virus: Memes of Mimicry

D.H.Rosdeitcher (
Mon, 15 Sep 1997 12:24:43 -0400

Comments and criticisms on the following article are welcome.


One of the evolutionary survival strategies in some species is
mimicry, in which one species mimics another species as a way of defending
itself from predators. For instance, orange and black "monarch" butterflies
which taste terrible to birds get mimicked by another species of
butterflies which tastes good. Birds which have had bad experiences trying
to eat monarchs, don't attack the species that looks like the monarch.
Such mimicry also happens in memes, in which certain meme-complexes
survive by disguising themselves as other meme-complexes. This can be
demonstrated by the way the scientific method gets mimicked by the
pseudo-rational philosophy of Objectivism. This occurs due to similarities
between animal minds and human minds.
The fact that birds can recognize similar looking butterflies, means
they recognize patterns. This is simiilar to what humans do when they use
inductive reasoning, in which they see a number of specific instances of
things and then make generalizations. People and animals recognize patterns
such as trees, dogs, other people, etc. Such pattern recognition has
evolved for the purpose of keeping animal species alive, since the ability
to roughly identify something based on prior experience is useful for
survival, even if such guesses at the nature of things is not always
One attribute that man has over other animals is the ability to learn
through language and culture. This accelerates his ability to manipulate
the environment and accomplish things that previous generations could not.
The best set of memes, as far as we know, to accelerate cultural evolution
is the scientific method, a type of thinking exclusive to man. While in the
inductive reasoning method, generalizations get made from specifics, or
conclusions get drawn from previous subjective experience, in the
scientific method, a guess about the world gets made to be tested for truth
or falsehood.
There's a form of memetic mimicry in which some meme-complexes resemble
the scientific meme-complex, causing people to accept belief systems which
are not as useful as science. One such meme-complex which resembles
science, is the philosophy of Objectivism, which poses as something
objective and scientific, yet caters to people's animal-like tendencies
from which they evolved.
The word, Objectivism, seems to imply objectivity--a key element of
science. Science is objective, because when you put out a theory to get
tested, your theory might be found wrong. This is like saying that what you
believe to be true about reality, could be totally wrong--in other words,
objective reality does not get determined by subjective assumptions.
Objectivism, on the other hand, claims that the inductive method is an
adequate and objective way to learn about objective reality, even though
ones subjective frame of reference greatly colors the conclusions drawn
about reality through induction. Using scientific sounding jargon,
inductive reasoning gets presented by Objectivist writers as something you
need to learn how to do, as if it's not already hard-wired. Also, while
science, unlike other belief systems, does not use definitive assumptions
as foundations, objectivism mimicks science by using assumptions as a set
of foundations (axioms) but giving these assumptions scientific sounding
names like "existence" and "consciousness".
Meme-complexes which compete with science by mimicking science, may
not last too long, since the scientific meme-complex might use its own
method to dispose of competing alleles. Also, the scientific meme of
Darwinian natural selection probably causes its hosts to replicate its
memes, wiping out memes which don't appear to benefit its hosts.
--David Rosdeitcher