Saturday, 26 October 2013


Epigenetics is a hot topic these days - at least according to Google Trends.

We seem practically bound to have epimemetics in one form or another. However, it seems destined to be a controversial topic. I'll say briefly here what I think it should mean:

Firstly, I'm pretty happy with Waddington's use of the term "Epigenetics" to refer to influences on development not coded for in nuclear genes. I'm not happy with the subsequent hijacking of the term to refer to non-nuclear cellular inheritance. Since genetics is - or should be - the study of heredity, the we can't call the study of non-nuclear inheritance "epigenetics" - that would be an oxymoron. I explain this in more detail here. We just don't need to use a major genetics term to refer to "the study of mitotically and/or meiotically heritable changes in gene function that cannot be explained by changes in DNA sequence". The whole idea is a scientific farce.

That brings us to epimemetics. Using the term in Waddington's manner suggest that epimemetics is the study of epimemesis - or information acquired during ontomemy.

Just as brains acquiring information from their environment during development is epigenesis, so, computers acquiring information from their environment during development is epimemesis.

A complication with the concept of epigenesis is whether "epigenetic" information can consist of other genes. Epimemetics faces a similar issue: whether epimemetically-acquired information can consist of other memes. I favour an affirmative response - but currently I'm happy to leave the resolution of these controversies to future researchers.

Another thing that "epimemetics" doesn't mean is the art of overcoming bad memes.


  1. You would consider Bruce Lipton's Biology of Belief to be as equally as pseudoscientific as the Epimemetics wiki article (of mine) that you linked to above, correct? Some of my thinking on flexible protein synthesis pathways inspired my positioning on this matter. Also, could you comment on your opinion of Susan Blackmore's concept of the 3rd replicator?


  3. I didn't call your content "pseudoscientific"! Of course there's an art of overcoming bad memes - and it is an important topic which deserves a name. All I'm saying is that the term 'epimemetics' has some other claims on it - deriving from evolutionary biology.

    I didn't read Bruce Lipton's Biology of Belief. The blurb doesn't look too promising - but it's hard for me to be sure without delving much deeper.

    More generally, thanks for treating my content with respect.

  4. More than respect. Reading your book - grabbed from Amazon - brilliant. I will find a new name for my purple strategy, but prefer the term epimemetics to be authentic and extremely well defined . . . if possible. Not attached. ;-)

  5. If there is value in a name for a strategy (or principle) that could leads to (conscious real-time) awareness of potentially dangerous memes, or meme mutations (such as Nietzsche's mobilist philosophical memeplex co-opted and mutated by the Nazis for their own totalist agenda, that would be WILDY brilliant. I am a natural language processing software developer. Wonder if there are useful algorithms and/or potential dangers of such a hard coded concept. Deep dive into your book, then I will take a new look.

  6. Note: I view my own version of epimemetics as largely pseudoscientific, and I don't think I mentioned that you suggested that. (It was self-referencing). I will remove the reference.

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  8. Secondary Note: I believe that having you "weigh in" on the topic of "Psychogenomics" (which is really where former biologist and stem cell researcher Bruce Lipton seemed to derive some of his new age theories) would be a major contribution to the future of memetics. In my opinion (and as usual I could be terribly wrong) if psychogenomics has a future, it could be the synthesis that bridges the gap from the 3rd replicator to the 4rth. If such things were true, it is possible to understand why a novice may (mistakenly) choose a neologism like 'epimemetics' as name for the study of cultural metabelief (psychogenomics). < > See last paragraph, Future of Psychogenomics.