RE: Inernal meme?

Aaron Lynch (
Wed, 29 Sep 1999 15:45:49 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 15:45:49 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: Inernal meme?
In-Reply-To: <2CDFE2C8F598D21197C800C04F911B203493C2@DELTA.newhouse.akzo

At 09:17 AM 9/29/99 +0200, Gatherer, D. (Derek) wrote:
>I think I did grasp your point. What you say above merely clarifies what I
>said before: that the Isenberg et al study should be seen as *evidence*,
>not *proof* of an internal meme. I would be willing to bet that Isenberg et
>al would find a nearly universal non-reaction by subjects who were never
>previously exposed to English threat words if they did an expanded
>follow-up study to find out.
>Okay, threat words in English aren't threat words to people in China,
>because such sounds are not part of their environment. Isn't that just a
>trivially true? In what way is the amygdalar pattern 'evidence' of an
>internal meme at all? Surely it's just an environmental response?

I have no quibble with calling words and other people who speak them part
of one's environment. Whether we agree to use the word "meme" for it or
not, one can be more specific and identify sub-sectors of the environment.
One can, for instance, identify other people who exhibit "the same" word
enunciations. One can even hypothesize that the "sameness" of the ways they
use and react to words is an internal property of the brains of those
people in the environment.

Now the latter hypothesis, like the hypotheses of black holes and prions,
may have certain implications that can be empirically tested. One such
implication is that brains react differently (even if just microscopically)
depending upon both prior exposure and meaning of the word. This is the
aspect of Isenberg et al (1999) that counts as one piece of evidence, in
that it is at least consistent with the hypothesis of internally-stored
threat-word vocabularies.

As with black holes and prions, there will be those who demand a lot more
evidence before being persuaded. You may demand more evidence than many
memeticists on the matter of internally-stored threat-word vocabularies and
internal information hypotheses.

--Aaron Lynch

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