Re: virus: RE: MONTAG

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 4 Jun 1996 00:07:46 -0400

On Fri, 24 May 1996, Richard Brodie wrote:

> >2:Why does it represent a paradigm shift?
> Memetics goes against some commonly held beliefs (memes). For example,
> "human culture is evolving toward a better world"; "we have our own
> original ideas"; "the truth will eventually come out." All of these
> common memes are shattered by the memetic model, which predicts that
> evolution of culture is not evolving toward anything but fitter memes.
> The memes that spread aren't the "good ideas"; they are the fittest
> memes.

I disagree that memetics shatters this. Memes need to be tested against a
fitness landscape. This landscape includes their relevance and
usefullness although is not exclusively based on these criteria.
Therefore "good ideas" do have characteristics that lead them to be

I think that there is a widespread misconception about
Natural Selection in that it is always "survival of the fittest". In the
short run or at the individual level the fittest (or the "good ideas")
may be weeded out or die before being able to
reproduce. However it is in the long run and across large populations
that the principle of Natural Selection operates. It is not very
efficient but when operating over large time scales and populations it
does not need to be.

OK, I read Hegel once. Here's my attempt at the synthesis... ;)

Paraphrased from Dennett in "Darwin's Dangerous Idea":

Darwin's greatest contribution was that he allowed thinkers after Hume to
entertain the possibility that something other than a creator caused the order
observed in nature. As Kaufmann points out, ALL order is not caused by natural
selection, maybe not even most of it. But some of it is, and this some is

Memetics, it turn allows us to entertian the possibilty that something other
than our consensus of free-will causes the order we observe in culture. All
this order is not caused by natural selection, maybe not even most of it. But
some of it is, and that some is significant.

The parallel is intentional to make obvious the point. The meme-gene metaphor
allows the immediate application of a host of constructs (our understanding of
"Natural Selection") to our questions about the mind. Such an organized
approach would be hard to assemble de novo without the model of genetics to
work from.

The word meme connotes: gene is to meme as evolution of species is to
evolution of ideas. Sure, it's just an analogy. But such things are the bread
and butter of insight.