10 thoughts on “Skeptical of Memetics and Memes?

  1. It seems to make sense. Discrete packages of information spreading over time.

    The first line of the Wiki definition notes:

    A meme (/ˈmiːm/ meem)[1] is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.

    I can’t see how that can be “doubted”. Such does happen and “meme” is a label for it.

    Memetics seems a bit more controversial, and seems to be more of a relabeling of existing concepts. However it seems to explain some things, and again copying from Wiki it seems to encompass ideas such as ‘Viral marketing, cultural evolution, the history of ideas, social analytics’ and so on, so it can hardly be “doubted” in that regard.

    As ever, the proof is in the utility of the idea and it seems to have that:

    In Selfish Sounds and Linguistic Evolution,[29] Austrian linguist Nikolaus Ritt has attempted to operationalise memetic concepts and use them for the explanation of long term sound changes and change conspiracies in early English. It is argued that a generalised Darwinian framework for handling cultural change can provide explanations where established, speaker centred approaches fail to do so. The book makes comparatively concrete suggestions about the possible material structure of memes, and provides two empirically rich case studies.

    A work in progress it seems. I’d hazard a guess that ‘memetics’ will eventually be subsumed by a more related but established field and incorporated by it.

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  2. Let’s approach this scientifically. If memes exist what entailments would they have and what evidence would they leave?

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  3. I think written language has a lot of parallels with genetics.

    But biological evolution is chemistry, and chemistry as a substrate is not equivalent to society. Nevertheless, evolution occurs in many substrates.

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  4. What’s to be skeptical about?

    I take the use of the term “meme” or “cultural meme” to itself be just a cultural meme. I take it to be a metaphor. I don’t think I have ever used it, except in the above sentence. I don’t find it particularly useful, but I don’t have a problem with other people using it.

    As for whether it is scientific — I suppose we could ask our local sociologist.

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  5. Anyone here ‘skeptical’ of Dawkins’ ‘memetics’ and his notion of ‘memes’? If not, why not?

    Considering how the “meme” meme has spread, it seems to have some explanatory ability.

    What I’ve long thought, though, was that it was a blunt and rather non-incisive instrument that in too many minds substitutes for much better and more complex explanations involving cognition and psychology. Advertisers understood how to make ideas, emotions, and concepts sell well before Dawkins introduced the “meme” idea, and Machiavelli and Shakespeare had much more subtle understandings of how and why ideas take hold. Hitler and Goebbels, sad to say, knew more about effective propaganda than you’ll ever get from the rather simplistic “meme” notion.

    It’s a useful shortcut term for viral web pics and slogans, though. That seems to be its primary value, to speak of “memes” that have thoroughly infected the web.

    Glen Davidson

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  6. Memetics came and went in the early 2000s. It’s dead. A simplistic approach that (unsurprisingly) didn’t turn out to be useful.

    The term “meme” has found a home and that’s as far as the whole thing goes.

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  7. Art is not by mutations in the brain. by definition its only art, and not a mutated mess, if its a common reaction of appreciation to the art thing done.
    In short art only bumps into existing ideas of what is attractive and accepted.
    its unrelated to mutations of thoughts. Like in biology mutations can’t create anything of complexity or attractiveness.

    The bird and the plane, he invoked, is case in point of not a mutation but mere copying basic existing design.
    Sorry Dawk but you got it wrong.

    The weird music in this vid might be liked by some and not others but it still has the same basic principals of second rate music. At best second.
    Its not a mutation either but from thinking people as the long list of credits shows.
    No mutations got in the credits.

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  8. I don’t think Dawkins meant much more than analogy. The ‘meme’ is a valid illustration of the concept of copied entities progressing differentially through a population, and their potential influence upon their own persistence. Memetics as a study – not so much. Like all analogies, it has its limitations. There is much influence from comparatively rare factors (when compared to genetics in the broader living world) such as mimicry, social pressure and exposure.

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  9. I think he did mean more then analogy. He is trying to expand the concept of mutations. so important in evolutionary biology as the creative force, to other parts of human society.
    He thinks he has a bigger equation of how human mutationism in thought creates human society.
    It doesn’t.
    The thoughts are independent from independent sources. People just think the same.
    Thats the only reason art is real. It taps into presumptions. There is no creative thing in art , mutant or otherwise.
    There is innovation but only upon basic designs in human thought. Or rather conclusions from designed presumptions.
    Dawkins should show just one example of art from a mutation of a thought.!
    Prove it with one example.

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