Re: virus: Logic

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Wed, 8 Oct 1997 15:30:51 -0700 (PDT)

Chardin asks:

I'm missing something. If the term "virus" doesn't have a value
associated with it (as Dawkin's term obviously does) doesn't it
become somewhat redundant? Why not just use the term "idea". "Idea"
doesn't hold a value, i.e., one can have good or bad ideas and ideas
are things which can be spread to others for their adoption or
rejection. One can adopt or reject an idea for whatever reason, using
or reasoning or emotion. Is a "virus" in your sense of the word

I reply:

A mind virus is not the same thing as a meme, though they are related. A
meme is a communicable bit of culture, an idea or technique that can be
spread, via language, modelling, or other means, from one mind to another.
A meme is analogous to a gene in that it is a relatively simple element
which may be replicated. More elaborate constructs are referred to as
meme-complexes or schemes. A virus is a meme-complex that encourages its
own replication by a host, using memes that drive the host to spread it,
much as a physical virus can cause symptoms that encourage its spread to
others. How a virus affects the well-being of its host will vary with the
virus and the degree of infection/belief. Infection with some mind
viruses may have benefits, such as protection against certain other
viruses, or encouraging cultural or physical survival of the host under a
specific set of circumstances. However, as with physical viruses, a portion
of the host's resources are devoted to supporting and spreading the virus,
and viruses often have other unpleasant and counterproductive effects for
the host.