A Brief Overview and History of Memetics (Fonte)
The History of the Memetic Approach
At least since the early seventies several authors have tried to adopt the
principle of evolution by selection to understand the continuous change in
cultural behaviors (Boyd , Calvin , Campbel , Cloak ). Richard Dawkins
popularized the memetic approach. He coined the term 'meme' as an analog to
the biological unit of inheritance, the gene or the genetic replicator (Dawkins , ). The rather
simple distinction between genetic replicators as 'genes' on the one hand,
opposed to all non-genetic replicators as 'memes' has been firmly imprinted
in the evolutionary thinking about cultural information (Dennett [14, 15, 16], Hays & Plotkin , Hofstadter , Hull [23, 24, 25], Lynch [28, 29], Westoby ). Since its
initial conception, the term 'meme' has been used under very different meanings
and in very different contexts, infecting a wide variety of disciplines. Among
the most known are Dennett [14, 15, 16], who sees the
human mind as being built up with memes comparable to the programming of a
computer. Hull [23, 24, 25] defines the
meme as replicator, and adds interaction to account for evolution by natural
or artificial selection. He thus describes selection processes in science
and biology using exactly similar definitions. Perhaps the most popular informal
use of the term describes memes as 'viruses of the mind.' Parallels to both
biological and computer virus varieties have been drawn (Dawkins [11, 13]).
Memetics and Related Evolutionary Approaches
We see the memetic approach as an evolutionary one. The principle of evolution
by selection is best known from the natural selection theory developed by
Darwin to explain evolution of biological organisms . Dennett  calls this
natural selection principle a universal acid: it is such a powerful concept
that it bites through everything. Indeed, in this sense Darwin described only
a special case of selection when he was dealing with biological evolution.
Evolutionary theories are applied in a wide variety of disciplines. As mentioned
above, evolutionary theories are applied to culture, like in the work of Boyd
and Richerson , Cavalli-Sforza
 and Csanyi
. The evolution
of language can be seen in analogy to biological evolution, as described by
Hoenigswald and Wiener . In computer
sciences, genetic programming and genetic algorithms are descendants of the
evolutionary view as well, for example in the work of several people at the
Santa-Fe Institute (Holland , Kauffman ). Learning
theories of humans, applied to individuals, groups and society can be tied
to evolutionary theory, as shown in the work of Campbell [4, 5]. The work of several
philosophers of science shows evolutionary views, as in Popper's  and Kuhn's  work. In addition,
these views have impact on evolutionary epistemology, and are analogical to
biological evolution. Evolutionary theories have been described to account
for brain development by Gerald Edelman , and extended
to the msec-to-minutes time scale of thought and action by William Calvin
[2, 3].Evolutionary theory
is present in the field of economy, often tied to the development of technology,
as in the work of Nelson and Winter [30, 31] or to the evolution
of institutions as in the work of Hodgson  and North .
We feel that this plethora of approaches proves the potential of evolutionary
thought in all fields of human sciences. At the same time this means that
there is ample opportunity to compare models of evolution, and their applications,
which is one of the aims of our journal.
- Boyd R. and Richerson PJ. 1985. Culture and
the evolutionary process. University of Chicago Press.
- Calvin W. 1996. The Cerebral code: thinking
a thought in the mosaics of the mind, MIT Press.
- Calvin W. 1996. How brains think: evolving
intelligence, then and now. Basic Books.
- Campbell DT. 1965. Variation and selective
retention in socio-cultural evolution. In: Barringer HR, Blanksten GI and
Mack RW (eds). Social change in developing areas, a reinterpretation of
evolutionary theory. Schenkman Publishing Co.
- Campbell DT. 1974. Evolutionary epistemology.
In: Schlipp PA (ed). The Library of Living Philosophers, Vol. XIV: The philosophy
of Karl Popper. LaSalle: Open Court.
- Cavalli-Sforza L. and Feldman M. 1973. Cultural
versus biological inheritance: phenotypic transmission from parents to children.
Human Genetics 25: 618-637.
- Cloak FT. 1975. Is a cultural ethology possible?
Human Ecology 3: 161-182.
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- Csanyi V. 1989. Evolutionary systems and
society. A general theory of life, mind and culture. Duke University Press.
- Darwin C. R. 1859. The origin of species.
By means of natural selection. John Murray.
- Dawkins R. 1976, 1982. The selfish gene.
Oxford University Press.
- Dawkins R. 1982. Organisms, groups and memes:
replicators or vehicles? P. 97-117, in: The extended phenotype. Oxford University
- Dawkins R. 1993. Viruses of the Mind. P.
13-27, in: Dennett and his Critics, Blackwell Publishers.
- Dennett D. 1990. Memes and the exploitation
of imagination. J Aesthetics Art Criticism 48: 127-135.
- Dennett D. 1996. Darwins dangerous idea.
The Sciences 35: 34-40.
- Dennett D. 1991. Consciousness explained.
- Edelman G. 1992. Bright air, brilliant fire.
On the matter of the mind. Basic Books.
- Heyes CM and Plotkin HC. 1989. Replicators
and interactors in cultural evolution. In: Ruse M (ed). What the philosophy
of biology is; essays dedicated to David Hull. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
- Hodgson G. 1993. Economics and evolution.
Bringing life back into economics. Polity Press.
- Hoenigswald HM and Wiener LS. 1987. Biological
metaphor and cladistics classification. Francis Pinter Publishers.
- Hofstadter DR. 1985. Metamagical themes:
Questions for the essence of mind and pattern. Basic Books.
- Holland JH. 1975. Adaptation in natural
and artificial systems. Univ. Michigan Press. Reprinted in 1992 by Bradford
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HC (ed). Learning development and culture, essays in evolutionary epistemology.
John Wiley and Sons.
- Hull DL. 1988. Interactors versus vehicles.
In: Plotkin HC (ed). The role of behavior in evolution. MIT Press.
- Hull DL. 1988. Science as a process: An
evolutionary account of the social and conceptual development of science.
University of Chicago Press.
- Kauffman SA. 1993. The origins of order,
self-organization and selection in evolution. Oxford University Press.
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revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
- Lynch A. 1991. Thought contagion as abstract
evolution. Journal of Ideas 2: 3-10.
- Lynch A. 1996. Thought contagion. How Belief
Spreads Through Society. The New Science of Memes. Basic Books.
- Nelson RR. 1987. Understanding technical
change as an evolutionary process. North-Holland.
- Nelson RR and Winter SG Jr. 1982. An evolutionary
theory of economic change. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
- North DC. 1990. Institutions, institutional
change and economic performance. Cambridge University Press.
- Plotkin HC. 1982. Learning, development,
and culture. Essays in evolutionary epistemology. John Wiley and Sons.
- Popper KR. 1979. Objective knowledge: An
evolutionary approach. Clarendon press.
- Westoby A. 1994. The Ecology of intentions:
How to make memes and influence people: Culturology.