virus: Re: sociological change.

Ken Pantheists (
Sun, 22 Dec 1996 23:42:33 +0000

Alex Wrote:

(For the record, I'd say that canines
pass memes just as readily as humans, but with a far narrower
spectrum. We /do/ observe them communicating, they do have a
(nominal) society (`packs'), so there's a decent basis for using the
meme as an abstraction to study their behaviour, too.)

No what we do is create memes that explain the behaviour of dogs.

We create pack behaviour and so forth to explain them. What artifacts do
dogs produce that infect us?

(I'm trying to think of some as I write this and I am reminded of those
scenes where Lassie comes running in:

Bark bark bark!

What's that Lassie? Johnny's fallen down the well?

Bark Bark

The Fergusen's well?


Alex wrote:

I have a basic problem with that analysis; memes are the
building-blocks of culture, not cultures themselves.

I can see what you are getting at and I have to disagree. They are
building blocks, sure, but you can't remove them from a culture, because
it is the culture that gives them meaning. You can't remove them from a
person's brain, because they only have meaning in the brain. It is this
nexus of textual and contextual meanings that make a meme.

You are viewing memes as if they are real, absolute particles. That
can't work. They don't exist that way. They are suspended between
individual history and cultural influence. This is why we can only
effectively look at human memes, because we can talk about these
influences using language.

Memetics is a meme we made up to explain human behaviour and human
endeavors. Once you start applying it to animals--- well, I think it's
like saying that you want to study Early Rennaissance honey bees, or
Ming Dynasty cows.

Just as one can
have a moecule that's not part of a structure and an atom not part of
a molecule and even quantum particles that are no part of an atom, I
perceive that one can have memes sans a `culture' of complexity equal
to ours.

Where do you perceive this? Can you name a meme that exists outside of
cultural influence?

Of course, I'd also suggest that /many/ animals have a
`culture:' ants (hives), dogs (packs), in essence, any animal that has
to issue cooperative behaviour at some point (and since they /all/
have to mate, eventually) will have some level of `culture' that can
be perceived, and memes underlying that.
I would suggest that what animals have is Behaviour.

And (I think this was originally said by Reed Konsler in the Memetic/dog
thread) behaviour explains dogs and animals adequately enough. Saying
that the behaviour is a meme brings nothing new to light. It's just a
fancy new name.

Memetics, when applied to the behaviour of human animals, helps to
explain how we behave through our technology, through our social
contracts and personal ideologies, through our media....

Long story short-- you will have to work harder to convert me to your
point of view.

Maybe your dog has something to say to me? :)

  Ken Pantheists