Re: Selfish memes?

From: Dace (
Date: Wed Jan 23 2002 - 06:28:25 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Selfish memes?
    Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 22:28:25 -0800
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    > At 10:18 AM 22/01/02 -0800, "Dace" <>
    > wrote:
    > > > >>We're born into a world already chalk full of ideas, all of which
    > > > >>want to seduce us and propagate in our consciousness,
    > > > >
    > > > >I don't believe ideas "want" to do anything.
    > > >
    > > > Of course not, and genes are not "selfish." It is a shortcut method
    > > > of thinking Dawkins used to consider things from a gene's or a
    > > > meme's viewpoint.
    > >
    > >He wrote an entire book called *The Selfish Gene.* Are you saying
    > >he didn't really mean it? I think we have to accept the fact that,
    > >according to Dawkins' theory, memes are not merely ideas capable of
    > >replication but autonomous ideas that actively pursue self-replication,
    > >much like genes.
    > Dawkins explains in *detail* that this is metaphor and as shortcut way to
    > think about evolution from the viewpoint of genes. "Selfish" in this
    > only means that as time goes on the effects of evolution makes some
    > genes increase in number of copies I don't have my copy at hand or I
    > would find you the page number, but I assure you it is there.

    In other words, "selfish" in this sense has no meaning whatsoever.

    We're in a deep morass here. The problem is that life is widely regarded as
    having no inrinsic quality. There's nothing to set it apart from the
    artificial animation of machinery. Nothing is truly itself, but merely the
    product of deterministic forces. Everything is parts and relations, no
    essence or inner nature. Thus memes and genes have no more self-nature than
    people or species or ecosystems, i.e. none. Yet we all know this is
    perfectly idiotic, so we just keep right on talking the same old way, while
    making sure to point out occasionally that everything substantive we say is
    really just "metaphorical."

    It's a pathetic display. After all, the selfishness of memes is the only
    real contribution Dawkins made to the field of evolutionary epistemology,
    which goes all the way back to the days of Darwin. It was T. H. Huxley who
    suggested that scientific ideas must compete for survival just like
    organisms and species. If memes aren't self-replicating, then there's no
    justification for the term. Ideas that could be replicated like a flyer on
    a copy machine are still just ideas.

    Dawkins defined the fundamental unit of evolution (and life) as the gene.
    Like it or not, life involves self-existence, self-motivation. Therefore,
    by default, he placed the self at the genetic level. Applying the same
    logic to cultural evolution, self-existence would be located at the level of
    the "meme."

    > > > But an idea can certainly cause the person who has it to spread the
    > > > to others. Such memes tend to become more common as time goes on.
    > >
    > >Anything with causative power has its own intrinsic existence.
    > I agree, but it does not mean we should excessively anthropomorphize it.

    Who says I'm projecting anything exlusive to human consciousness? All
    living things are intrinsic. To be defined entirely by external factors is
    to be dead.

    > Keith Henson

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