Re(4): virus: Forwarding: some comments about the concept

Chris Stefaniw (
Wed, 20 Dec 95 00:35:03 -0800

David McFadzean wrote:

>What if you extended your definition of meme to include any pattern in
>the nervous system which causes some identifiable behaviour? This could range
>in scope from the most simplistic "hardwired" instinct (like chemotaxis)
>up to the most abstract and complex conceptual systems (human politics).
>That is why I chose to call it an "ecology of memes" rather than a Minskian
>"society", because an ecology implies the interaction of many levels of

After thinking about the messages for awhile, I see that your reasons for
believing your claims tend to make more sense than my reasons for doubting
them. However, there is one notable exception (even though this may just be
mostly a matter of semantics). This exception is that of a definition of
memes that includes any "pattern in the nervous system which *causes* some
identifiable behavior." Why do we draw a causal relation between these
patterns and behaviors? I'm not about to argue the fact that there's a
relationship, but it's difficult to see why we should think that memes cause
behaviors. Sure, memes are associated with behaviors, but do memes really
produce an effect, result, or consequence of any kind where we can determine
that the meme has caused it? Do we have any more reason to think that neural
patterns cause behaviors than to think that behaviors cause neural patterns?
There's bound to be a significant relation since they have too much to do with
each other to be pure coincidence, but how do we know that one causes the
other? Is it plausible to think that something else may cause both (even if
you want to call this something else a sort of holistic meme of our identity
which follows the old Gestalt maxim of the whole being greater than the sum of
its parts)? Actually, the more I think of this, the more I wonder if I may
have stumbled on your answer in advance since you already hinted at a possible
level of the sum of memes operating as a whole when you mentioned that "an
ecology implies the interaction of many levels of complexity." Would this
memetic ecology then essentially be whatever it is that is the reason why we
have at least the illusion of operating as wholes instead of only as lots of