Memes and Morality

Paul C (
Wed, 11 Jun 1997 16:42:25 +1000

Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 16:42:25 +1000
From: Paul C <>
Subject: Memes and Morality

Timothy wrote:
>Part of my concern focuses on the free will/determinism issue being
>discussed elsewhere. As I understand the history, the concept of "free
>will" as a moral category originally came (as so much does) from the middle
>ages. The idea was -- correct me, someone, if I'm wrong here -- that God
>endowed human beings with free will so we could *freely* choose between
>good and evil. Once again, I will set aside the theological issues of why
>anybody might think God would do such a thing, because I want to stress
>that the free will debate centers on morality. To the extent that memetics
>deals with the free will/determinism issue (and I think it does, very
>directly) it therefore deals with the capacity of the human agent to make
>*moral* decisions one way or the other.
>To say that the "memes* made me do it is, as Robin Wood pointed out, a sort
>of Nuremburg trial defense from the Nazis. Thus, McVeigh -- the character
>who seems to have planted the Oklahoma City truck bomb -- *could* claim
>that he is innocent, because "the memes" seized control of his mind. And
>now we reach the central point.
>Is such a plea memetically legitimate? Be very careful -- for if you say
>"Yes," your argument is equivalent to a kind of insanity plea of not guilty
>for *any* and *all* actions. Is that what the memes do? Render human
>beings "not guilty" by virtue of memetic possession?

An aside...

Irrespective of whether or not the meme actually controls ones actions, it
could be said that the a criminal, (as deem by common law) is missing , or
has a damaged "morality" meme , a meme that the rest of the society
possesses amongst the memetic code which differentiates one society from
another. Having such a defective meme would see the host ostracized by
society, (ie. a gene analogy would be the generically inferior animal being
unable to mate and pass on its defective genes). Ostracizing the defective
meme would mean it would not be able to be passed on to future "generations".
In McVeigh's case it seems his defective memetic code may be erased from
the meme pool permanently.

The idea of a memetic 'code' for a given culture/society fits well the
general idea and also explains why some ideas are more readily accepted in
various cultures, that is foreign memetic code is rejected, and only
memetic code similar, or 'cunningly' disguised as being similar, is

The mechanism for the promulgation of memetic code inherent in the host
(analogous to the genetic code of an animal ) being passed from generation
to generation (genetically:- reproduction, sperm, etc) is unknown( any
ideas?) , without going into morphogenetic fields and the Collective
Unconscious etc. (which I don't want to ;) ).

Quick! Before I descend into quasi-science. ;)

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