Re: Memes

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Fri Nov 07 1997 - 22:25:37 GMT

> P.S. Can you reiterate your ideas on 'modus ponens' and 'modus tolens'
> as this might help me here and I stupidly didn't make notes on it in
> the first lecture.

See my reply to Jon Wright.

> You said that Dawkins' meme analogy "allows no difference between an
> idea that propagates because it is correct and an idea that propagates
> because a dictator forces everyone to adopt it."
> Why should it matter how memes came to exist in the meme pool, (the
> manner by which they became successful in the criteria of longevity,
> fecundity and accuracy of replication)? Does it matter in biological
> evolutionary theory whether a gene ends up in an embryo through the
> normal meiotic process or through 'meiotic drive'?

Good point. I'd reply that the existence and nature of genes is on a
firmer footing than the existing and nature of "memes." Genes are based
physically in DNA, and they are literally replicators. Memes are
anything and everything that gets past around and on through culture.
What is their physical substrate? What is doing the replicating? Most of
the features of genes have no counterpart in memes.

I think the meme concept is much fuzzier and less informative than the
idea of genes.

> Genes came to be in the gene pool because of the replicator. How the
> replicator came into existence has still not necessarily been answered
> in my mind either.

Genes ARE the replicators. Dawkins's chapter on the primal soup (plus
several of the postings on the Py311 list) describe how the first
primitive replicators evolved into genes.

> In what ways has cognition freed itself from its deterministic,
> biological, adaptation-based origins? (If it HAS freed itself: Has it?)
> Let me get back to you on that one!

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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