:55 PM Central Daylight Time,
> Dear Jake,
> As Blackmore would say it, we have to demonstrate that memes are not
> effectively on a "genetic leash."
> No comprende, sennor. Isn't everything cultural on a genetic leash?
Well, in an absolutely causal sense, yes. Just like biology cannot violate
physics. What I mean by saying "effectively on a genetic leash," however, is
whether or not culture -- specifically memetics -- is sufficiently an
emergent phenomenon in its own right, such that it does not make as much
sense to explain it scientifically in terms of genetics. Just like we would
generally not offer biological explanations in terms of physics. Many
sociobiologists (though perhaps not all) would probably still say that genes
form a better explanation for cultural phenomenon than anything currently
offered in the established social sciences.
In fact, minus memetics being part of the social sciences -- which it is
still striving for such a place -- I would tend to agree with them. Prior to
memetics, I would say that almost everything I have encountered in social
sciences has been clearly under the sway of one political ideology or
another. That was one significant reason why I abandoned my studies in
Social Sciences after my bachelor's degree, and chose to go to law school
instead. After four years of hearing obvious political biases being paraded
around as having "objective scientific legitimacy" which they clearly didn't
have, I was pretty jaded.
At least memetics displays a deeper understanding and connection to real
evolutionary theory compared to the various fluffier supposedly
"evolutionary" political ideologies that have paraded around as shades and
phases of "Social Darwinism," "Dialectical materialism," and other such
cultural political fantasies. Basically social sciences through ego-morphism
-- where surprisingly "scientific reality" just happens to validate my
personal political ideology! What a coincidence! How convenient! Especially
when it is nigh impossible to control for error and researcher bias in the
kind of "scientific studies" that I have conducted.
Under those circumstances, I would choose genetic determinism as the more
reliable scientific explanation any day. This in spite of the fact that I
couldn't describe myself as a "believer" in genetic determinism. Compared to
these other hack sciences * (a few notches above "pseudosciences"), memetics
is at least based on something other than political ideology that actually
has something to do with real scientific evolutionary theory, as opposed to
Anyhow, I am ranting little bit farther afield from genetic leashes, but I
think I have indirectly explained that somewhat. After more than a century
of floundering within the social sciences, genetic determinism (which is
currently the general position within sociobiology) is scientifically the
default explanation for cultural and social phenomena. Even if some in
social sciences haven't yet realized that, or refuse to concede their
soapboxes . . . um . . . er . . . I mean . . . "intellectual turf." We have
to establish reasons why there is a better explanation -- which I think there
probably is. This is what memetics is about. This is what I mean by
"effectively on a genetic leash."
* BTW, charitably I would really call them "humanities" -- perhaps "secular
humanities," That's how I generally describe my own undergraduate education.
All the sciences I actually learned since high school have been self-taught
through reading. Fortunately that is a fair amount, and combined with a law
degree, I don't feel the heat of "science envy" so much.
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