Or should I say meme?

Proposition: “A meme is just a fancy-schmancy, neo-Darwinian word for ‘idea’. Get over it. The concept of a ‘meme’ adds nothing, save for scientistic obscurantism, to the idea of culture, ideology, psychology, sociology, religion, belief, and cognition, as traditionally understood.”



11 Responses

  1. I agree entirely – and I’m a naturalist.

  2. I think the term was coined at a time (1976) when the idea of applying Darwinian principles to cultural traits was still relatively new, and there was some resistance, even in academic circles, to the idea that cultural phenomena evolve just as other biological traits do. To the extent that the term helped to get rid of that misconception about cultural traits I think it served a useful purpose, whether or not it retains its value these days. Certainly in the blogosphere its usage has become completely debauched, but I wouldn’t say that we ought to get rid of the word “journalist” just because a lot of bloggers think of themselves as journalists.

  3. I wouldn’t say that we ought to get rid of the word “journalist” just because a lot of bloggers think of themselves as journalists.

    Indeed, Scott. In the same vein, I’d say we shouldn’t get rid of bishops just because a lot of preachers call themselves bishops.


  4. Well, then, putting it all together, might we not say that the path to Darwinism is paved with the skulls of Memes? 😉

  5. I’ll sign on to that original statement. ISTM that the term represents the effort to suborn culture to materialist/reductionist analysis. At least it appears that this is what Dawkins had in mind. Ideas are complex and infinitely interesting things with roots that go everywhere, and they refuse to stay home and behave like discrete little entities in neat packages, presenting themselves for reductionistic analysis by laboratory technicians. But perhaps I’m overly prejudiced by my profound antipathy for Richard Dawkins. I wouldn’t mind so much the term being applied to “pop culture”. Perhaps “Y2K” was a meme. But Richard Dawkins would very much like things like Christianity to be a meme, but of course it’s not–it’s a religion.

  6. Your proposition is an interesting meme. 😉

  7. Swell! Meme me!

    I must thank you, David, for your professionalism; it would be so tragically outmoded to have what I wrote complimented as an interesting “idea”!

  8. I wouldn’t say that we ought to get rid of the word “journalist” just because a lot of bloggers think of themselves as journalists.

    We SHOULD get rid of the word “journalist” for the simple reason that a lot of journalists seem to think themselves journalistic. It isn’t just bloggers who are involved in the debauchery. If far too many bloggers think themselves journalists it is only due to the fact that far too many “journalists” count themselves as such. We ought not to blame the effect for its cause. 😉

  9. DB:

    I see a disanalogy between bloggers who don’t deserve to be called journalists and journalists who don’t deserve to be called journalists. The latter are usually paid to do something called journalism, whereas the former are not usually paid to do so.

    I’m rather reluctant to say that you are what you’re paid to be. But that’s the kind of thinking Americans understand, and it has the added advantage of defending Scott’s perfectly innocuous point. 😉


  10. Mister L,

    I am rather shocked and dismayed that a man of your intelligence would so casually overlook the one important fact that renders your response worthless. I’m the only American whose opinion matters. It’s all about me and my memes

    Now, would you like to hear my views on philosophers who use words like disanalogy and innocuous when addressing someone named Dim Bulb?

  11. From Philper’s (ahem, this blog’s) endorsement section, c/o R. Dawkins: “You could have become Brights.”

    From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, c/o Abba Joseph: “If you will, you can become all flame.”

    I’m not sure if the eerie inversion between these two claims (the first, admittedly fictional, but based in reality) makes this comment of mine ultra-insightful and prophetic––“Look how the Brights are trying to corrupt theosis!”––or even more playful than Dim Bulb’s latest. 😉

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