Re: Darwinian evolution vs memetic evolution

From: wilkins (wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU)
Date: Mon Feb 05 2001 - 22:55:30 GMT

  • Next message: Ray Recchia: "Re: Darwinian evolution vs memetic evolution"

    Received: by id WAA10120 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Mon, 5 Feb 2001 22:59:20 GMT
    Message-ID: <>
    Date: Tue, 06 Feb 2001 09:55:30 +1100
    From: wilkins <wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU>
    Organization: The Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
    X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.76C-CCK-MCD  (Macintosh; U; PPC)
    X-Accept-Language: en
    Subject: Re: Darwinian evolution vs memetic evolution
    References: <>
    Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary="------------3F296263AD3C4C43CE27E400"
    Precedence: bulk
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

    Vincent Campbell wrote:
    > I wouldn't dispute the idea that a difference between culture and
    > nature is the notion of "choice" (although I suspect philosophically this is
    > actually quite a complex concept), but choice isn't everything. Lots of

    I would dispute this. Choice is the end-result of a series of retained
    successful past trials and errors, or it is arbitrary and there is no
    correlation between the choices made and the success of these choices.
    This is, after all, the implication of Hume's problem of induction. This
    in no way differs qualitatively from what occurs in "nature" (nor should
    it, if humans are part of nature).

    > people follow all sorts of trends, customs etc. without knowing why (what
    > for) or the origins of such customs, but just do so. A recent anecdotal

    As Dave Rindos observed in one of his essays, we can treat human
    intentions as a Gaussian distribution and so no different to mutations
    or recombination in genetic populations. It is still subjected to
    selection and drift.

    > example comes from a politics teacher in the local school my wife works in
    > as a careers adviser. One of the kids asked the politics teacher where the
    > terms left wing and right wing came from, as they do seem arbitrary, and she
    > didn't know (neither did my wife who's first degree is in politics, and
    > neither did I). Part of the initial appeal of memetics is those cultural

    I believe it came from the seating arrangements in the French
    revolutionary Assembly.

    > trends that persist regardless of personal choice. Genes have nature, memes
    > have culture. Leaving aside the issue of whether or not religions are
    > memes, for the moment, it's quite clear that many (most?) people do not

    Religions are complex traditions comprised of many elements. At best the
    elements are the memes, and the religion is a "memeplex".

    > choose their religion but adopt that of the family, community and culture
    > around them, so much so that people will claim to be born to a religion. In
    > some cultures, there is little choice but to accept a certain faith or else
    > to face exile from, or persecution within, that culture.
    > Seeing free will or choice as the determinant of memes thus is not
    > the full picture.

    Particularly as many organisms clearly have intentions. If a gazelle
    wants anything, it wants to avoid being eaten by the predator...

    John Wilkins, Head, Graphic Production, The Walter and Eliza Hall 
    Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia
    Homo homini aut deus aut lupus - Erasmus of Rotterdam
    Content-Type: text/x-vcard; charset=us-ascii; name="wilkins.vcf"
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
    Content-Description: Card for wilkinsContent-Disposition: attachment; filename="wilkins.vcf"

    =============================================================== 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) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Feb 05 2001 - 23:01:16 GMT