Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id PAA13300 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Mon, 21 Jan 2002 15:44:59 GMT X-Originating-IP: [18.104.22.168] From: "Grant Callaghan" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Re: The necessity of mental memes Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 07:40:31 -0800 Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed Message-ID: <LAW2-F618d9Ee4zadTM00005c2e@hotmail.com> X-OriginalArrivalTime: 21 Jan 2002 15:40:32.0171 (UTC) FILETIME=[F5D96FB0:01C1A291] Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
>Anyway, since I already have been using the various terms "idea," "belief,"
>"behavior," "artifact," "thought contagion," "doctrine," "opinion," "belief
>system," and "urban legend," I find no communication difficulty arising
>not using the word "meme" alongside them. My book chapter "Evolutionary
>Contagion in Mental Software"
What I dislike in the choice of the word "contagion" to describe the passing
of information is the implication that the receiver has no choice but to be
"infected" by the idea. It also has connotations of sickness and a process
that leads to death. Most of the bacteria and a lot of the viruses that
invade our body do so harmlessly. Some are killers. But we have little
choice about catching the flu or HIV. I don't believe this is the case with
memes. Although some memes, if taken up by a large enough number of people,
can lead to sickness within a society and the death of many of its members,
the overall effect of memes is to make the society stronger and allow us to
adapt to a changing environment that is changing too quickly for genetic
evolution to keep up with. It seems to me the terms "virus" and "contagion"
were chosen to create fear and controversey. They are loaded with emotional
baggage from historical attempts to survive plagues and their aftermath.
Emotion laden terminology should be kept out of the study of culture and
mind if we are to reach objective conclusions about them.
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