POST 9 – 15-03-2014


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Venus at dawn.

Venus at dawn.

POST 9 – 15-03-2014


For online version go to

  3. IMAGE

In the last POST I talked about a number of replicators that are subject to the evolutionary process and introduced the word “neme” to mean a nervous impulse that replicates at a nerve synapse. The process begins as a stimulus arrives at a sensory receptor – a nerve ending. The neme that is set up at the nerve ending passes through the nerve cell to another synapse and so on and on … until is dealt with by the production of a response that may be unconscious or conscious.

The fate of the neme as it passes through the nervous system is the subject of this POST.


I am using a definition of stimulus as “a detectable change in the internal or external environment”.

Picture a point of light such as my photo of Venus in the morning sky shown above. The photons from that light act as a stimulus when they are detected by receptors in your retina and set off, in individual neurons, an electrochemical signal, or neme, that is sent through the neuron to the next synapse and on to the central nervous system where it is processed and may be selected for storage in the memory or in the case of some stimuli may set off a more immediate response signal such as the blink reflex, knee-jerk reflex or the startle reflex. Much work has gone into examining what happens in the mind as it processes but I am not entering into a discussion about the detailed work of neuroscience.


I will draw on what we each of us personally can experience about what is happening inside there and how much we can influence what happens to the inputs from our nervous system. In other words, what is the fate of a neme? My view is that a neme undergoes a process that recapitulates the biological evolutionary process. In milliseconds a neme goes through numerous replications and is affected by inputs from other nerves as it combines with other nemes to lead to formation of our percepts (perceptions of) the reality we see out there.

(A percept is a mental impression of something perceived by the senses, viewed as the basic component in the formation of concepts; a sense datum).

The percepts we experience are formed by the combined inputs of out sensory nerve endings and their interactions in the mind including those originating in the inner environment.

This takes me back to the image of the pin-point of light that is the photo of Venus at the top of this POST.

I can see this image out there in the photo and I perceive it as a real photo of a spot of light that I am assured is a photo of a planet. I can also “see” this image in my mind’s eye and, here is the big difference, I can manipulate it into any form I wish. I can make it different colours. I can make it double spots, or can stretch it out into a line. I can make it flash on and off and can make it go away. All this is done by my own choice within my “mind’s eye”. So what?

  1. IMAGE

The images that are formed in the mind can be described in a number of ways and it appears that all these descriptions are similes, analogies or metaphors. It is difficult to do anything else as there is no way at present to describe the waves of nemes that flood our brain and light up in the output from various scanning machines such as fMRI.

The nemes have their effects combine in a manner not unlike that of living beings that have evolved multicellularity; specialised cells, tissues and organs; social systems and forms of communication. The result of this activity, however it is constructed, is that we can form a variation of the images we get “naturally” and manipulate it at will.

There is certainly an evolutionary survival advantage in this ability which allows us to exercise control over the environment both external and internal. This ability is the big advantage for humanity that has enabled us to become the creatures we are.

I will not go into the control of the external environment but I am fascinated by the extent to which we can control our inner life.


There are many interesting things I can do with other mental images I have formed.

I can access my memory of the scientific evidence for the changes in the Cosmos that have led us to where we are in the grand scheme of things. I can look at that evidence and can speculate about its implications. I can formulate my own theories about what it all means and can restate a position or idea in a new proposition of my own invention.

This new idea is in my mind and in order to communicate it to others it needs to be made into a suitable format. Words or behaviours or artefacts are among the ways to do this. Are there other ways?

The new idea in my mind may be quite incoherent but in order for it to be able to be examined carefully it seems to me that it will have to be expressed to myself as a question or a proposition. It seems to me that I will benefit from formulation of the new idea as a proposition so that I can examine it carefully.

The newly formulated proposition, while still in my mind is what I call a preme – the precursor of a meme. Once it has left my mind it may becomes a meme and is on its way into the culture where it may or may not survive in competition with other memes.

The progeny of nemes in my mind are percepts, thoughts, ideas, images, propositions. Creativity is the term we use to describe the outcome of the process of spelling out an innovation.

Speculation may lead to a new theory from which may emerge something approaching a “Eureka!” moment or an “Aha!” moment or even a “Road to Ephesus” moment. Of course it may exhibit itself in a more mundane way without the drama, but however it arrives, it is a creative event.

Some might attribute the experience of such a new idea to a divine influence but others may see it as a natural result of the incremental process of learning – standing on the shoulders of giants of our memories of past thoughts.

I could satisfy myself with keeping this creative idea inside the privacy of my own mind but if I wish to communicate it to others it will need to be formulated into an image of some sort. Words or an artefact are the most usual method. The artefact may be a work of art or craft and there may be other ways to communicate but I will take as my paradigm of communication of a new idea to be the formulation and presentation of a new proposition.

In all this I return to what I consider to be the critical element of the creative moment, namely the formation in my mind of something that appears to me to be new.

Some such creative propositions may pop up, seemingly from nowhere. I suggest that this is extremely unlikely if not impossible. It is just as unlikely or impossible for a new species of being to pop up from nowhere without predecessors.

All this means that it is hard work to generate new propositions even when all the preparation has been done.

If I am correct in saying that nemes are subject to an evolutionary process in my mind, then each neme will be prone to variation at a synapse and any variant will be subject to selection pressure which may allow it to survive in the turmoil of the mental environment.

The additive (or perhaps multiplicative) effect of nemes combining into ideas and propositions is, to a limited extent, accessible to me. I can manipulate them. I can speculate and reformulate them. I may come up with something new – a creative idea.

Just as the sensory inputs result in the formation of an image in my mind – the primary image –  that is a representation (a percept) of the source of the sensory input (such as the photo of Venus), so also my mind’s eye is able to form a secondary image that represents a primary image. It appears that I have little incentive to form a precept that is anything but an accurate representation of the outside source of stimulation, but there are lots of reason why I should choose to manipulate the secondary image.

In my next POST I will look at ways in which we might be able to manipulate this process so as to improve the creative process.


The Beginning of Life. Was life on Earth kick-started by hot water?

An extract. “Living cells act as rechargeable batteries: they take in chemicals as fuel and convert them to usable energy. This energy drives the chemical reactions within the cell (its metabolism).”

Co-author of the research paper Terry Kee said: “In terms of the way in which the [living cells’] energy is generated and used, it is very similar to a fuel cell and the process in a hydrothermal vent.”

Hydrothermal vents are openings in the planet’s surface through which heated water flows. The energy that vents generate, combined with chemical compounds found in gases and minerals, may have led to the emergence of cell metabolism on Earth.”

Will logic or opinion convert the climate deniers? Facts won’t beat the climate deniers – using their tactics will.

An extract. “Opinions are a cornerstone of human communication. They may be based on obvious, acceptable, objective evidence, or they may not. There will be opinions with which you agree, disagree, or don’t care. Regardless, they are intrinsic to the way humans interact – at work, chatting over dinner, everywhere.”

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