Re: what is a meme?

From: Steven Thiele (
Date: Tue 03 Feb 2004 - 01:18:03 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: what is a meme?"
    Proposing memes as an analogy of genes is doubly deficient. First it suffers from all the problems of explanation via analogy. Has there ever been a scientific breakthrough, even a minor one, resulting from an analogy assumed to hold in a different realm of organised life? Did Darwin argue by analogy in any significant way? What if he had said: 'Let's start with chemistry as the basis for an explanation of all life and look in biological life for something analgous to molecules'? Would he have got anywhere?

    Second the view of genes (as 'selfish') which gave rise to the analogy is highly problematic. Genes are not the core phenomenon of biological life, they are one feature of it. Dawkins himself half indicated why when he wrote about 'Rediscovering the Organism' in The Extended Phenotype. What chance has the notion of memes got of explaining social life when it is an analogy of something in biological life of such questionable significance? No more chance, I would suggest, than the notion that social life is like an organism (this silly analogy has been proposed by more than a few sociologists, most notably by Durkheim). The point is, social life is not like anything else - no more so than biological life is like anything else.

    Steven Thiele

    At 04:33 PM 2/02/2004 +0100, you wrote:
    ----- Original Message -----
    Steven Thiele,
    The issue of the relations between biological and social life is one of the biggest intellectual challenges remaining. Memetics cannot assist much in meeting this challenge, except in moving the debate away from genetics. This is the main contribution of memetics. It is time that sociologists and biologists/neo-Darwinians got together to work out a productive strategy for confronting this challenge. The sociologists refusal to deal with biology at all (thereby creating the nature/nurture dualism) is an intellectual scandal, but so is the conceit of neo-Darwinians that they have the key to understanding organised life in all its forms. Social life might have evolved out of biological life, but it is a novel from of life.

    << Can 't agree more !
    The main problem to move memetics ahead, is its doped tendency to stick to the biological
    analogy proposed by Dawkins. To get evidence we must leave this assumption.
    Furthermore, memetics must leave its analogical /biological explanation alltogether and
    must come at ease with things like breaching the dogma's of biology, lamarckism and

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