Re: virus: Replication of Memes

Ken Pantheists (
Wed, 14 Aug 1996 10:23:40 -0700

David McFadzean wrote:

> On a related note, I've been researching the notion of truth (prompted
> by the recent great "objective truth" vs. the postmoderns thread) and
> I'm beginning to think the only things (i.e. category of propositions)
> we can know are true are conditionals.

This is part of a long arguement I've had going with you since my first
day on the list. Not only is Truth conditional, but in our post modern
world-- it is provisional.

Every time we say "I think X is
> true." we should translate that to mean "IF my assumptions are correct
> THEN X is true."

And X is true until something better comes along.

Sounds fickle? Sure, but we have our last fifty years of culture
recorded and filmed and video taped-- it's not going away-- it's not
fading from memory or being mythified. It *is* making all of us very
sarcastic and very fluent in the fine art of irony.

And of course we can never know with certainty whether
> our assumptions are true, but we can apply the same transformation
> to each one along the lines of "IF an objective reality exists AND my
> sense perceptions are correlated with said reality AND etc. etc. THEN
> my <insert premise here> is true." Does this fit in with your notion
> of beliefs and knowledge?
> >Many signals have an unconscious source. I don't think a drill bit at
> >the bottom of the ocean thinks ...

I am very confused about this. How does a drill bit think? This is not a
meme or even information, it's a drill bit. Why are you treating it
> Granted. So Dtretske's theory doesn't differentiate between passive
> phenomena and purposeful communications? I guess that makes sense,
> both are signals from the environment and the fact that the latter
> may be more complex doesn't seem to make a difference.

Of course it does.

> >Hmmm... Seeing memes as historical entities which are necessarily
> >classified by their lineage is central to the concept of memetics.
> >Information theory (or 'signal theory' as Dretske would call it) seems
> >to be an indispensible element. If there's an intractable problem with
> >identifying a meme at the stage of it's lifecycle when it is transmitted
> >from one host to the next, then there seems to be an intractible problem
> >for a science of memetics.
> Why would it be hard to identify the meme when it is transmitted?

I don't get this....(?) How can a meme have a life cycle?

It isn't a meme *unless* it is transmitted.

> Here's a textbook example I read last night in the latest Skeptic
> (vol. 4, no. 2) in John Hartung's "Prospects for Existence" (a
> very Virian essay BTW):
> "Before there were written laws and governments to enforce
> them, abortion and infanticide were privately practiced in
> most, if not all, societies. A common reason for infanticide
> was the birth of twins. Most mothers in hunter-gatherer
> societies, especially those who already had children, could
> not obtain enough food to nurse two babies without losing
> more than one offspring. Accordingly, mothers who believed
> that it was right to kill one of two twins had more offspring
> to whom she could teach that belief. When such beliefs reach
> a critical threshold by a process analogous to natural selection,
> they become the stuff of cultural norms and religious convictions.
> Spot the meme.

Here's what I spot.

While researching the Gothic Impulse for my theatre paper I came across
several thumbnail versions of "the gothic"(and of murder fiction) one
characterstic is a fascination with dopplegangers, evil twins, doubles,
negative reflections and transformations of one being into another-- all
of which spring from and support the practice described above.

The meme has developed and evolved to a point where we accept it without
question. We are totally prepared for the "evil twin" scenario.

Bram Stoker's "Dracula" is rife with these elements. I will be posting
my thesis isn the next week or so. If you are interested, drop by my
home page to see it.

Ken Pantheists                     
Virus Theatre           
TooBa Physical Theatre Centre