Bill's challenge Was: What came first?

James McComb (
Thu, 7 Oct 1999 00:56:03 +1000

From: "James McComb" <>
To: "Memetics Discussion List" <>
Subject: Bill's challenge Was: What came first?
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1999 00:56:03 +1000

Hello everyone. Long time no see!

I couldn't resist responding to Bill's challenge: 'Please correct me if I
have misrepresented your camp.'

I have pitched my tent in the 'memes simply take different forms'
(L-form/G-form etc.) camp. Bill stated that in this view, 'the
genotype-phenotype distinction does not apply'. I believe this is a

The reason I think that the genotype/phenotype distinction must form part of
this view is because it must form part of any memetic view. The
genotype/phenotype distinction cannot be dissolved.

In order for a view to count as 'memetic', it must depict culture as
resulting from the differential selection of replicators. Now a 'genotype'
is simply a replicating entity, while the 'phenotype' is those effects of
the replicating entity that are subject to selection pressure. Because every
Darwinian process involves both replication and selection, we will always
need to distinguish between the replicator and its effects, between the
genotype and the phenotype. So if a memetic theory ever did abandon the
genotype/phenotype distinction, it would abandoning the view of culture as
the outcome of a Darwinian process.

The three camps that Bill mentions all draw a distinction between
replicators and their effects. What they really differ about is the nature
of the replicator. I would characterize the three views as follows:

1. The memetic replicators are neural structures
2. The memetic replicators are cultural artifacts and behaviors
3. The memetic replicators are informational structures which are 'encoded'
in neural structures as well as artifacts and behaviors

The advantageous feature of 3 is that the replicating structures are not
physical, but abstract informational 'structures'.

---James McComb
Fidelity! Fecundity! Longevity!

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