RE: Whales and the Memetic Group definitions

Lawrence H. de Bivort (
Thu, 30 Sep 1999 13:23:25 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 13:23:25 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Lawrence H. de Bivort" <>
Subject: RE: Whales and the Memetic Group definitions
In-Reply-To: <[]>

On Thu, 30 Sep 1999, Wade T.Smith wrote:

>>Redundant with what?

>Genetics, behavioural psychology, cognitive science, philosophy,
>aesthetics, biology....
>I can accept it if someone wants to and provides the means to put all the
>above under a 'memetics' umbrella, but, so far, I do not buy a 'science
>of the meme'.

Wade, my interest in and definition of memetics is quite different from
those who might see it as an umbrella for the above topics. My interest is
also wholly 'pragmatic,' rather than 'scientific.' A scientist in other
areas, I am an 'engineer' when it comes to memetics.

I view memetics as irrelevent to genetics (and don't find my way of
metaphor too much in common between the two: certainly and even by
metaphor, memes to not have to be equated to genes in any way.)

Behavioral psychology and cognition: I see memes as being within these
domains, sub-operations if you will of cognition and decision-making.
Memes are, as we use the term, a subset of 'beliefs-that-generate
behavior.' The subset is distinguished by specific archtitectural
properties of the belief, that give to it self-disseminating and
self-protecting properties.

Philosophy and aesthetics: I don't see any intrinsic relationship there.
(Though a meme's CONTENT may include matters of philosophic and aesthetic

Biology: I recognize that beliefs, cognition and decision-making generally
have a neurobiological basis -- that the brain, among other things,
provides the vehicle for the operation of these things, and that that goes
for memes, too. But we can if we have to study, design, operate memes
without knowing about neurobiology, via the traces of the passage of the
meme, from its point of origin, to those people or organizations it has
been spread to, then internally among people within organizations, and on
to other people outside the organization, (to give an example of the kind
of ways dissemination can occur), etc.

I would add to your list of disciplines that memes might be relevant to,
linguisitcs. I see memes as essentially linguistic/symbolic entities, that
reflect underlying beliefs. As the beliefs change, so will the language
that people use to express them. There is some thought that changing the
language, first, will then change the underlying belief. This is a
possibility that I find interesting and possibly useful.

I am responding to Wade's challenge because I do think that 'memetics' is
real (though my definition of it might be quite different from that used
my many of the fine thinkers on this list). My hope is, Wade, that you
don't abandon your inquiry into memetics entirely. It is a promising
field, at least at the level I have described it in this message, and has
already generated a rich set of capabilities for us. I admit that we don't
have the scientific or academic objectives that many of the people on this
list share. Also, our drive for understanding memes is not to understand
'everything' about them, as much as it is to understand 'enough' about
them -- an engineer's persective.

Best regards,


| ESI |
| Evolutionary Services Institute |
| "Crafting opportunities for a better world" |
| 5504 Scioto Road, Bethesda, MD 20816, USA |
| (301) 320-3941 |

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)