Re: CFP: ASSC4 "The Unity of Consciousness: Binding, Integration and Dissociation"

Ross A. Finlayson (
Mon, 08 Nov 1999 19:52:39 -0500

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
>> (Patrick Wilken):

> > I like Dennett too, but I am not sure I am sold on the ideas of memes.
> > Certainly from the perspective of the conference. How do you think memes
> > would resolve any of the binding problems?
> >
> > I am sort of curious: people talk about memes as this really groovy
> > explanation, but I can't see them as being an improvement over the ideas
> > associated with cognition. How is 'memetics' a more powerful tool for
> > understanding thoughts, emotions, or consciousness, than those developed
> > in cognitive neuroscience (which lack any mention of memes).
> You're right of course: memetics doesn't tell you anything about how
> the brain works, any more than genetics tells you how DNA works. It's
> quite the opposite perspective. Evolution of DNA explains many of the
> physical traits we see in various animal species; similarly, memetics
> can explain some of the aspects of human culture that the human mind
> has produced, but it has nothing at all to say about how the mind
> itself works--that's still being shaped by good old DNA. Once a kid
> starts learning, his actions may be shaped by memetic inheritance,
> but the brain itself and how it processes thoughts and emotions are
> already formed at birth. If it weren't, there wouldn't be any medium
> for memes to replicate in.
> The only slight influence memetic evolution might have on the working
> of the brain itself is through pseudo-Lamarckian Baldwin effects (i.e.,
> cultural choices as an environmental factor selecting for genetic
> traits).
> --
> Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
> "All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
> are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
> for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC

So should we bring out calipers and reinstate phrenology? Likely not. The nature vis-a-vis nurture debate is a longstanding one.

Good DNA is doubtless a beneficial factor when it comes to the ability to learn, but at the same time, problem solving skills are a largely learned skill.

Brain chemistry is a vast field, and one best left to brain chemists. By the same token, the large-scale (over)prescription of mood-altering drugs can be a bad thing.

Memetics, if being the study and analysis of memes and memetic transition, is tightly bound with sociology and psychology.

Ross Finlayson