virus: Ideas vs. Memes

David Rosdeitcher (
06 Feb 97 19:41:21 EST

This post brings up Dave Pape's point that he could not distinguish what the
difference is between 'memes' and 'ideas' when I would state that "people
dishonestly attack my memes contained in my ideas, but would not attack the
ideas themselves." This post also addresses Lior's question about whether memes
can be true or false.
After thinking about the difference between memes and ideas, I realized that
there is, in fact, a semantic problem. Memes and ideas are synonyms, but are
used in different contexts. Memes and ideas are both units of information, (ie.
statement, icon, melody, etc.) that can get copied and transmitted to other
minds. But the meme emphasizes the ability to replicate while the idea
emphasizes the content. A meme or idea can be a concept that consists of any
number of memes or ideas. For instance, the book, "Virus of the Mind", is itself
a meme or idea and contains in it, various memes or ideas. Same thing with an
internal combustion engine, computer, complex painting. When I was saying that
people were attacking memes contained in my ideas, not my ideas themselves, I
really meant that people were attacking a smaller meme that is contained in the
larger general meme. In other words, they were taking fragments (memes) of my
post and distorting them out of context. Each meme can mean a variety of things,
depending on context.
Lior made a point that is related to this-by saying that calling a meme true
or false can be as nonsensical as stating that a thought is green. I agree with
this-memes can be true, false, arbitrary or nonsensical depending on your point
of view. This is what makes memes very easy to distort and attack. And therefore
it is very easy to distort something that is being said. -David