Do memes lose meaning?

Cpt_pineapple
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Do memes lose meaning?

So I have once again started thinking about memes, due mostly to Hamby's chiding me on the subject of the "god virus"

 

For those that don't know, "memes" are ideas that spread for their own sake, not the host's. For example, the belief in the world being 6000 years old doesn't benefit the person believing it,  but it helps spread the "meme" of christianity.

 

But the thing is that most "memes" lose their meaning. For example, do you know why married people wear rings? Why lawyers put "Esquire" after their name?  These little "memes" have lost all meaning, most people don't even know why and they lost their original meaning and we're not doing what they were originally created to get us to do. [whatever that was]

 

Saying "Bless you" after somebody sneezes was meant to put the soul back in the body because it was believed that sneezing is the soul escaping the body. However, this so called "meme" failed because nobody believes sneezing is the soul escaping the body anymore. "Esquire" was a British Landowner, and was meant to instill trust and confidence, but hardly anybody trusts Lawyers etc...

Another thing is memes can have completely different meanings to different people. For example if I say "Let a thousand flowers bloom" what does that mean to you? If I were to ask two christians what a bible verse means, they may come up with two different answers even if they are the same denomination or go to the same church.

 

So what's the point of these so called memes? If they lose their meaning and don't get you to do or believe what they were created to get you to do what's the point of them?

 


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The idea of "memes" is an

The idea of "memes" is an application of the idea of evolution to concepts.  There's no reason a meme should have any point at all.  A species persists because in its environment, it is able to reproduce itself; the same goes for memes.  Given a particular social environment, they may prosper or they may die quickly.

Some memes find themselves in a fertile environment by accident, and prosper in surprising ways.  In Korea, for example, you wouldn't have expected Christianity to grow as quickly as it has, since Korea was previously a Buddhist country, and Buddhism is pretty radically different than Christianity.  However, Korea also has a more ancient shamanistic tradition which shares (coincidentally) quite a lot of similarity to the core Christian mythology.  Embedded in the cultural memory are ideas about faith healing, about the dominance of one god over others, etc.

 


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:So I

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

So I have once again started thinking about memes, due mostly to Hamby's chiding me on the subject of the "god virus"

 

For those that don't know, "memes" are ideas that spread for their own sake, not the host's. For example, the belief in the world being 6000 years old doesn't benefit the person believing it,  but it helps spread the "meme" of christianity.

 

But the thing is that most "memes" lose their meaning. For example, do you know why married people wear rings? Why lawyers put "Esquire" after their name?  These little "memes" have lost all meaning, most people don't even know why and they lost their original meaning and we're not doing what they were originally created to get us to do. [whatever that was]

 

Saying "Bless you" after somebody sneezes was meant to put the soul back in the body because it was believed that sneezing is the soul escaping the body. However, this so called "meme" failed because nobody believes sneezing is the soul escaping the body anymore. "Esquire" was a British Landowner, and was meant to instill trust and confidence, but hardly anybody trusts Lawyers etc...

Another thing is memes can have completely different meanings to different people. For example if I say "Let a thousand flowers bloom" what does that mean to you? If I were to ask two christians what a bible verse means, they may come up with two different answers even if they are the same denomination or go to the same church.

 

So what's the point of these so called memes? If they lose their meaning and don't get you to do or believe what they were created to get you to do what's the point of them?

 

I've always asked, "Are memes memes?"

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:So

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
So what's the point of these so called memes? If they lose their meaning and don't get you to do or believe what they were created to get you to do what's the point of them? 

I don't understand the question. The "point?"

They're a way that we compare ideas with genes.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:So

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

So what's the point of these so called memes? If they lose their meaning and don't get you to do or believe what they were created to get you to do what's the point of them?

The point ids there is no point.


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i am so fucking sick of

i am so fucking sick of hearing about "memes."  just call them fucking "ideas" or "rumors."  i really think some lazy-ass, pot-smoking grad student in his late twenties--the kinda guy who wears a sport coat with jeans and sketchers, has a soul patch, and takes his macbook to starbucks--started calling them memes so he could get a doctorate for writing a dissertation about fuck-all.

"I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright. . . . Or maybe 'stupid' is a better way of saying it; but I have never seen much point in getting heavy with either stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don't bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I. . . . And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there's a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots."
--Hunter S. Thompson


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 I'm not sure you

 I'm not sure you understand the concept of memes.  They are just analogies for units of cultural information.  They are not just an idea, or just a concept, or just a tradition, they don't have an objective purpose, or rating, just like genes don't have an objective purpose.  There is no ruler to measure meaning against, they either survive, or do not survive.  They also compete and evolve, so the original meme may not resemble the current meme, it's completely irrelevant.

It was Dawkins that popularized the concept in 'The Selfish Gene', not some hippie, and the original word has been around for a while before that.

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butterbattle wrote:I don't

butterbattle wrote:

I don't understand the question. The "point?"

They're a way that we compare ideas with genes.

 

Butter, have you read "The God Virus"?  That's what got me into think about this.

 

Basically, Darrel argues that religion is like a virus that spreads for it's own sake rather than the people believing it. He asserts that it can take control over them and turns them to spread the meme of religion no matter the consequences to the christian person. Just like a biological virus uses the host to infect more people.

 

iwbiek wrote:

i am so fucking sick of hearing about "memes."  just call them fucking "ideas" or "rumors."  i really think some lazy-ass, pot-smoking grad student in his late twenties--the kinda guy who wears a sport coat with jeans and sketchers, has a soul patch, and takes his macbook to starbucks--started calling them memes so he could get a doctorate for writing a dissertation about fuck-all.

 

LOL, they were actually first proposed by Richard Dawkins in "The Selfish Gene"


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The point of memes is

The point of memes is precisely that they don't have to have meaning to the people they have 'infected'. What causes them to spread are aspects of the concept which hook into our minds at a subconscious level.

The fact that 'memes' persist past whatever original 'meaning' inspired them is very much one of the things that the idea of a 'meme' addresses.

You have it precisely 180 degrees out, Cap'n.

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BobSpence1 wrote:The point

BobSpence1 wrote:

The point of memes is precisely that they don't have to have meaning to the people they have 'infected'. What causes them to spread are aspects of the concept which hook into our minds at a subconscious level.

The fact that 'memes' persist past whatever original 'meaning' inspired them is very much one of the things that the idea of a 'meme' addresses.

You have it precisely 180 degrees out, Cap'n.

 

Infected with what? If they don't hold their meaning, than it's not really an infection.

 

For example, if I wanted to use a meme to infect christians with the idea abortion is evil, and I quote bible verses to be the "memes" , but christians don't take the verses as abortion being evil, what exactly am I spreading? The bible verses themselves? But then what's the point if the meaning of them is up to the person "infected" with them?


 

 


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:Butter,

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
Butter, have you read "

The God Virus

"?  That's what got me into think about this.

I have not, sorry, but I know the concept. A meme is a term that was coined to compare ideas and genes, so it's meaningless to ask what is the 'point' of a meme (what is the 'point' of ideas?). I think you might be asking what practical purpose do we have in using such a term; in that case, I think natural selection is a helpful guide for us to think about the transfer and persistence of ideas between people. Of course, there are many differences between genes and memes, so we have to account for that too.

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
Infected with what? If they don't hold their meaning, than it's not really an infection.

For example, if I wanted to use a meme to infect christians with the idea abortion is evil, and I quote bible verses to be the "memes" , but christians don't take the verses as abortion being evil, what exactly am I spreading? The bible verses themselves? But then what's the point if the meaning of them is up to the person "infected" with them?

That's a strange semantic objection. If the person doesn't receive the meaning that you intended, then they are not technically "infected?" Well, regardless, you certainly gave them 'something' when you provide them with new information.

People do select and interpret the information that they want, but they can only do that do a limited extent. Certainly, memes do spread from person to person, group to group.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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well, i don't give a good

well, i don't give a good goddamn who came up with the "idea."  even if dawkins shat gold bricks on an hourly basis, i'd still think the whole terminology was a pompous and sophomoric way of trying to put simple concepts into obscure language.  worse than that, the obscure language has now given birth to an irritating buzzword.  "meme" means as much to me as "synergy" and "netiquette."  there was no fucking need for this word to be coined.

"I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright. . . . Or maybe 'stupid' is a better way of saying it; but I have never seen much point in getting heavy with either stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don't bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I. . . . And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there's a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots."
--Hunter S. Thompson


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butterbattle

butterbattle wrote:

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
Butter, have you read "

The God Virus

"?  That's what got me into think about this.

I have not, sorry, but I know the concept.

 

You can read the first few chapters for free here

 

maybe then you'll get the idea of how it's argues that "memes", at least in the context of the god virus, have to retain their original meaning and get the host to spread and promote that meaning in order for it to survive.

 

 


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iwbiek wrote:well, i don't

iwbiek wrote:

well, i don't give a good goddamn who came up with the "idea."  even if dawkins shat gold bricks on an hourly basis, i'd still think the whole terminology was a pompous and sophomoric way of trying to put simple concepts into obscure language.  worse than that, the obscure language has now given birth to an irritating buzzword.  "meme" means as much to me as "synergy" and "netiquette."  there was no fucking need for this word to be coined.

 

LOL, they even had a journal of mementics.

 

It was then shut down because nobody could actually provide testable empirical evidence for memes.

 

Here's the three simple scientific challenges it failed.

 

 

 

 


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Cpt_pineapple

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

The point of memes is precisely that they don't have to have meaning to the people they have 'infected'. What causes them to spread are aspects of the concept which hook into our minds at a subconscious level.

The fact that 'memes' persist past whatever original 'meaning' inspired them is very much one of the things that the idea of a 'meme' addresses.

You have it precisely 180 degrees out, Cap'n.

Infected with what? If they don't hold their meaning, than it's not really an infection.

For example, if I wanted to use a meme to infect christians with the idea abortion is evil, and I quote bible verses to be the "memes" , but christians don't take the verses as abortion being evil, what exactly am I spreading? The bible verses themselves? But then what's the point if the meaning of them is up to the person "infected" with them? 

Quoted bible verses would have nothing to do with a 'meme', or 'infecting' someone with a 'meme'.

It is when some set of ideas get linked at an unconscious level, and make 'sense' only in an instinctual or intuitive context, ie, with little or no conscious rational support, that we are talking about 'memes' in any sense. I guess in your example, the linkages would between ideas of the 'soul' and the sacredness of life would be what would reinforce and connect to the abhorrence of abortion. It is this idea of a set of mutually reinforcing ideas which include some instinctive/intuitive elements which I think characterize a 'meme'.

They are not things that you can consciously induce in some one, that is the point, the idea is that they in some sense have a 'life' of their own, because they appeal to some common aspect of our basic instincts and desires.

Susan Blackmore's 'The Meme Machine' took the concept much further than Dawkins. Dawkins was really just openly speculating about why some concepts or beliefs seem to spread independently of whether they were beneficial to the individuals or groups who adopted them.

It is not so much a theory proposing some actual entities, it is an alternative framework within which to analyse cultural evolution, by looking for possible analogues with generic evolution, which may suggest different ways of analysing the way these ideas arise and spread.

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It may be that it

It may be that it contributes to a meme's survival if it loses its original meaning.  

For example:  My family was catholic, and therefore abstained from meat on Fridays in lent.  My mom had a small fit once when I inadvertently ate some meat one Friday, as if I had just confirmed my eternal damnation.  

Now, in a course on the new testament, I heard an explanation --albeit anecdotal-- for this custom of abstaining from meat:  Meat was a delicacy in the time and region of the early church, and the money they saved by not eating meat, they gave to the poor.   Had my parents known the actual meaning of this custom, I feel they would have been less likely to observe it -- particularly since nowadays seafood tends to cost more than meat, so the machinations taken to observe this custom run contrary to its original intent.

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Cpt_pineapple wrote:For

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
For those that don't know, "memes" are ideas that spread for their own sake, not the host's. For example, the belief in the world being 6000 years old doesn't benefit the person believing it,  but it helps spread the "meme" of christianity.

As Dawkins makes perfectly clear innumerable times in The Selfish Gene, replicators don't actually replicate for 'their own sake'. That's just an intuitive metaphor for understanding the appearance of self-interest when you understand the adaptive mechanism (which ultimately arises purely out of mathematical/statistical theory, involving no 'mind' or 'purpose') by which replicators evolve through natural selection.

Let's just make sure that bedrock idea about genes, replicators, and memes is understood before we delve into the metaphoric language of memes.

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But the thing is that most "memes" lose their meaning.

Define meaning. If you mean, the 'meaning' that humans apply/derive from particular memes, then these actual meanings are completely irrelevant to the replicative success of a meme. All that matters for the success of a meme is that, statistically, its presence influences (indirectly, but actually) its probability of being replicated in the future. If its presence increases the chance of replication, then its presence is 'beneficial' to the 'selfish' meme. If its presence lowers the chance of replication, then it is deleterious, or 'harmful' to the 'selfish' meme.

If the probability of a meme's replication in a particular context is below its extinction rate (the rate at which the meme is lost or forgotten), then the meme will tend to decrease in frequency in the population (of memes) over the long run, eventually going completely extinct. If the probability is very close to the extinction rate, then the meme will tend to stay at the same frequency in the population (simple survival). If the probability is greater than the extinction rate, then the meme will tend to increase in frequency over time.

This is just basic math of exponential functions. It is what natural selection is all about. The 'selfish' metaphor is simply to help us understand intuitively how the frequencies are likely to change, based on understanding that the important thing is only the 'benefit' of the meme to itself, and not on the altruistic benefit of the meme to some other entity. (True altruism is benefit to another without benefit to oneself. If a replicator benefits both itself and some other entity, perhaps because the other entity in turn gives a benefit back to the meme, then this is not true altruism, but one of the 'selfish' altruisms that Dawkins discusses at length in The Selfish Gene.)

So, no, the 'meaning' as you seem to mean the word, of a meme has zero relevance to the success of the meme, unless that meaning is the mechanism by which the meme confers increased probability of replication to itself, in which case, the meaning will be important. But note that it is only important because of its link to the mathematical increase or decrease in the meme's influence on its own replication.

The phrase "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" has no real meaning to humans, but it replicates because humans have found it useful to convey the idea that sentences can be meaningless. So, in this case, the specific meaning of the meme has no relevance to its success. Only its indirect benefit to itself (again, a metaphor for increase in statistical replication), which in this case relies on not having any real meaning, is what matters to a 'selfish' gene.

Quote:
For example, do you know why married people wear rings? Why lawyers put "Esquire" after their name?  These little "memes" have lost all meaning, most people don't even know why and they lost their original meaning and we're not doing what they were originally created to get us to do. [whatever that was]

Let me now turn to usefulness of the analogy with genetics to show you where you're going wrong here. I'll translate your points into an analogous claim about genes and this should help you to understand why your claims are not good critiques of memes.

For example, did you know that the bones in your inner ear (for hearing) were originally part of the jaw bones (for eating) in our pre-mammalian ancestors? Why do humans crave foods (sugars and fats) that are bad for them in a modern environment?  The little "genes" which are responsible for these things have lost all meaning, most people don't even know why and they lost their original meaning and we're not doing what they were originally created to get us to do. [whatever that was]

The "tail bone" was meant to help our ancestors balance and possibly grasp things because our ancestors used to walk differently, and they lived in trees for a while. However this "gene" failed because nobody needs a tail to balance anymore. The craving for sugars and fats used to be an important indicator of the quality of a food source, but hardly anybody can remain healthy if they ate sugar and fats all day etc...

Gee. Times change, and a meme can mutate into a different 'meaning' if the old meaning is no longer useful, and the meme can actually be useful for expressing a different, but more relevant meaning in modern times. Sounds a lot like mutation and exaption. The rings of marriage as used today are exaptions of the previous meaning of those rings. Interesting.

Also, times change, and something that was useful in a previous environment can turn out to be useless or detrimental in a new environment. The meme 'Esquire' used to be an important indicator of trustworthiness, but today trusting lawyers is not really a savvy thing to do these days, and can get you into trouble. The "bless you" meme used to be perceived as useful to keep the soul inside, but the environment has changed and nobody believes that the soul is literally breath anymore, so the 'meaning' of "bless you" has become unimportant and has turned the meme into a vestigial feature of our more superstitious cultural ancestry. It still retains a general meaning of wishing someone good health, but aside from that it's basically useless.

Quote:
Another thing is memes can have completely different meanings to different people. For example if I say "Let a thousand flowers bloom" what does that mean to you? If I were to ask two christians what a bible verse means, they may come up with two different answers even if they are the same denomination or go to the same church.

Another thing is genes can have completely different meanings to different species. For example if I say "Grow a limb" what does that mean to you? If I were to look at the developmental genetics of two different species of mammal what a gene means, they may come up with two different meanings even if they are the same Order or Family.

Gee. Sounds like homology to me. Darwin pointed it out as evidence for evolution, not against it.

Quote:
So what's the point of these so called memes? If they lose their meaning and don't get you to do or believe what they were created to get you to do what's the point of them?

So what's the point of these so called genes? If they mutate and 'lose' their prior function and don't get you to develop or behave what they were 'created' to get you to do what's the point of them?

What's the point of memes? What's the point of genes?

What's the point of memes themselves? Or, what's the point of the concept of the meme?

Two different answers to that, analogous to those same questions if asked about genes.

Memes themselves, like genes themselves, do not have any 'point' or 'purpose'. They just are. They replicate, they are bound by the same limitations against unlimited exponential growth, and so lots and lots of them go extinct, and the ones best adapted to the environment they find themselves in are the same ones most likely to survive and reproduce, which is essentially what natural selection is.

Natural selection, in turn, tends to shift relative frequencies of replicators in populations of replicators (genes in gene pools and memes in meme pools) over several generations (i.e. statistically a 'long time', depending on the replication rate and generation time). This shift in relative frequencies is known as 'evolution'.

So, memes themselves have no point. They just evolve.

But the concept of a meme has a useful purpose for us humans (and, yes, the concept of a meme is itself a meme. Self-reference is, in fact, possible and actually very common place, or else we would all speak in third-person!).

The 'point' of the concept of the meme is that the exact same process of exponential replication and culling by natural selection in any replicator, such as for example a cultural replicator, will lead to analogous systems and emergent properties of evolution (such as apparent design, tendency to adapt to environments, tendency to produce a wide variety of diverse forms, robustness in the face of rapidly changing environments, apparent 'intelligence' without requiring an actual conscious intellect to forsee the consequences of minor tweaks in design, etc.)

The concept of the meme is simply useful for understanding the non-conscious forces that influence the evolution of culture, and cultural artifacts (such as religious texts and dogmas). It allows one to compare their biological knowledge to their meta-cultural knowledge and to generate possibly-useful and certainly-interesting hypotheses based on observed similarities between the two. For example, it allowed me to relate your examples to common mechanisms and properties of biological evolution such as exaption, vestigiality, and homology.

Once you make such a memetically-informed hypothesis, you can use that as a lens to see if there are other examples of such similarities in either a) the world of culture, or b) the world of biology. For example, I've had lots of insights about persuasion and rhetoric from understanding how viruses non-consciously 'outwit' the immune system, and how the immune system in turn uses an evolutionary process to develop precisely tuned antibodies against infecting micro-organisms. Also, I've had lots of insights into how biological viruses work based on my understanding of culture.

Unfortunately, no one has yet come up with the kind of evidence required to defend this idea in the rightfully skeptical scientific community. But that doesn't 100% undermine the concept of the meme. It just tells us that we should be very wary of over-applying the idea, and of taking our insights as Truth (tm) when they are really only intuitions at this point.

But, intuitions are useful. We all use them everyday, quite literally at every moment of your conscious life. They are just not as reliable as scientific theories. If we understand these inherent limitations of intuition, then there's no harm in playing around with the idea of memes, using it to develop speculations about the world, and seeing if those speculations offer any personal benefit.

Personally, the concept of memes seems intuitively very useful to me, and I'm very cautious not to state my opinions about them as facts (my discussion above should be read as: "Assuming that memes actually exist, here is what they would be" which is essentially just a thought experiment.)

I do believe that one day we will have empirical evidence for memes. I even have a few ideas about actual, practical experiments to measure them, but I'm not confident enough at this point to defend that, so I'll just keep that to myself for now.

I recently began re-reading The Selfish Gene. For anyone who wants to really understand the purpose of the concept of the meme, I would highly recommend that book (Amazon). The book itself is almost entirely about biology, with only a couple of paragraphs about memes at the end, and as a discussion of genetic evolution, it is a must-read book. So, either way you'll win out by reading it.

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Cpt_pineapple wrote:

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

butterbattle wrote:

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
Butter, have you read "

The God Virus

"?  That's what got me into think about this.

I have not, sorry, but I know the concept.

 

You can read the first few chapters for free here

 

maybe then you'll get the idea of how it's argues that "memes", at least in the context of the god virus, have to retain their original meaning and get the host to spread and promote that meaning in order for it to survive.

I'm not going to read it (not because I disagree with it in principle, only because I have limited time and lots and lots of other things to read), and Darrel Ray is not a biologist and explicitly states that he uses 'virus' and 'meme' as metaphors, so you are probably getting an incomplete view from him.

I have a hunch that his purpose in stating that memes must 'retain their meaning' was to emphasize the symbolic nature of memetic replication, where true replication requires significant 'fidelity' from one copy to the next, and that from one copy to the next, the original meaning of a meme must in some sense be communicated to the copy.

This would be in contrast to a replication process that is more like a photocopy machine or the old analog audio tapes that the ancients (like, 20 years ago) used. In such analog copying processes, the quality of each copy would significantly degrade from the source it was copied from, and the information that was lost would not be symbolic (e.g. digital), but representative (analog), and so the 'meaning' of each copy would positively and inexorably degrade through the generations (unless one carefully preserved the 'original' recording). Symbolic replication, on the other hand (even if implemented on an analog substrate, such as a magnetic disk, or a piece of paper), retains its 'meaning' even if each symbol is significantly distorted in the transmission/communication process. For example, the letter 'a' is transmitted to you whether I use any of the following significantly distorted versions:

a, A, a, A, a, A, a, A, or even @ when used [email protected]

However, this is not to say that the meme must retain its meaning from generation to generation, only that true replication requires that ability to maintain meaning from copy to copy.

When a meme shifts its 'meaning' (in the human interpretive sense that you seem to be talking about), there are two likely causes:

1) The structure of the meme itself (its symbolic content) has changed (mutated) in such a way that the meme interacts differently with its typical environment (beneficial or deleterious mutation, as opposed to neutral mutation). This is wonderfully understood as evolution by the analogy with genetic mutation.

2) The environment itself changes in such a way that the success of the meme or the environmental pressures on its 'meaning' cause a previously successful meme to go extinct or to decrease in frequency with respect to other previously less-successful variations of the same meme. This is understood as natural selection by analogy with extinction or adaptation in biological evolution.

So, in both cases, the analogy of memes to genes as both being instances of the more general category of 'replicator' fits quite aptly, and shows that the requirement that memes retain their original-original meaning over many generations is not only wrong, but actually counter to the actual analogy. Genes do not retain their 'original meaning' over time, or else evolution would not occur! And so, neither do memes need to retain their 'original meaing' over time, otherwise the analogy to genes would be pointless.

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Cpt_pineapple wrote:For

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
For example, if I wanted to use a meme to infect christians with the idea abortion is evil, and I quote bible verses to be the "memes" , but christians don't take the verses as abortion being evil, what exactly am I spreading? The bible verses themselves? But then what's the point if the meaning of them is up to the person "infected" with them?

The point is precisely that you are not the decider of what cultural information survives, even in your own communications! Only 'that which actually gets replicated' survives, and this is basically how Dawkins defines 'meme', just as he defines 'gene' as the biological unit of evolution 'which actually gets replicated'. That's the whole point. They are both replicators in that same sense, and being replicators, they are both constrained by the limitations of uncontrolled exponential growth, such that only a few of the replicators can possibly survives, due to limited physical resources and environment. The exponential crowding that occurs forces 'competition' between replicators to survive natural selection (the inevitable culling of individual replicators due to the hard limits of a finite-dimensional universe). This competition gives rise to adaptation to the environment, since this adaptation is the only practical means by which selfish replicators can positively or negatively influence their own replication.

So, if you are failing to communicate the meme you are intending to communicate, it is because--while the idea may 'fit' nicely in the environment of your own brain--the environment of the Christian brain is a different environment, and is simply 'hostile' to the meme you're trying to transmit, and so that meme is 'unfit' in that new environment.

It's like trying to get penguins to live in a desert. Or a sloth to survive in a savannah packed with cheetahs.

If you want to pursue a strategy of 'memetic engineering', i.e. consciously designing new memes with the intention of applying them to practical problems, then you would need to take more consideration of the existing memetic environment in the Christian's brain. Crucially, other memes in the Christian's brain are defeating the attempted 'invasion' of your foreign memes, just as most biological species fail to invade neighbouring niches which are already well-stocked with better-adapted competing species; or worse, well-adapted predators. It's usually only the species which have no strong competition and no natural predators which are able to invade a new environment. You might think of Christianity's 'invasion' of Roman culture from neighbouring Judea, or the European diseases invading Native American populations lacking immunity.

So, basically, if you want your memes to survive in other peoples' heads, you need to tailor them to their target audience. It's not the memes' fault if they don't succeed. They are not conscious beings with intentions, goals, and ways of measuring their own success and learning from experience (except indirectly, through memetic evolution). As far as the memes are concerned, they either replicate or they don't. End of story. It's your own personal intentions and goals which are succeeding or failing when you attempt such communication.

Gene therapies have been successfully invented which can inject engineered genes into living organisms after maturation via a viral vector. Prior to that, it required directly injecting (indoctrinating) ova or bacteria with engineered plasmids. Unless you have kids, you can't really use the indoctrination method. You have to try education or persuasion instead. With rational people, it's easy. Make a good argument or present solid evidence. With faith-based irrational people, you have to use different methods that have credence in the minds of such believers themselves.

Essentially, you're trying to invent a meme-therapy. You've got the desired memes you want to deliver, you just have to work on your delivery system/vector.

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natural wrote:As Dawkins

natural wrote:

As Dawkins makes perfectly clear innumerable times in The Selfish Gene, replicators don't actually replicate for 'their own sake'. That's just an intuitive metaphor for understanding the appearance of self-interest when you understand the adaptive mechanism (which ultimately arises purely out of mathematical/statistical theory, involving no 'mind' or 'purpose') by which replicators evolve through natural selection.

 

Daniel Dennett argues in "Breaking the Spell" that the meme of religion replicates for it's own sake, not for the sake of the person believing it. Darrel Ray also does this in "The God Virus" which sparked this topic.

 

Basically a religious ritual or belief is meant to spread the "meme' [or "virus"] of christianity, even if it harms the host.

 

Whether Dawkins meant it as an analogy or as a legitimite branch of science is irrelevant. I'm going after when it's being used as a scientific theory rather than just a simple analogy.

 

 

natural wrote:

Define meaning. If you mean, the 'meaning' that humans apply/derive from particular memes, then these actual meanings are completely irrelevant to the replicative success of a meme. All that matters for the success of a meme is that, statistically, its presence influences (indirectly, but actually) its probability of being replicated in the future. If its presence increases the chance of replication, then its presence is 'beneficial' to the 'selfish' meme. If its presence lowers the chance of replication, then it is deleterious, or 'harmful' to the 'selfish' meme.

 

I mean why the meme was created in the first place.

 

For example, "The Hail Mary" was meant to invoke spirtual change and show dedication to christianity by regonizing Mary as the mother of god, and hence re-inforce my commitment to christianity.  However if I think the hail mary is poetry, or symbolism, then it failed it's intial purpose to re-inforce christianity and the purity of the virgin Mary.

 

Advertisers do it all the time. They create these little "memes" to spread and get you to buy the product. However if you don't buy the product, the "meme" failed it's purpose and lost it's meaning.

 

If these christian "memes" fail to convert me to christianity, or fail to get a christian to hold a certain belief, they fail. If a priest creates the "bless you" meme to get us to believe in the soul, the meme fails as soon as it doesn't do that.

 

The meaning of "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" is to convey the idea that sentences can be meaningless. Noam Chomsky created it for exactly that purpose. I think you're confusing the "meme" with the sentence 'carrier' itself.

 

Genes can be a bunch of random proteins, that look meaningless when printed as AGetc... but it's purpose can be to say determine eye colour.

 

As for you comparisons with genes and mutations, I think they fail too.

 

For example an ape didn't give birth to a human right away, it happened gradually. Genetic changes happens gradually or else the animal dies. If "memes" are like genes, shouldn't there be gradual change? Such as I think the meme means Y, Suzy thinks it's X kinda like Y, then the differences between X and Y slowly turns it into Z.

 

Such as the inner ear bone, starts in the jaw, and gradually moves it's way into the ear. It didn't just jump into the ear.

 

I don't see the analogy. "Memes" mutate too quickly and suddenly and radically. Which is why I emphasized that memes mean different things to different people.

 

 

natural wrote:

 

What's the point of memes? What's the point of genes?

What's the point of memes themselves? Or, what's the point of the concept of the meme?

Two different answers to that, analogous to those same questions if asked about genes.

Memes themselves, like genes themselves, do not have any 'point' or 'purpose'. They just are. They replicate, they are bound by the same limitations against unlimited exponential growth, and so lots and lots of them go extinct, and the ones best adapted to the environment they find themselves in are the same ones most likely to survive and reproduce, which is essentially what natural selection is.

Natural selection, in turn, tends to shift relative frequencies of replicators in populations of replicators (genes in gene pools and memes in meme pools) over several generations (i.e. statistically a 'long time', depending on the replication rate and generation time). This shift in relative frequencies is known as 'evolution'.

So, memes themselves have no point. They just evolve.

But the concept of a meme has a useful purpose for us humans (and, yes, the concept of a meme is itself a meme. Self-reference is, in fact, possible and actually very common place, or else we would all speak in third-person!).

The 'point' of the concept of the meme is that the exact same process of exponential replication and culling by natural selection in any replicator, such as for example a cultural replicator, will lead to analogous systems and emergent properties of evolution (such as apparent design, tendency to adapt to environments, tendency to produce a wide variety of diverse forms, robustness in the face of rapidly changing environments, apparent 'intelligence' without requiring an actual conscious intellect to forsee the consequences of minor tweaks in design, etc.)

The concept of the meme is simply useful for understanding the non-conscious forces that influence the evolution of culture, and cultural artifacts (such as religious texts and dogmas). It allows one to compare their biological knowledge to their meta-cultural knowledge and to generate possibly-useful and certainly-interesting hypotheses based on observed similarities between the two. For example, it allowed me to relate your examples to common mechanisms and properties of biological evolution such as exaption, vestigiality, and homology.

Once you make such a memetically-informed hypothesis, you can use that as a lens to see if there are other examples of such similarities in either a) the world of culture, or b) the world of biology. For example, I've had lots of insights about persuasion and rhetoric from understanding how viruses non-consciously 'outwit' the immune system, and how the immune system in turn uses an evolutionary process to develop precisely tuned antibodies against infecting micro-organisms. Also, I've had lots of insights into how biological viruses work based on my understanding of culture.

Unfortunately, no one has yet come up with the kind of evidence required to defend this idea in the rightfully skeptical scientific community. But that doesn't 100% undermine the concept of the meme. It just tells us that we should be very wary of over-applying the idea, and of taking our insights as Truth (tm) when they are really only intuitions at this point.

But, intuitions are useful. We all use them everyday, quite literally at every moment of your conscious life. They are just not as reliable as scientific theories. If we understand these inherent limitations of intuition, then there's no harm in playing around with the idea of memes, using it to develop speculations about the world, and seeing if those speculations offer any personal benefit.

Personally, the concept of memes seems intuitively very useful to me, and I'm very cautious not to state my opinions about them as facts (my discussion above should be read as: "Assuming that memes actually exist, here is what they would be" which is essentially just a thought experiment.)

I do believe that one day we will have empirical evidence for memes. I even have a few ideas about actual, practical experiments to measure them, but I'm not confident enough at this point to defend that, so I'll just keep that to myself for now.

I recently began re-reading The Selfish Gene. For anyone who wants to really understand the purpose of the concept of the meme, I would highly recommend that book (Amazon). The book itself is almost entirely about biology, with only a couple of paragraphs about memes at the end, and as a discussion of genetic evolution, it is a must-read book. So, either way you'll win out by reading it.

 

 

A little of both.

 

So are they just analogies, or a scientific theory?

 

If a physicist wanted to use the analogy of two magnets connected by an elastic band to explain magnetic repulsion, he doesn't have to prove that magnets or imply that magnets are actually attached by elastic bands.

 

I'm confused as to whether it's an analogy or a scientific theory.  It seems to me like Dennett/Ray propose it as a theory.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The advertising industry can

The advertising industry can be considered as an example of conscious memetic engineering.

The concept of memes is useful as a tool for thinking about cultural evolution, the evolution of ideas.

Memes actually exist - all that says is that there are ideas that get passed on to other people more or less intact, independently of their benefit to the biological survival of the individuals involved in 'transmitting' the meme. It is as much a fact as is the replication with occasional mutation of DNA.

The only real question is how useful is the idea.

One valid question is does thinking about the persistence of some concepts, or sets of interrelated concepts ("memeplexes" ) in such terms, allow actual useful prediction of how well any given meme is likely to 'survive in a given cultural complex. We can't even reliably do this for the biological analogue, ie 'natural selection', so arguably Darwin's ideas also fail on this test.

Even if it never does any more than provide us with a model of how ideas which do not necessarily benefit a population biologically can persist and mutate into more 'virulent' forms, the concept is useful.

What would be considered an invalidation of the idea?

Of course, some will argue that un-falsifiabiy 'proves' it is not a 'proper' scientific theory. So f**king what?

You can't falsify mathematics or logic either, in that sense.

Natural has solidly explained the various ways in which the concept is useful.

The arguments against memetics massively miss the point.

 

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i'm sorry, i still don't get

i'm sorry, i still don't get it.  so people talk about shit, even (no, scratch that, especially) shit they have no vested interest in, and thus shit gets passed around.  once again, it's called "rumors," "gossip," "hearsay," "urban legends," or "the tabloids."  i don't need a fucking scientific theory to tell me that.  unless you can give me a fair idea of how history is going to progress, based solely on this theory and in a way that makes other theories at least partially superfluous, i still say this whole "memetics" thing is nothing but a semantical innovation.

"I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright. . . . Or maybe 'stupid' is a better way of saying it; but I have never seen much point in getting heavy with either stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don't bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I. . . . And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there's a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots."
--Hunter S. Thompson


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Cpt_pineapple wrote: natural

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

natural wrote:

As Dawkins makes perfectly clear innumerable times in The Selfish Gene, replicators don't actually replicate for 'their own sake'. That's just an intuitive metaphor for understanding the appearance of self-interest when you understand the adaptive mechanism (which ultimately arises purely out of mathematical/statistical theory, involving no 'mind' or 'purpose') by which replicators evolve through natural selection.

Daniel Dennett argues in "Breaking the Spell" that the meme of religion replicates for it's own sake, not for the sake of the person believing it. Darrel Ray also does this in "The God Virus" which sparked this topic.

Read what I said again. I'll use bold instead of italics this time: "replicators don't actually replicate for 'their own sake'. That's just an intuitive metaphor for understanding the appearance of self-interest "

So, I'm not contradicting Dennett or Darrel Ray, and they are not contradicting me. We are all using 'their own sake' as a metaphor, not a literal meaning.

Quote:
Basically a religious ritual or belief is meant to spread the "meme' [or "virus"] of christianity, even if it harms the host.

From the meme's actual point of view--and by the way, religious rituals would also be memes--there is no 'meaning' of the existence of the rituals or beliefs or the meme itself. Meaning is something that we as human people and conscious minds attach to those things. The meme itself has no intentions for self-replication; it just either positively influences its own replication or doesn't.

Specifically, it looks to me like you're saying that the memes have true selfishness, as in 'they mean to promote their own spread, even if it harms the host'. Memes have no awareness of their hosts, they are not conscious entities. They are more like words or computer instructions than conscious minds. They don't mean to do anything. There is exactly zero intention involved. They have no intention to harm their hosts for their own gain. If they happen to harm their hosts, that is merely a byproduct of their non-conscious interaction with their environment, exactly the same way that viruses can harm their hosts non-consciously.

Quote:
Whether Dawkins meant it as an analogy or as a legitimite branch of science is irrelevant. I'm going after when it's being used as a scientific theory rather than just a simple analogy.

When -- I repeat -- When have memes been used as a scientific theory? Never seen it. As a hypothesis? Possibly. As far as I'm aware, no one has yet developed an instrumental definition of a meme such that it could even be considered a scientific hypothesis (i.e. subject to falsification, as is the current standard).

I think you are attacking straw people when you make that insinuation that scientists have defended or used memes as a scientific theory. I would like to see you provide evidence that this has happened, or correct your phrasing.

Quote:
natural wrote:
Define meaning.

I mean why the meme was created in the first place.

Which has nothing to do with the physical replicative success or failure of the meme in question. So what is the relevance of your objection?

Quote:
For example, "The Hail Mary" was meant to invoke spirtual change and show dedication to christianity by regonizing Mary as the mother of god, and hence re-inforce my commitment to christianity.

I severely doubt that any human actually had the conscious thought: "Gee. I think I would like to invoke spirtual change in people and have them show dedication to christianity by regonizing Mary as the mother of god, and hence re-inforce their commitment to christianity. Therefore, I will invent the Hail Mary for this purpose. This is the true meaning/intention of my new poem."

This is exactly why the meme concept is useful for explaining such apparent intention/design. It does not require any intention at all! It does not require any mind picking and choosing what words and phrases and associations to include in the poem. It does not even require that there be a single author of the poem. In fact, I doubt that there was a single author of the modern form of the poem.

In fact, the poem itself could have (in theory) been created with the exact opposite intention as the one you suppose (though I am not proposing that this is the case here, only trying to show that the intention of the author is irrelevant to whether or not the meme gets replicated).

Suppose there was a single author, and he or she thought: "Gee, I hate Christianity and I'd like to undermine it by making a satire of how anti-woman it is. I'll make a poem about Mary and how full of grace she must have been. Surely the Christians will see how this ironic portrayal differs so greatly with their obvious patriarchal religion that they will see the folly of their faith in a male God, and will give up Christian belief forever."

Heck, maybe it was just some Christian monk's masturbation fantasy. It matters not one bit!

All that matters is what actual (yet indirect) effects it has in the environment in which it finds itself. If the actual effects are to raise the probability of its replication higher than the probability of its extinction, then it will mathematically/statistically tend to increase in frequency in that environment at an exponential rate (actually, a logistic rate, due to the finite universe).

The 'original meaning' of the meme is 100% entirely irrelevant. All that matters is whether or not the meme positively influences its own replication or it doesn't.

Quote:
However if I think the hail mary is poetry, or symbolism, then it failed it's intial purpose to re-inforce christianity and the purity of the virgin Mary.

Memes themselves do not have purposes, and so cannot 'fail' their 'purposes'.

Quote:
Advertisers do it all the time. They create these little "memes" to spread and get you to buy the product.

The advertisers have purposes for their memes, but the memes themselves have no such purpose.

Quote:
However if you don't buy the product, the "meme" failed it's purpose and lost it's meaning.

From the advertiser's perspective, their intended purpose in creating the meme has not been fulfilled, and so the adverstiser has failed his or her purpose and failed to communicate their intended meaning. The meme itself has no purpose and no 'meaning' to lose.

Quote:
If these christian "memes" fail to convert me to christianity, or fail to get a christian to hold a certain belief, they fail.

Again, you can only be talking about literal meaning, when memes are not literally selfish or purposeful or 'meaning' anything intentional. You are explicitly failing to understand the metaphor. I suggest you check out The Selfish Gene again. If you were to rephrase what you're saying as being about genes, you would probably spot your error.

Quote:
If a priest creates the "bless you" meme to get us to believe in the soul, the meme fails as soon as it doesn't do that.

The meme itself doesn't fail, as it has no goals or intentions. Only the priest has failed in his attempt at communication/persuasion. The priest might be tempted to blame his failure on the meme, but that would be like blaming alcohol for giving you a hang-over, when you 'originally meant' only to feel good and have a good time the night before.

Quote:
The meaning of "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" is to convey the idea that sentences can be meaningless. Noam Chomsky created it for exactly that purpose. I think you're confusing the "meme" with the sentence 'carrier' itself.

People can have purposes when they create memes, but the memes themselves do not have such purposes. They are not mindful beings which can have such purposes. Noam Chomsky had a purpose, so he created the meme. The meme perhaps has fulfilled his purpose, but not its purpose. The meme does not have any purposes at all, and so no purposes to fulfill.

I can create a paper airplane for the purpose of chucking it out my window and watching it go. But the paper airplane itself does not have any purposes of its own, and so cannot properly be said to 'succeed' or 'fail' in 'its purpose'. It does not have any purpose. When we say that the purpose of the paper airplane is to be chucked out my window so I can watch it go, we are confusing my purposes with the purposes of a mindless slab of dead cellulose.

Quote:
Genes can be a bunch of random proteins, that look meaningless when printed as AGetc... but it's purpose can be to say determine eye colour.

1) Proteins are not genes, and genes are not proteins. Genes are information that gets replicated, and that also influence their own replication by influencing their cellular (and developmental, and organismal, and so on) environment. Proteins are the products of such genetic influence in the environment of a functioning cell, but they are not genes themselves.

2) Genes are not even DNA per se. Genes are encoded in DNA. DNA is a molecule. Genes are (some portion) of the information encoded in (some) molecules of DNA, but also (sometimes) in RNA, and these days they can even be encoded in electronic or magnetic media, or even on paper in printed symbols such as ATCG. Genes are the information, not the material substrate or medium.

3) Try telling "it's purpose can be to say determine eye colour" to any degreed evolutionary biologist in the same way you are using 'purpose' in that sentence. No. Genes do not have purposes either. Having purpose requires having a mind with goals and intentions and 'designs'. To say that genes have real purposes, and not just metaphorical ones, is to endorse Intelligent Design.

Quote:
As for you comparisons with genes and mutations, I think they fail too.

Lol. Yes, says the one confused about genes and evolution. When you can stop failing, you can start accusing my comparisons of failing.

Quote:
For example an ape didn't give birth to a human right away, it happened gradually. Genetic changes happens gradually or else the animal dies. If "memes" are like genes, shouldn't there be gradual change? Such as I think the meme means Y, Suzy thinks it's X kinda like Y, then the differences between X and Y slowly turns it into Z.

Yes, the mutations between memes would have to be small and gradual in order to explain how they mutate without the presence of conscious minds.

However, conscious, communicating minds existed before memes did.

Specifically, the human brain is a complex environment in which thoughts, concepts, ideas, goals, intentions, instinct, drives, desires, emotions, relationships, beliefs, experiences, memories, and all sorts of things influence the actual behaviour of the human animal.

The precursors to true-replicator memes undoubtedly initially served a practical purpose for the humans that used them, and this is all the explanation that's needed to understand their origins.

Given that proto-memes are useful to people, like any tool, we have learned how to communicate them for practical purposes, to influence the behaviours of those around us, for example as is evident in the social grooming and social displays of chimps, gorillas, orangutans, etc. Non-memetic communication occurs in many animals, and there are clear and well-researched theories for how and why communication occurs and can be explained via evolution.

The transition from proto-memes to memes would have occurred gradually, driven solely by genetic evolution (e.g. the evolution of human vocal apparatus and big brains). But at some point, probably analogous to abiogenesis, there would have occurred a sort of a-culturo-genesis of a true-replicating form of information that survived generation-after-generation, beyond the mental life of any one individual or indeed beyond the social lifetime of any social group such as a tribe. The human symbols would survive the human animals.

At this point, the development of social/cultural information would have acheived a distinct separation from the development of biological/genetic information. The genes (via brain evolution) would have given rise to the memes.

Once memes have an avenue for their own true replication, I have a strong suspicion that this would have spurred a co-evolutionary 'arms race' between genetic and memetic evolution, as is seen in predator-prey, parasite-host, and symbiotic relationships between different species in biological evolution.

At this point, it is very hard to speculate when this might have happened, how long it took to happen, and how much mutual change the memes and genes would have induced within each other.

It is possible that memes may have driven the last stages of human genetic evolution (such as rapid expansion of the brain, exodus from Africa, taming of fire and cooking of meat, etc.). However, it is also possible that those things are better explained by non-memetic communication and/or proto-memes, and that true-replicating memes are very recent. Perhaps memes first arose with agriculture and the rapid development of human culture since then. Very hard to say, and until we have a real functional hypothesis that can be tested, it is pure speculation.

But the point is that this explains why memetic mutation can be small and subtle, but also can be quick and dramatic, such as publishing a book which is the anti-thesis of another book, or my writing of this forum comment as a direct counter-argument to your comment.

It is simply because the 'machinery' of replication involved in memetic replication is leaps and bounds more sophisticated than the 'machinery' of genetic replication.

Bacteria have simple replication machinery (well, actually not simple at all, but comparatively very simple). Sexual Eukaryotes have relatively very sophisticated replication machinery.

Consider that in animal sexual reproduction, such as in humans, your offspring are massively mutated compared to you. They only share 1/2 of your genes and those are mixed with 1/2 of someone else's genes. Actually, it's more complicated than that, as really it's more like they get 1/4 of each of their grandparents' genes.

This is distinctly and hugely different than simple asexual reproduction such as in bateria. A bacteria's offspring are nearly identical clones, with only a very small number of mutations in the genome.

Asexual reproduction is more along the lines of what you are thinking of when you say that memes should show very small and gradual changes in interpersonal communication.

But if we consider that a conscious mind plays a huge role in the interpersonal replication of memes, then it should come as no surprise that such a mind--especially if it has been shaped by millions of years of evolution perfecting the communication of proto-memes--and even more so if there has been significant co-evolution with true memes--would be capable of sophisticated manipulations of the memes in question.

Also consider what goes on in your head during (and slightly prior to) your communication. You formulate your replies to me, at least at a conceptual level, before you write the words. That formulation of ideas is to a large extent what our brains have evolved to do (this time via genetic evolution). You know from your own personal experience how you twist and tweak, recombine and delete, generate and edit ideas and concepts as part of your conscious and sub-conscious thinking processes.

To the extent that you are able to communicate these concepts and ideas symbolically and with decent fidelity, then those concepts and ideas are also memes, and will be subject to the 'rules of the game' of the evolution of replicators.

In fact, it matters not that human communication is massively variable. It only matters whether the communicable ideas and concepts and behaviours indirectly but actually influence the probability of their own replication. That is all that it takes to be a meme. The meme cares not where it came from, whether it was consciously designed or entirely randomly generated. The meme has no mind, no cares, no purposes, no intentions, no goals, no memory, no consciousness. It is far too simple for any of that. It is just information, just as genes are just information. The only trick is that it's information that happens to be able to influence the probability of its own replication.

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I don't see the analogy. "Memes" mutate too quickly and suddenly and radically. Which is why I emphasized that memes mean different things to different people.

Yes, they do indeed mutate very rapidly. They are not constrained the same way genes are, which require a relatively long time to replicate. Even bacterial genes require something like an hour to replicate (since they are constrained by the chemistry of biological life).

Memes, on the other hand, live at a time-scale of nerve impulses and synaptic intercellular communication, which is many thousands of times faster than bacterial genetic replication, and enormously faster than human genetic replication.

Not to mention that they live in a relatively enormous and sophisticated conscious machine called the brain, which is actively manipulating them and putting them to its own uses (much of the time, not always).

With modern technology, we're able to make genes for genetically modified organisms that allow them to resist pesticides, grow faster, grow bigger, live in harsher environments, etc. at a rate that puts non-engineered natural reproduction to shame.

We use our brains to accelerate the evolution of biological life. Why is it so hard for you to imagine that we can also use our brains to accelerate the evolution of memes? After all, my contention is that brains would have undergone at least several hundred thousand years (and probably much more like 5 million years) of selective evolution driven toward better and better manipulation of the elements of communication (proto-memes, and later true memes).

Do you deny that you yourself actively manipulate ideas and concepts for the purposes of acheiving personal communication goals? How are you able to do this? Your brain must have that capacity, and it must have gained that capacity through biological evolution. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to do it.

So, given that our brains are masters at intuitive memetic engineering for personal benefit, then it should not be surprising that memetic mutation occurs massively faster and in a massively more sophisticated way than genetic evolution would.

If two brown-eyed people can have a blue-eyed child without even intending to, then why couldn't a motivated person generate a contrarian argument from a given proposal, especially if that is their conscious intention?

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A little of both.

So are they just analogies, or a scientific theory?

Just analogies, if you acknowledge that analogies can also be useful even if they aren't scientific theories.

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I'm confused as to whether it's an analogy or a scientific theory.  It seems to me like Dennett/Ray propose it as a theory.

Yes, you are confused. You will be unable to find them doing this, because they do not do it. For Dennett, it is a philosophical question, with proto-scientific possibilities. For Ray, it is simply an analogy that he finds intuitively useful for understanding religion as if it intended to replicate itself selfishly.

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iwbiek wrote:  unless you

iwbiek wrote:
  unless you can give me a fair idea of how history is going to progress, based solely on this theory and in a way that makes other theories at least partially superfluous, i still say this whole "memetics" thing is nothing but a semantical innovation.

You say that like it's a bad thing. Name one single idea or concept that isn't a semantical innovation.

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natural I have to step back

natural I have to step back for a bit because this is making my head hurt.

 

I'm not sure if your concept of memes is the same as Ray's or Denett's etc...

 

You said you never read The God Virus so I may have to get clarification from Hamby. Maybe I'm just filtering all this through my own bias so I don't know.

 

 

 

 


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natural wrote:iwbiek

natural wrote:

iwbiek wrote:
  unless you can give me a fair idea of how history is going to progress, based solely on this theory and in a way that makes other theories at least partially superfluous, i still say this whole "memetics" thing is nothing but a semantical innovation.

You say that like it's a bad thing. Name one single idea or concept that isn't a semantical innovation.

cooking.

but seriously, i meant semantics for semantics' sake.

"I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright. . . . Or maybe 'stupid' is a better way of saying it; but I have never seen much point in getting heavy with either stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don't bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I. . . . And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there's a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots."
--Hunter S. Thompson