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Re: [ontolog-forum] Dennett on the Darwinism of Memes

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2013 22:19:02 -0400
Message-id: <516CB516.2070000@xxxxxxxxxxx>
On 4/15/2013 8:25 PM, John McClure wrote:
> Aren't you therefore saying the
> god-concept is NOT a meme at all, because no-thing is being transmitted
> virally, an essential characteristic of a meme?    (01)

Yes.  That is exactly what I'm saying.  Certain kinds of themes have
a natural appeal to people because they resonate with deep emotional
forces that are common to everyone everywhere.    (02)

People aren't "infected" with the god meme from the outside -- they are
born into a family that is run by an all powerful god and goddess.  But
when they get older, they are disappointed to learn that their parents
are merely human.    (03)

Later, when some preacher tells them that there is an even bigger god
somewhere in heaven, they respond to the idea because it fits into
a long lost view of the world that they had as a child.  But now their
childhood dreams are reinforced by an outside authority who gives them
hope of finding a path back into that lost "golden age".    (04)

> You also mention "many
> centuries of literature" on this subject - stimuli I'd think quite central
> to its transmission, literature written & staged by.... elites.    (05)

No.  The elites don't create the patterns -- they study them.  As
an example, the Grimm  brothers were educated elites who traveled
through Germany collecting tales that were handed down by generations
of story tellers who were mostly illiterate.    (06)

In music, the jazz musicians used patterns that were based on
a very long tradition by musicians who were great improvisers,
but most of whom had little or no formal musical training.    (07)

Following is a classic book on methods of oral composition:    (08)

Lord, Albert B. (1960) The Singer of Tales, Harvard University Press, 
Cambridge, MA.    (09)

Lord was an assistant to Milman Parry, when they traveled through
Yugoslavia with a tape recorder in the 1930s.  But Parry died young,
and Lord presented their joint work.  You can find a lot more on the
WWW, but I quoted the passage at the end to emphasize the point that
the people who carried on the traditions were definitely *not* elites.    (010)

Note that Parry and Lord went to Bosnia, which at the time had the
*lowest* rate of literacy.  But both Parry and Lord had started
by studying Homeric literature, which is loaded with gods.    (011)

The current belief among Homeric scholars is that Homer, Hesiod,
and their buddies were illiterate.  But some performance(s) were
transcribed by "elites" around 750 BC.  What is amazing is that
the oral tradition had preserved details from the Trojan war that
was fought around 1250 BC.  But archaeologists have verified many
details in the Homeric epic (such as the style of the bronze weapons
and armor) even though the weapons in 750 BC were made of iron.    (012)

Schliemann discovered the site of Troy by following what Homer
said.  All those details were preserved by 500 years of tales
repeated by "illiterate" bards.    (013)

______________________________________________________________________    (014)

I apologize for quoting from the Wikipedia instead of original sources,
but I'm in a hurry.  From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milman_Parry :    (015)

Milman Parry (June 20, 1902 – December 3, 1935) was a scholar of epic 
poetry and the founder of the discipline of oral tradition.    (016)

He was born in 1902 and studied at the University of California, 
Berkeley (B.A. and M.A.) and at the Sorbonne (Ph.D.). A student of the 
linguist Antoine Meillet at the Sorbonne, Parry revolutionized Homeric 
studies. In his dissertations, which were published in French in 1928, 
he demonstrated that the Homeric style is characterized by the extensive 
use of fixed expressions, or 'formulas', adapted for expressing a given 
idea under the same metrical conditions. Meillet introduced him to 
Matija Murko, who had worked on oral epic traditions in Bosnia and had 
made phonograph recordings of some performances.    (017)

Between 1933 and 1935 Parry, at the time Associate Professor at Harvard 
University, made two trips to Yugoslavia, where he studied and recorded 
oral traditional poetry in Serbo-Croat with the help of his assistant 
Albert Lord and Nikola Vujnović, a local Herzegovinian Croat. They 
worked in Bosnia where literacy was lowest and the oral tradition was, 
in the term used by Parry and Lord, "purest". The two are now famous for 
their work in orality/literacy, which has come to be known as the 
Parry/Lord thesis.    (018)

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