RE: Whales and the Memetic Group definitions

Lawrence H. de Bivort (
Thu, 30 Sep 1999 20:24:09 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 20:24:09 -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:

>>My hope is, Wade, that you
>>don't abandon your inquiry into memetics entirely.

>I really don't plan on that- but, right now, I am really at sea
>attempting to rationalize almost all of it.

I wonder if 'doing' memetics might be easier than explaining it? It is
always nice to generate results, even if all the mechanisms through which
it is done aren't known. Of course, from an academic point of view, this
isn't good enough, and the goal is to understand the whole domain of the
subject. My sense is that a combination of cognition and linguisitics will
do it, and that other matters lie outside the scope of memetics. (But my
view will probably be a minority one on this.)

>I include 'aesthetics' because of the theories therein about dramatic
>forms- the language of expression- music, song, plot, action, character.
>I am an Aristotelian aesthetician, if I had to tag myself with any label
>at all, and I see these forms of expression as innate and universal-
>'memetic' to use a term.... ;-)

Interesting: aesthetic (innate universal) forms as a type of memes. Quite
possible. This way, though I would see an overlap between aesthetics, if I
understand your defintion, and memes -- not that memetics is a part of the
domain of aesthetics.

>>I see memes as essentially ... underlying beliefs.

>Along with, well, just about everything else.... - right now, I see
>genetics and the perspective of socio-biology, and see no need for memes.

LdB: Yes, I think I would agree with you, with regard to genetics and
socio-biology. I have urged that memes not be asserted to be the cultural
equivalent of genes in terms having to have equivalent functions (if only
because biological evolution and cultural evolution may be very different
kinds of things, despite the fact that some use the term 'evolution' on

>My rationale here is- if birdsong is memetic, then the term is
>meaningless- birdsong to me is totally behavioral and innate- the bird
>'has-to' do it. _If_ that is a memetic process, then I see no need for a
>boundary between any behavior and what a being 'has-to' do.

I followed the 'mimicry' discussion with a lot of interest. Hard to think
of birdsongs as memetic, simply and if only because we don't know what the
content is. If it just a recognition signal, then it hardly seems to have
memetic consequence. If the content and structure of a birdsong somehow 1)
changes the behavior of the bird, and 2) spreads through this second bird
to toehrs, with similar impacts on their behavior, then one might consider
the possibility that something of memetic interest may have happened. But
in the absence of these two conditions, the mimicry would seem not to have
this interest. But I may have missed a more trenchant argument along the

>>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.

>Well, that is all well and good, I suppose. But, to me, it is precisely
>the engineer's perspective that is missing- the actual design
>specifications are absent- there is no definite and replicatible and
>manufacturable outcome or product.

Yes, the engineer's approach is not presented on this list. I think some
time back that someone said specifically that it was not of interest to
this list.

>I am from Missouri about this- show me a designed meme. Show me the
>process of manufacture. Show me the ore from which the ingot is obtained,
>and the mold into which it is poured.

Well, there is always a problem with the 'Missouri' approach: that is, it
is relatively passive, and depends on the good will or interest of others
to actively educate the 'Missourian.' The problem, of course, is simple:
maybe no one cares enough over whether the 'Missourian' learns to shoulder
the load of educating him. A more useful posture for the 'Missourian'
might be to take responsibility for his own education, and seek it
proactively, without making others do the hoop-jumping for him. Of course,
I've been brought up in a lot of different places, and so don't know the
joys of a geography-based certainty. <grin>



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