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Dawkins’ meme: Journal dies, pop culture Darwinism lives

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From the excellent Nautilus, like we said:

But trawling the Internet, I found a strange paradox: While memes were everywhere, serious meme theory was almost nowhere. Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist who coined the word “meme” in his classic 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, seemed bent on disowning the Internet variety, calling it a “hijacking” of the original term. The peer-reviewed Journal of Memetics folded in 2005. “The term has moved away from its theoretical beginnings, and a lot of people don’t know or care about its theoretical use,” philosopher and meme theorist Daniel Dennett told me. What has happened to the idea of the meme, and what does that evolution reveal about its usefulness as a concept?

It was never a good idea in science.

Rather, the “meme” appealed to pop culture because it saves people the trouble of using correct terminology for different types of ideas – everything is just a “meme” now. Not an idea, a theory a slogan, a buzzword, a policy trial balloon, or …

Terms can then spread virally in part because no one has to think about them much.

From the perspective of serious meme theorists, Internet memes have trivialized and distorted the spirit of the idea. Dennett told me that, in a planned workshop to be held in May 2014, he hopes to “rehabilitate the term in a very precise kind of way” for studying cultural evolution.

According to Dawkins, what sets Internet memes apart is how they are created. “Instead of mutating by random chance before spreading by a form of Darwinian selection, Internet memes are altered deliberately by human creativity,” he explained in a recent video released by the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. He seems to think that the fact that Internet memes are engineered to go viral, rather than evolving by way of natural selection, is a salient difference that distinguishes from other memes—which is arguable, since what catches fire on the Internet can be as much a product of luck as any unexpected mutation.

There are still serious meme theorists? Maybe the real problem is that there are no longer any serious English teachers. Thoughts?

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3 Replies to “Dawkins’ meme: Journal dies, pop culture Darwinism lives

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    bornagain77 says:

    A few notes on ‘memes’ i.e. ideas and beliefs. Naturalism offers no guarantee that our beliefs will be true:

    The ultimate irony is that this philosophy implies that Darwinism itself is just another meme, competing in the infectivity sweepstakes by attaching itself to that seductive word “science.” Dawkins ceaselessly urges us to be rational, but he does so in the name of a philosophy that implies that no such thing as rationality exists because our thoughts are at the mercy of our genes and memes. The proper conclusion is that the Dawkins poor brain has been infected by the Darwin meme, a virus of the mind if ever there was one, and we wonder if he will ever be able to find the cure.
    ~ Phillip Johnson

    Even Richard Dawkins himself admits that naturalism leads to the epistemological failure of ‘memes’, i.e. ideas:

    “Since we are creatures of natural selection, we cannot totally trust our senses. Evolution only passes on traits that help a species survive, and not concerned with preserving traits that tell a species what is actually true about life.”
    Richard Dawkins – quoted from “The God Delusion”

    Dawkins was hardly the first to realize that naturalism can offer no gaurantee that our beliefs and ideas will be true. Darwin himself realized the epistemological failure within natrualism in his infamous ‘horrid doubt’,

    “But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
    Charles Darwin

    ,,,but Darwin, in that letter, was using his ‘horrid doubt’ selectively to undermine his own belief in God. Darwin apparently did not realize that the ‘horrid doubt’ inherent within naturalism applies ‘across the board’, i.e. to all ideas and beliefs that humans may have:

    Why Evolutionary Theory Cannot Survive Itself – Nancy Pearcey – March 8, 2015
    Excerpt: Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.
    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.
    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.,,,
    Of course, the atheist pursuing his research has no choice but to rely on rationality, just as everyone else does. The point is that he has no philosophical basis for doing so. Only those who affirm a rational Creator have a basis for trusting human rationality.
    The reason so few atheists and materialists seem to recognize the problem is that, like Darwin, they apply their skepticism selectively. They apply it to undercut only ideas they reject, especially ideas about God. They make a tacit exception for their own worldview commitments.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....94171.html

    Balfour, of the ‘Balfour Declaration’ for Israel in 1917, also noted the epistemological failure inherent within naturalism:

    Remembering Arthur Balfour, Friend of Science and Friendly Opponent to Atheist Bertrand Russell
    Mike Keas – November 20, 2014
    Excerpt: Balfour understood the anti-rational implications of naturalism (and Darwinism). He argued that the assumptions of naturalism (including in its Darwinian manifestation) lead to conclusions about the origin of rationality that undermine rationality itself, and thus undermine any alleged scientific support for naturalism. In contrast, theism — including the idea that humans bear the divine image — grounds human rationality quite well.
    The following is from Balfour’s The Foundations of Belief, pages 279-283.
    “Consider the following propositions, selected from the naturalistic creed or deduced from it:
    (i.) My beliefs, insofar as they are the result of reasoning at all, are founded on premises produced in the last resort by the collision of atoms.
    (ii.) Atoms, having no prejudices in favour of truth, are as likely to turn out wrong premises as right ones; nay, more likely, inasmuch as truth is single and error manifold.
    (iii.) My premises, therefore, in the first place, and my conclusions in the second, are certainly untrustworthy, and probably false. Their falsity, moreover, is of a kind which cannot be remedied; since any attempt to correct it must start from premises not suffering under the same defect. But no such premises exist.
    (iv.) Therefore, again, my opinion about the original causes which produced my premises, as it is an inference from them, partakes of their weakness; so that I cannot either securely doubt my own certainties or be certain about my own doubts.
    This is scepticism indeed; scepticism which is forced by its own inner nature to be sceptical even about itself;,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....91361.html

    J.B.S. Haldane and C.S. Lewis, though they disagreed about much, none-the-less they agreed on the epistemological failure inherent within naturalism:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter”.
    J. B. S. Haldane [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.

    “One absolutely central inconsistency ruins [the popular scientific philosophy]. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears… unless Reason is an absolute, all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based.”
    —C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry (aka the Argument from Reason)

    More recently Alvin Plantinga ‘formalized’ this epistemological failure inherent within naturalism with his ‘Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism:

    Why No One (Can) Believe Atheism/Naturalism to be True (Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4QFsKevTXs

    Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism by Alvin Plantinga – video
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL80CAECC36901BCEE

    Content and Natural Selection – Alvin Plantinga – 2011
    http://www.andrewmbailey.com/a.....ection.pdf

    of related interest to Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism:

    Quote: “In evolutionary games we put truth (true perception) on the stage and it dies. And in genetic algorithms it (true perception) never gets on the stage”
    Donald Hoffman PhD. – Consciousness and The Interface Theory of Perception – 7:19 to 9:20 minute mark – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=dqDP34a-epI#t=439

    Thus. if you believe in ‘thought’, and think that your overall thought process is trustworthy and reliable, then you should reject naturalism:

    “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
    – C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity, p. 32

    Do the New Atheists Own the Market on Reason? – On the terms of the New Atheists, the very concept of rationality becomes nonsensical – By R. Scott Smith, May 03, 2012
    Excerpt: If atheistic evolution by NS were true, we’d be in a beginningless series of interpretations, without any knowledge. Yet, we do know many things. So, naturalism & atheistic evolution by NS are false — non-physical essences exist. But, what’s their best explanation? Being non-physical, it can’t be evolution by NS. Plus, we use our experiences, form concepts and beliefs, and even modify or reject them. Yet, if we’re just physical beings, how could we interact with and use these non-physical things? Perhaps we have non-physical souls too. In all, it seems likely the best explanation for these non-physical things is that there exists a Creator after all.
    http://www.patheos.com/Evangel.....#038;max=1

    ” Hawking’s entire argument is built upon theism. He is, as Cornelius Van Til put it, like the child who must climb up onto his father’s lap into order to slap his face.
    Take that part about the “human mind” for example. Under atheism there is no such thing as a mind. There is no such thing as understanding and no such thing as truth. All (Stephen) Hawking is left with is a box, called a skull, which contains a bunch of molecules.
    Hawking needs God in order to deny Him.”
    – Cornelius Hunter – Photo
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-H-kj.....0/rob4.jpg

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    OldArmy94 says:

    Humans have a need to mentally organize data so that it easily accessible. Memes are a handy way to catalog information in the mind. The problem, as I see it, is that when memes become THE thing themselves, rather than a signpost, we lose our ability to think deeply. As ordinary humans encounter more and more streams of information, we are going to become much more suspect to meme-driven thinking patterns. The trick is how to maintain independent thought yet not be overwhelmed by the crush.

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