virus: nudge nudge wink wink

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Wed, 24 Sep 1997 14:30:28 -0700 (PDT)

On Wed, 24 Sep 1997, David McFadzean wrote:

> At 07:11 PM 9/24/97 +0100, Robin Faichney wrote:
> >> From: David McFadzean[]
> >> If winking is a meme, what is blinking?
> >>
> >Sorry, don't think I understand the question: you said
> >yourself it's genetic -- what else do you want to know
> >about it? (Sorry if I came in on this late, or haven't
> >been paying sufficient attention since I came in.)
> Does it make sense to say that blinking is a gene? Or maybe
> is there is a gene for blinking, is there a meme for winking?

I understand the question, David. :)
You're looking at our terminology for genetics and memetics, and finding a
lack of parallelism. I think this is because of the tendency to speak
vaguely about memes, and forget that what is transmitted is not the same
as the result of the transmission, just as the genetic information that
underlies the blink reflex is not identical to blinking itself. Thus, I
propose the following parallel terminology:



Just the genome is the complete ordered array making up an individual's
genetic content, the memome would be a person's complete set of memes
(including--Tim--the ostensibly inactive ones). As the genotype is the
set of genes an individual has for a particular trait, the memotype would
be the memes a person has defining a particular issue. And, no, memetics
is not Mendelian; we don't have it that easy! ...and life is that much
more interesting.
It's not necessary, of course, that we use these particular terms,
but they do help clarify relationships between memes and their results.
In genetics, the results (such as brown eyes) of a genotype (such as BB or
Bb for eye color) are referred to as a "phenotype", from the Greek phaino-
meaning appearance or seeming. This term might be usefully applied to
memetics as well, if it's not too confusing to use it in both contexts.
With this background in place, blinking may be said to be part of
the phenotype (although since it's not peculiar to an individual, but
rather to nearly all creatures with eyelids, it wouldn't usually be
referred to that way), deriving from genes that code for such equipment
and reflexes; winking is part of a phenotype also, deriving from the meme,
or, more likely, from the set of memes, affecting winking.
The implications of such a distinction between transmitted units
and their results in the individual are harder to see clearly for less
obviously behavioural features, such as beliefs. I may think about this
more and post more later; others are welcome to too, of course.