Monday, 16 May 2011


Phylomemetics is the name for the study of the historical evolutionary relationships between groups of cultural entities. The results of phylomemetic studies are often expressed partly in the form of phylomemetic trees.

Phylomemetics is named by analogy with phylogenetics - which it closely resembles.

Phylomemetics typically suffers from more problems derived from horizontal gene transfer than phylogenetics does - but neat trees can nontheless frequently be constructed.

The image to the right shows the relationships between Indonesian folk songs.

Phylogenetic relationships are often promoted as being some of the best evidence for organic evolution. Similarly, phylomemetic analysis provides excellent evidence for cultural evolution. One area where evidence is abundant comes from the evidence supporting the so-called "tree model" of languages.

Phylomemetic relationships between languages were known back in the 1850s - before Darwin wrote The Origin. Darwin actually used the descent with modification of languages to explain his theory of organic evolution. Back then cultural evolution was more widely recognised as being correct than organic evolution was.

For a large and beautiful phylomemetic tree of Indonesian batik designs, see here.

Also, amateur trees of internet memes are now being constructed - e.g. see here.



  1. Unfortunately your design less better blog link is a 404 now :/

    1. I highly recommend putting all source links into the Wayback machine :) Then you can just use the archived link, since that will never degrade.

      This is an absolutely fantastic way to dredge up internet fossils as well.

      That specific link was dead, but here's a list of related links that did happen to be saved (all now 404s)