Problems with Memes

Found a good, clear article here which picks up four problems with memes.

Briefly these are:
1) the definitions of replicators/phenotypes are confusing or ambiguous
2) the evolutionary model associated with memes is Lamarckian (3 legged dogs have 3 legged puppies) not Darwinian
3) memes often used instead of genes (i.e. memes are often called in to play as explanations for cultural preferences when simpler/more rigorous sociobiological explanations can be used)
4) the notion of self – the idea that, while being at the mercy of genes and memes, we can pick and chose the memes that help us.

Meme problems:

Replicator Definition

Erm, there seems to be lot of disagreement here. Two views that kept popping up were:
a) Dawkins’ idea that a hen is an egg’s way of making another egg, and
b) Daniel C. Dennett’s extension of that view into meme territory, the idea that scholars are libraries ways of making more libraries.

Right. Back to replicators. They come hand in hand with phenotypes. Dawkins – and I’m going to stick with you on this one if that’s all right Rich? – has explained them like this:
Continue reading Replicator Definition

Meme Definition

There’s a bundle of stuff about memes to sift through. There’s already a scholarly journal on memetics (the study of memes). Anyway, starting at the beginning, Richard Dawkins was the bloke who first started the meme meme rolling. He talked about them in his book The Selfish Gene, but in his next book The Blind Watchmaker, he defines a meme as

“[A] pattern of information that can thrive only in brains or the artificially manufactured products of brains, books, computers, [etc.]. [These replicators] can propagate themselves from brain to brain, from brain to book, from book to brain, from brain to computer [etc.]. As they propagate they can change – mutate. These mutants may be able to exert a kind of influence that affects their own likelihood of being propagated.”

Examples of memes are: tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions and ways of making pots or building arches.
Continue reading Meme Definition