RE: virus: Memetical Axioms

Robin Faichney (
Mon, 22 Sep 1997 11:02:28 +0100

> From: David McFadzean[]
> At 02:27 PM 9/20/97 -0700, Eva-Lise Carlstrom wrote:
> >But we're not solely memetic creatures, so I do have a quibble with
> 1a.
> >We are the combination of our genes and our memes. That
> _combination_ has
> >some power of selection over what memes it accepts as part of itself.
> I think this might be an example of confusing levels of descriptions
> in the way Robin warned us about. Genes really only control which
> proteins
> are created in our cells. There's no doubt this has an effect on what
> memes can survive in our heads, obviously the structure of the human
> brain is an important factor.
I think you answered yourself there, David. Sure, the genes
have no direct affect, but we host the particular memes we do,
in large part, due to genetically-controlled factors. What
this comes down to, basically, is: do genes affect behaviour?
To which the answer is, I think, unequivocally, yes.

> Does this analogy hold?: Someone suggests a computer's operating
> system
> is responsible for controlling which program runs on the CPU at any
> given
> time. Someone else says, no, it is a combination of the operating
> system
> and the hardware. True, the hardware is a definite factor, but
> irrelevant
> to this level of description.
Typical computer hardware is a Universal Turing Machine:
it can do any info processing task for which a program
can be written. Brains are not like that. They are much,
much more capable of some kinds of tasks than others,
and there are probably some tasks of which they are
absolutely incapable. So hardware is not irrelevant.
Adequate descriptions and explanations of what *does* go
on at higher levels can be given without reference to it (I
think) but it comes in when we try to explain why certain
kinds of higher level phenomena *don't* happen in brains.
Certainly, in quantitative terms, hardware considerations
can explain why some kinds of task can be done very
much more efficiently than others.

Having said which, this stuff deserves more thought than
I've given it so far -- this is not meant to be the last word!

But this is, for now: