Re: Whales and the Memetic Group definitions

Tim Rhodes (
Fri, 1 Oct 1999 13:35:57 -0700

From: "Tim Rhodes" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: Whales and the Memetic Group definitions
Date: Fri, 1 Oct 1999 13:35:57 -0700

Wade wrote:

>Okay, I do actually see this distinction- this definition of what a
>memetic thing is. But saying that a bird's song is a memetic entity only
>changes the term, or allows it to be set into some other formula, and
>does nothing about describing the mechanism that got the bird to sing.

I agree. I'm not sure, however, if it's even the role of memetics to
describe those underlying mechanisms. (I don't think it is.) Anymore than
it would be the role of a bookmaker to describe why a coach chose the plays
he did in the game.

Memetics can't advance very far without being informed by the workings of
those mechanisms, but that shouldn't be it's main focus by any means.

>And I, personally, want the answer to why the bird sings.

Ask Maya Angelou.

>Are the actual memes it produces enough evidence of this? So far,
>I think not, anymore than the actual color of one's shoes is evidence
>of the mechanism that got them on the feet.

Agreed. Memes are tools. Memetics could describe how we ended up with the
tools we have and help predict which tools will be successful in the future,
but can't--on its own--tell you _why_ we are tool using animals.

>Many memeticists however, say that memetics does explain these
>changes. I say, show me the changes first. Show me the mechanism.

You know that those are two different questions, right? What's changed and
why it's changed.

>I think, right now, that the mechanism is innate, part of behavior.
>Behavioural environmentalism is what I think memetics should be.
>Environmental behavioralism? Something like that.

I think I agree with you, for the most part. That's why I speak of the
/elements/ of that environment, specifically those produced by humans, when
I speak of memes. (But it should be noted, that I by no means speak for
everyone using the term when I do that.)

>>(But I'd still love to hear Wade explain the work of Cage, Stockhaussen,
>>Andriessen or Zorn in strictly aesthetic terms--and somehow do it without
>>recourse to that nebulous "culture" thingy.)
>Ah, but they themselves would say that what they were doing was totally a
>personal reaction to their own limits of expression.

And those limits and how they are shaped is a more proper realm for memetic
inquiry, don't you think?

>The mutations that present us with the products of culture (memes, if you
>will) are not culture. They are changed behaviors within the environment
>we call culture, part of the feedback in that environment. If they
>succeed, we see them as part of the culture, but culture, to me, is only
>a product, seen only when mature, like pigeons....

I agree. But how is this view unlike the "memes are the genes of society
and culture is their phenotypical expression" viewpoint?

>I guess I'll be outa here soon....

I hope not. Even God needed a doubting accuser to keep him honest and on
track from time to time. :-)

In Satan's love-

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