RE: Machiavellian Memes

Richard Brodie (
Thu, 25 Sep 1997 08:19:43 -0700

From: Richard Brodie <>
To: "''" <>
Subject: RE: Machiavellian Memes
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 1997 08:19:43 -0700

On Thursday, September 25, 1997 8:26 AM, N Rose
[] wrote:
> However, it appears to me (at least) that religions are getting a
> bit of an unfair hearing. It seems odd that religions get such a
> bad press in the literature and that the rest of Western Ideology
> does not. Given that in the most literate, richest and most
> industialised nations the birth rate is falling (even negative in
> some counties) - could we not say that the cultural activities of
> "encouraging education for all", "promoting contraception", etc
> are perhaps the viruses (certainly from the gene's POV)? Is
> Western society in the grip of a terrible mind virus which is
> diverting energy away from the biological imperative (having
> children) towards cultural ones (becoming educated, making money,
> being happy!)?

Excellent point. I've received a bit of flak from hard-line atheists (I
guess Dawkins would fall into this camp) for my chapter on religions in
VIRUS OF THE MIND. I pointed out, as you do, that mind viruses though they
are, religions can and do program people for success and happiness. Of
course, I believe one should be aware of this and choose one's own memetic
programming rather than be unaware and have no choice but to accept what
you happen to be dealt, that seems "true."

> Perhaps these 'viruses' of the mind are simply a machiavellian
> level of competion between biological organisms. By giving you a
> meme which reduces your biological advantage I can relatively
> increase my advantage. If your off spending all your time and
> energy in cultural pursuits (which don't advance your genes) and
> I'm not; then my genes are more likely to get passed on and
> survive. Perhaps we in the west (who believe in the unlimited
> value of education, use contraception, etc) are simply biological
> suckers ...

I make a related point in VIRUS OF THE MIND, pp. 115-116. Hypocrisy can be
advantageous to your genes' replication!

> It wouldn't be impossible to spot, perhaps. The 'do as I say and
> not as I do' rule is the one that would be used by anyone trying
> to pass on machiavellian memes. Perhaps politicians who preach on
> about family values (meanwhile having a love child with their
> secretary), or bishops who preach chastity to their priests
> (while having a secret affair), are good examples of this.

See the cartoon on p. 116! =)

Richard Brodie
Author, VIRUS OF THE MIND: The New Science of the Meme
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