Re: virus: Will the real meme please stand up.

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Mon, 4 Aug 1997 09:23:06 -0700 (PDT)

On Sun, 3 Aug 1997, Tim Abbott wrote:

> Is that the point of memetics? Another way of saying the same old thing?
> No it's not. The real point is the, unproven, premise that human ideas
> within their own particular environment are subject to the same mechanism
> of natural selection as are genes with theirs. The word "meme" has been
> coined in an attempt to put a neat verbal wrapper around the concept, but
> in fact has failed since the consequences are too complex and misunderstood
> to be easily wrapped.

Actually, I think ideas with complex and potentially misunderstandable
consequences are the ones that benefit most from being given 'neat verbal
wrappers'. If we had an elaborate description of how ideas proliferate or
fail to proliferate, but did not have the term 'meme' and the concept of
ideas as pseudobiological entities, I don't think it would catch on. As
it is, the meme meme grabs a lot of hosts--or, if you prefer, a lot of
people are thinking and talking about the idea. In the process it
mutates and adapts under various conditions--or, if you prefer, it gets
elaborated, argued about it, refined, and tested by different people with
different backgrounds and assumptions. It's true that the meme meme is in
a noticeably chaotic phase right now, but I don't think that's unusual or
bad for a new scientific perspective, or a new meme seeking a niche.

feeling very self-referential