April 15, 2015

6:11 PM | Has Dennett Undercut His Own Position on Words as Memes?
Early in 2013 Dan Dennett had an interview posted at John Brockman’s Edge site, The Normal Well-Tempered Mind. He opened by announcing that he’d made a mistake early in his career, that he opted a conception of the brain-as-computer that was too simple. He’s now trying to revamp his sense of what the computational brain […]

April 11, 2015

9:20 PM | Causality in linguistics: Nodes and edges in causal graphs
This coming week I’ll be at the Causality in the Language Sciences conference.  One of the topics of discussion will be how to integrate theories of causality into linguistic work.  Bayesian Causal Graphs are a core approach to causality, and seem like a useful framework for thinking about linguistic problems.  However, it’s not entirely clear […]

April 10, 2015

8:25 PM | Glossary of Terms for Cultural Evolution
This is a short list of terms that I have come to treat as terms of art in thinking about cultural evolution. I have no idea how stable these terms and definition will prove to be. I am posting them to a page at New Savanna so that they can be readily referenced. Most of […]

April 08, 2015

4:26 PM | Dennett on the De-Darwinizing of Culture
This is Dennett at his best on cultural evolution, which, given the peculiar nature of his gifts, is also Dennett at his worst on cultural evolution. This recent video (talk given 19 March 2015) gathers many of Dennett’s recent themes and examples. The central thread is worthwhile – Dennett’s only idea on culture that’s caught […]

April 01, 2015

4:34 PM | Notes Toward a Natural Philosophy of Cultural Evolution in the Music Domain
The title of my book about music, Beethoven’s Anvil, was suggest by my agent, Richard Curtis. I made up the subtitle (I think): Music in Mind and Culture. I am now thinking that the subtitle could have been the phrase I’m using as the title of this post: Notes Toward a Natural Philosophy of Cultural […]

March 31, 2015

8:32 PM | Time after Time: Music and Memory in the Group
Or, messing around in one another’s mind space for fun and funk This is about a simple, but profound, matter: that we cannot always and reliably access the contents of our own minds. In some circumstances we need external prompts. For reasons that I’ll have to explain in a later post, this absolutely sinks the […]

March 30, 2015

3:15 PM | Memetics is Dead but What’s the Study of Cultural Evolution Otherwise About?
In the waning years of the previous century an online journal for serious work in cultural evolution was established: Journal of Memetics – Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission. The first issue came out in 1997 and the last in 2005. The journal closed for lack of interest; it wasn’t getting enough high-quality submissions. In the […]

March 26, 2015

11:54 AM | Q: Why is the Dawkins Meme Idea so Popular?
A: Because it is daft. I believe there are two answers to that question. For most people it’s convenient. That requires one explanation, which I’ll run through first. For some people, however, memetics is more than convenient. Some, including Dawkins himself and his philosophical acolyte, Dan Dennett, use it as a way of explaining religion. […]
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