RE: virus: nudge nudge wink wink

Robin Faichney (
Thu, 25 Sep 1997 11:35:35 +0100

> From: Eva-Lise Carlstrom[]
> On Wed, 24 Sep 1997, David McFadzean wrote:
> > 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. :)
OK, now I do too, thanks, Eva.

> 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...
But I don't agree! Just about everyone around here seems
to be happy to reify memes, to view them as "things", when
for me they're theoretical constructs. Thus, any piece of
behaviour that tends to be propagated is a meme (or meme-
complex). The meme is not some underlying cause, as is
the gene. Someone gets winked at, and as a result winks
at others. To say that the wink is the meme is not just
loose usage, it is precisely right. Don't get carried away
by the meme/gene parallel, it only goes so far. Dawkins'
point was that not only genes reproduce and evolve. In
principle, any item of information can do so, given
suitable substrate and environment. But the behaviour
instantiates the item of information, which cannot exist
on its own. Behavioural item == information == meme.