X-Message-Number: 11956
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: what does this author REALLY say about memes?
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 19:18:33 +1000 (EST)

To John de Rivas:

I've always felt that "memes" is just a buzz-word for something can just
as well be described as an "idea" or a "behavior". The main problem is
that even if you call it by a similar word, you do not then get the same
kind of behavior as a "gene". Yes, people inherit both ideas and
behaviors, and sometimes try to get others to take them up. Whether that
actually tells us anything crucial is another matter entirely.

Among other problems, they are not passed on with anywhere near the same
certainty as we pass on our genes. Sometimes children quite deliberately
choose to act differently from their parents, for instance. Or even 
differently from those around them. There is always an interaction between
the person and the ideas or behavior, none of these things will be taken
up with no questioning at all. And of course, the more different an idea
or behavior is from one to which an individual already adheres, the harder
it will be to move them over. (But that also depends on the individual:
some eagerly accept new ideas and behavior, others do not). Not only that,
but people who accept an idea may well do so in a form comfortable to
them, not precisely the form it was given to them.

Moreover I've never really been able to break ideas or behaviors down into
nice little units which deserve the name of memes. They get fuzzy when
we look at the different beliefs and behaviors of different people, even
if those people believe that they hold to the original quite firmly. It's
not enough to say that someone is a Christian. It's not even enough to
say that they are American Catholic Christians. Or for that matter, that
someone is a cryonicist.

So tell me: does this author really deal with these issues? 

If she can really USE the idea of memes rather than just the word, I'm
interested. Otherwise not.

			Best and long long life,

				Thomas Donaldson

PS: If you want a good explanation of the different kinds of altruism, you
might read some of the ideas about how evolution and natural selection
can produce different varieties of altruism --- and in human beings, more
complex varieties than in simpler animals.

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