Sunday, June 16, 2013

Essay-Reviews: Origins of Music, Neuromemetics

I've recently uploaded two essay-reviews to my SSRN page:

Synch, Song, and Society. Human Nature Review, Volume 5, 2005, 66-86.

A number of thinkers, including Charles Darwin, have argued that language and music as we know them were evolutionarily preceded by something that was neither one nor the other, but a bit like both. Steven Mithen is the most prominent current exponent of this idea, which he has set forth at book-length in The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body. In particular, he argues that the neanderthals were virtuosi in this superseded behavior. In this essay-review I summarize the salient point of Mithen's book, which is based on a wide ranger of literature, and add some speculations of my own. In particular I talk about interactive synchrony and shared intentionality and the emergence of group norms and symbolization.

Colorless Green Homunculi. Human Nature Review 2 (2002) 454-462.

Robert Aunger wrote the The Electric Meme: A New Theory of How We Think as a first draft of a neural accounts of memes, units of cultural evolution comparable to the biological gene. It is best viewed as two books. One book is comprised of the first six chapters, which are preparatory in nature, reviewing the current state of memetics, alternative analyses of human cultural evolution, types of replicator (DNA, prions, computer viruses), and the physical nature of information. This book is competent, interesting, and thought provoking. The second book sets forth Aunger’s new theory of neuromemetics and is a failure. Aunger’s ideas are vague, incoherent, and contradictory. Because the long seventh chapter contains Aunger’s central statement, I concentrate on it in this essay-review.

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