Re: comparison/contrast of memes and engrams

Scott Chase (
Wed, 13 Oct 1999 14:25:41 -0700

Date: Wed, 13 Oct 1999 14:25:41 -0700
From: "Scott Chase" <>
Subject: Re: comparison/contrast of memes and engrams


On Wed, 13 Oct 1999 08:52:45 Bill Spight wrote: >Scott: > >both memes and engrams are somewhat chimeric and elusive in nature > >Mark: > >As to the chimeric nature of a meme, this is entirely the result of one's definition. The L-meme is no more chimeric than a gene. > >OED: > >"Chimeric . . . > 1. = CHIMERICAL: imaginary, fanciful. . . . > 2. Prone to entertain chimeras; filled with idle fancies and wild dreams; whimsical, fanciful." > >Bill: > >Huh? > > I was thinking in molecular contexts, since the term relates to transgenic and knockout technology (specifically chimeric mice) which *was* in the back of my mind at the time, about the Chimera or Greek beast of varied constitution. I also have been reading lots about recombinant plasmids and other vectors (eg- phagemids etc...) with segments of varied origin. In this sense of chimeric there are multiple definitions and multiple origins of these definitions for both terms (engrams and memes) and this makes them both difficult to pin down. Jeez, relax. It's just a word. Fanciful could apply too, though :-) There does seem to be a hint of neologism in the air here, where engram has a history behind it. See Daniel Schacter's books _Searching for Memory: the Brain, the Mind, and the Past_ or _Stranger Behind the Engram: Theories of Memory and the Psychology of Science_ for the historiccal details and an elaboration if you wish. My point stands about why one would replace the engram with another term, if you're talking about something that has neurophysiological basis. Leo Buss introduces the term engram in the context of ideas being units of selection in his book _The Evolution of Individuality_ (1987. Princeton University Press. Princetion NJ). He defines the engram on page 176 as "a particular spatial-temporal pattern of neuronal connections in the brain". I've read other definitions from different authors. Eugene Galluscio (in Biological Psychology_ (1990. MacMillan Publishing Company. New York, p. 505) defines it as: "the physical substrate of memory" and references Karl Lashley. There are others. Sorry if the term chimeric was deemed inappropriate or distasteful.

Scott Chase

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