RE: What does the replicating?

Richard Brodie (
Wed, 11 Jun 1997 11:02:59 -0700

From: Richard Brodie <>
To: "''" <>
Subject: RE: What does the replicating?
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 11:02:59 -0700

Bill Benzon wrote:

>>Probably the use of "good" memes invites confusion, why not talk of
>>effective memes?
>Still absolutely circular.
>Darwinism is not circular when you consider the fourth dimension of
>time. As we all know, the point of Darwinian natural selection, whether
>genetic or memetic, is that the future is created by the differential
>success of replicators rather than by some other means (e.g., conscious
>design, randomness with no histeresis). The word "fit" (sometimes
>casually called "good" or "effective") is coined to describe those
>replicators that have better success than others. It is no more
>circular than saying "heavy" is a circular because it describes things
>that are...well...heavy!
>We can say, for example, that effective genes are ones which produce a
>plant which survives. OK. But that tells us absolutely nothing about
>characteristics of the plant allows it to survive. How does it get
>& nutrients? How does it reproduce? We know a great deal about the
>physical systems which accomplish these functions for plants. But when
>comes to memes, we know little that's parallel. All we can say is
>"gee, it
>survived this long, so it must be doing something right." That may be
>true, but it's not intellectually satisfying.

Sure, the DEFINITION of "good meme" (technically "fit meme") is
replicative success. But you can then hypothesize and test empirically
what characteristics such fit memes would have. This is a fecund and
exciting area for memetic research! I threw out a few candidates in my
book VIRUS OF THE MIND as broad categories of fit memes: (1) memes that
push evolutionary buttons and thus attract attention (danger, food, sex,
celebrity); (2) memes that promote self-replication by their very nature
(tradition, evangelism); (3) memes that resist attack (faith,
skepticism); (4) memes that utilize neocortical functions (making sense,

Richard Brodie +1.425.688.8600
CEO, Brodie Technology Group, Inc., Bellevue, WA, USA
Author, VIRUS OF THE MIND: The New Science of the Meme
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