Re: virus: Does a dog have meme-nature?

Mon, 10 Jun 1996 13:39:21 -0500

Peter Okner wrote:
>Its funny, i used to think like you, in fact i've started a paper in
>on that theme; buildings as phenotypes of memes; and yet i suddenly find
>myself argueing another wiew.
> Technical artifacts can spread without cultural support. Thru us they
>multiply and are selected.

Peter then goes on to describe actual and hypothetical examples of how
humans craft artifacts or cause artifacts to be crafted even when those
humans do not appreciate or value the objects they are creating in the same
way that the original craftsman did.

You've shifted your focus away from humans as facilitaors of memetic
propagation, but you've really just illustrated the fact that humans do not
need to value or even understand the replicators the propagation of which
they facilitate. I'm quite willing to embrace the possibility that there
can be non-human memetic replicators, but despite your shift in focus, you
still have not made the claim that memes are physical objects. You don't,
for instance, claim that the swedish cheesgraters which fill the corner
shops ARE memes. I can't go into the store and physically grasp a meme.

Memes (like genes) are not physical objects. They are patterns of
information. Unfortunately, (unlike genes) we don't know exactly how those
patterns of information regularly covary with configurations of matter,
i.e. we recognize the molecular structures upon which genes supervene, be
we don't understand the supervenient relationship between memes and brains.

Granted: the meme/artifact - gene/phenotype analogy is overly simplistic,
but for someone who's confused memes with the artifacts that are the result
of meme-directed behavior, the analogy has value.

Have you ever heard the difference between induction and deduction related
as follows? "Deductive reasoning moves from general principles to a
specific conclusion while inductive reasoning moves from specific
observations to generalizations about whole classes of things."

This explanation is dead wrong, but it allows a student to accurately
identify examples of inductive and deductive reasoning a good deal of the
time. Once they've made that distiction and internalized it, then you can
trot out the counter-examples to that rule of thumb and explain the actual
defining features of each kind of reasoning. If you just started by
telling students that deductive arguments are those arguments in which the
certainty of the conclusion cannot be changed by adding additional premises
while the strength of an inductive inference can be significantly affected
by the inclusion of additional information, many of them will be lost.
This is especially true if you're trying to introduce the
deduction/induction distinction to people who haven't internalized the
concepts 'premise', 'validilty', 'inference', or 'argument' in the
necessary sense.

Oh well, I'm rambling, but I suspect you get my drift. Take care. -KMO

when you're down it's a long way up
when you're up it's a long way down
it's all the same thing
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