virus: Definition of meme (from alt.memetics)

David McFadzean (
Sun, 29 Dec 1996 22:29:33 -0700

[I suggest we adopt Keith Henson's variation on Dawkin's definition.
(any similarity to the definition I've been advocating recently is
purely coincidental :-) -dbm]

Marc Porter ( wrote:
: Robert Davidson <> wrote in article
: <>...
: > Even if you're right, "meme" is a far more precise term than "spirit"
: > which has a very wide referential range. "Meme" was coined for a very
: > useful purpose, and its definition is best read in The Selfish Gene.
: Dawkins has recanted his original definition as imprecise. From "Virus of
: the Mind":

: A meme is a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences
: such that more copies of itself get created in other minds.

This is certainly the definition of an *active* meme. My proposal would
be to also permit inactive, archived, or in-transmission units of
information to be referred to as memes, as well as memes in the abstract.
This tends to be consistent with the way we actually use words of this
class, such as gene.

Context makes it clear what level is involved.

"Baseball meme" (in the abstract, the information, not in any particular

"Stored baseball meme" (A book of rules and descriptions from which a group

of children could learn to play a recognizable game of baseball.)

"Active baseball meme" in the minds of ten players ready to play a game.

(the Brits should substitued cricket for baseball :-) )

Keith Henson