virus: Meme Update #15: Fish Wars

Richard Brodie (
Fri, 17 Oct 1997 12:38:50 -0700

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+=+=+=+ Conciseness Department

Thanks to reader and friend Tim Rhodes for the following:

A university creative writing class was asked to write a concise essay
containing these four elements:


The prize-winning essay read:

"My God," said the Queen. "I'm pregnant. I wonder who did it?"

+=+=+=+ Fish Wars

For some time now, we've all seen cars with little metal fish screwed into
the rear end where the model and dealership's name sometimes are. Most
people know that the fish is a symbol of Jesus Christ, whose name is often
spelled out in Greek inside the fish. It's a way of spreading the
evangelistic Christian meme complex.

Evangelism is an essential component of a virus of the mind. If a religion
does not evangelize -- contain as part of its teaching that it is important
to "save," "convert," or "pass the favor on" -- then it is at a severe
disadvantage when competing with other belief systems for a share of
people's minds. The fish on the back of the car is but a small means of
taking the message into the age of advertising. Televangelists have done a
much more effective job at the same thing, consistently increasing their
"market share" at a time when most religions see their membership
("memebership"?) dwindling.

More recently, there's been a new fish in the sea of cars: a little fish
with legs growing out of its bottom. Inscribed inside the fish, in place of
the Greek "Jesus," is the word "Darwin."

I laughed the first time I saw this, but then started to think. Have
scientific-minded folk finally figured out what is one of the main point in
my book "Virus of the Mind": that it's evangelize or be evangelized, meme
or be memed? Did this Darwinian fish disseminate from the Simonyi Chair at
Oxford held by Richard Dawkins, his mission to popularize science by
peppering it with good memes? If not, it's the kind of thing that should be

Most people's experience of science is a boring high-school class with
impenetrable textbooks and difficult exams. If scientific ideas could be as
fun as astrology, and be as good ice-breakers at parties, we'd be on our
way. I myself have begun to ask "what's your blood type?" instead of
"what's your sign?" and launch into an informal research project along the
lines of Dr. Peter D'Adano's ideas about diet and blood type.

Meanwhile, though, the fish wars continue. Last seen was an escalation on
the Christian side: A big Jesus fish, mouth gaping, about to swallow the
little Darwin fish. Heh heh. But it's sad that religion vs. science has to
be seen as a competition. The purpose of religion is to guide us in living
meaningful, fulfilling lives. Science should compliment that, not compete
with it. Much of the fuss is about conflicts between scientific theories of
the past and religious creation myths. These are not the most important
things to be thinking about anyway. What kind of future do we want to
create? How will we accomplish it? When I meet in San Francisco next month
with many other concerned individuals from around the globe at the State of
the World Forum, we will address these issues. They are big, almost
imponderable issues, but thinking about them is a step in the right

Final fish note: not to be left out, the Jews have gotten into the act. The
other day I saw a fish with a Star of David. Inscribed was one pithy word:

+=+=+=+ Hypnosis Update

Several readers wrote to assure me that hypnosis was indeed a useful and
effective tool. I agree! When I said I thought it had fallen from favor
among PhDs and MDs, that was a personal judgment derived from various
conversations I've had with such people. To be fair, there is at the very
least a core of professionals with whom hypnosis has definitely NOT fallen
from favor.

+=+=+=+ Virtual Pet Update, Part I

Reader James Weissman offered the following URL for people wanting to raise
a virtual fish on their PC (Windows 3.X or 95 only):

+=+=+=+ Virtual Pet Update, Part II

Reader and friend Andrew Sigal sent this:

Microsoft Sues Bandai Over Tamagotchi
Redmond WA, (AP).

Microsoft (MSFT) has announced a 54 million dollar lawsuit
against Tamagotchi maker, Bandai. Microsoft is claiming that
the Tamagotchi (the Japanese electronic pet that's all the rage
with the kids) is an infringement of its intellectual property.

Microsoft spokesperson, Erik Loregard stated "Software that needs
constant, even hourly attention, or else it dies? Sounds like
Windows to me. This is clearly an infringement on our technology".

The Bandai company spokesman refused to comment on the suit.

+=+=+=+ Events

Richard Brodie delivers keynote and other addresses for a variety of
private and public audiences. If you are interested in having Richard
Brodie speak to your group, please email

The following events are open to the public:

November 4-9, 1997 - San Francisco, CA
Richard Brodie will join Nobel Peace prize laureates Mikhail Gorbachev,
Oscar Arias, Desmond Tutu, and Elie Wiesel along with many other
distinguished individuals in the 1997 State of the World Forum in San
Francisco. For the past several years, the State of the World Forum has
gathered people from around the world and from a spectrum of disciplines to
deliberate together concerning the great issues pertaining to the future of
humanity on the threshold of the 21st century and a new millennium. This
incredible gathering is open to 500 members of the general public in
addition to the invited participants. For registration and information, see

November 19,1997 - La Jolla, CA
Richard Brodie will speak briefly as part of Jeffrey Gitomer's
pre-conference workshop "Eventually, Someone Has To Sell What You're mar
keting" at Inc. Magazine's third annual conference on High-Return Marketing
Strategies. The conference will be held Nov. 19-22 at the Sheraton Grande
Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA. Featured speakers include Regis McKenna and
Jeffrey Gitomer, author of the Sales Bible. For registration and
information, see

All the best memes,


Richard Brodie
Author, VIRUS OF THE MIND: The New Science of the Meme
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