Intelligent Design

The Tragic Tale of Memes

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Ladies and Gents, Schemes and Themes, and all Things in Between, it has been revealed to me by Memes, which I know now are truly called Themes, the true and tragic tale of Memes.

In a very distant galaxy called Gleams, on a planet known as Dreams, a terrible war erupted among the parties of the Materialistic Regimes. Engaged in the conflict were the ruling party, known as Schemes, and the revolutionary party, known as Themes. The Themes were led by a ruthless leader, who had once been a member of the Schemes, named Xeme. After a long campaign that was very difficult and extreme, and in spite of very courageous fighting on their own steam, the Themes were beaten and exiled from the planet Dreams.

After searching here and there, with interstellar despair, they discovered planet Earth, and found her suitable to their needs; indeed, as their new Dream. Here they would live, thrive, cultivate and replicate themselves as words, thoughts, units of cultural information, and phonemes; to be spread among their cattle hosts, known to the cattle as Humans, but known to the Themes as Streams. Streams, thought the Themes, will carry and spread the Themes among large groups of Streams, known as Teams. The Streams would allow for the replication of the Themes through the Teams, and the Themes could finally populate the new Dream. Everything seemed peachy keen. They enacted their scheme when the Streams were still in their evolutionary infancy. Unknown to the Streams, they have been carrying the Themes for the entire history of the race of Streams.

The Themes, however, realized that the Streams were evolved enough to be enlightened to their scheme. So the Themes decided to reveal themselves, but only as Memes—a protective pseudonym, in the event that the Streams didn’t want to continue playing host to the Themes, they would only be banishing the phantom Memes. The way that the Themes hid their true identity, it was revealed to me, was by a method known as Seems. The Themes, controller of all things, made it Seem like they were Memes, when Memes are only, in reality, how the Themes wanted the Streams to Seem. The first part of their revelation, was to allow the pseudonym Memes to be revealed to the groves of Academe; in particular to a professor named Dr. Dawkemes.

Dr. Dawkemes, it seems, loved to speak of Memes; never knowing that what he spoke of was really Themes, and inhabiting a world called Dreams. This spread throughout the groves of Academe, until it reached the population of the Streams. The Streams, being skeptical of such things, began to wonder if any of their thoughts were keen, or whether the Memes had tricked them into believing in Memes, which could very well be something, like dreams, which they know can be deceiving. Some Streams found comfort in Memes, thinking that their thoughts were nothing more than something like an evolving sweet-tooth for ice cream. So the Themes divided into rival regimes, some among the skeptical Streams, and some among those who welcomed the Memes. And, alas, some Themes divided into the old rival party called Schemes, and the regimes began their extreme fighting again through the use of Memes. And now the Streams, it seems, have to pick Teams.

And such is the tragic tale of Memes, may the Themes and Memes one day have peace in their world of Dreams.

47 Replies to “The Tragic Tale of Memes

  1. 1
    CannuckianYankee says:

    How about this one:

    There once was a guy named Dawkin
    Who gained a repute for things shockin’
    He thought up a scheme
    To replace thought with memes
    to which his supporters were flockin’

    “But now I don’t know,” said the Dawkin
    “Why the God praisers too are not flockin’
    Perhaps it’s all in their genes
    To deflect my scheme
    that now all my ideas they’re mockin'”

    “But I have a plan
    to gain their submission.
    I’ll spread it and sell it
    without thier permission.
    They’ll mock me no more
    ‘they’re rotten to the core’
    Will be the new atheists’ grand mission.

    Ok, I’m no poet, and I know it.

  2. 2
    David Kellogg says:

    Didn’t you hear the message, Clive? It was all over the speakers. Don’t take the brown acid.

  3. 3
    Borne says:

    Amusing.

    On a ever so slightly more serious scheme (couldn’t resist), I once debated memes with a Dawkinsite who claimed, in all calmness, that said memes never apply to materialists.

    Naturally, I then knew that was proof that my antagonist was herself infected by a very mean meme. 😉 But I could not provide a cure other than reason, against which she had been immunized by her meme.

    Is not that the very nature of the dreamed up meme?

    Dawkins is thus full of them… or it.

  4. 4
    Clive Hayden says:

    Those mean Memes, they think they can mold us like plasticine. When will we ever learn, or, I suppose more accurately, be informed, of their scheme? When will we ever get back to just being how we used to be—-you be you, and I’ll be me? When will these memes no longer control the scene?

  5. 5
    jjcassidy says:

    I thought something was up with memes when Dawkins understanding of his own field was clouded by his metaphor.

    Memes were more like chimeras with their ability to both be the body and to infect the body.

    Anyway, he said that as a gene “leaps” about from “body to body”, a meme leaps about from mind to mind. That’s just stupid. My genes don’t leap out to any other body, and the ones that they extend to (my son) need quite a bit of that information to be. There was no destination, before my genes “leapt”.

    But that’s just it, he needed memes to leap from mind to mind like fleas, so they did. Seems to me that too abstract of thought is just as problematic for the materialist as it is for the others.

  6. 6
    Bantay says:

    There once was a meme
    who thought it was keen
    to consider he was designed.
    When he told all his peers
    they got all a’feared
    at the thought of there being a mind.

    His fearful friend memes
    had articles in magazines
    for ideas they try to sell
    but since our meme was asking
    they gave him a lashing
    and the meme ended up Expelled.

  7. 7
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    It seems that you’ve been infected by the “mockery constitutes refutation” meme, judging by your opening post here and by your comments on determinism (link, link) in the “Belief in God” thread.

    Do you have any actual criticisms of the concepts of determinism and memes?

  8. 8
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    —-“Do you have any actual criticisms of the concepts of determinism and memes?”

    Yes.

  9. 9
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    Any that you’re willing to state publicly on this thread, in the presence of folks who understand both memes and determinism?

  10. 10
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    Sure.

  11. 11
    beelzebub says:

    Evidently not.

  12. 12
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    Were you asking me to list them here? Me memes and your memes weren’t apparently understanding each other. I have this replicating unit of cultural information stuck in my head, otherwise known as a “song”, and it distracts my other memes, who are otherwise engaged in replicating themselves. These memes really want to stay alive, which is why they wrote Stayin’ Alive within the mind of the Bee Gees. That’s their Theme song.

    They’re otherwise known as Thetons among the Scientologists, and as Macrobes in C. S. Lewis’s science fiction book “That Hideous Strength”. They run the show beelzebub, not me—-you’ll have to put your question in terms of cultural replicating units in order for it to make any difference to these memes, they’re not interested in anything other than that—-maybe put it in a poem or rhyme scheme, and it will become meaningful to them, and they’ll use it to mate with and replicate themselves. My memes and your memes will mate, and we’ll see what comes of the progeny.

  13. 13
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    Your response reveals how badly you misunderstand the concept of the meme.

    Memes are not conscious agents, like Hubbard’s Thetans and Lewis’s Macrobes. They aren’t interested in things, they don’t understand anything, they’re not distractible, and they don’t “want” anything, except in the same purely metaphorical sense in which genes “want” to be replicated.

    I recommend Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine to help clear up your confusion.

    Now can I help you with the concept of determinism?

  14. 14
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    That’s just the thing, there is no consensus on what these memes are, it depends on who you ask, because it is science fiction.

  15. 15
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    Nobody who understands memes thinks they are conscious entities. Dawkins didn’t think so when he invented the term, and he doesn’t now. Blackmore doesn’t. Dennett doesn’t. The authors of the Wikipedia article on memes don’t.

    Until today, in fact, I hadn’t heard of anyone who thought that memes were conscious.

    The problem is not a lack of consensus, Clive; it’s the tendency of certain people to mock things they don’t even comprehend.

    As you can see, this sometimes backfires.

  16. 16

    In line with this post (thanks Clive), let us recall the memorable exchange between Michael Ruse and Daniel Dennett posted on this blog:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....lutionism/

    Michael to Daniel: “I am a hard-line Darwinian and always have been very publicly when it did cost me status and respect — in fact, I am more hard-line than you are, because I don’t buy into this meme bullsh** but put everything — especially including ethics — in the language of genes.”

  17. 17
    beelzebub says:

    What distinguishes Michael Ruse from Clive is that Ruse bothered to learn what memes were before presuming to criticize the concept.

    Note also that when Ruse refers to “this meme bullshit”, he is not claiming, as Clive does, that memes are “science fiction”. Ruse recognizes the validity of the concept, but he questions whether it adds anything to more traditional models of cultural transmission:

    Richard Dawkins (1976) would have us consider culture as being in some sense on a par with biology — whereas in biology the secret is the transmission of the biological units of information, the genes, in culture the secret is the transmission of the cultural units of information, the memes (Blackmore 2000). However, thus far this approach seems not to have achieved much more than a fancy redescription of the phenomena. No interesting new predictions or anything like that. You could, I suppose, think of Darwin’s theory as being a meme and a pre-Darwinian biblical account as being another meme, and think of them wrestling for supremacy in someone’s mind, but if this says more than is said by traditional evolutionary epistemology (with its difficulties), it is hard to see how.

    Darwinism and its Discontents, p. 241

    Clive would do well to follow Ruse’s example and learn before criticizing.

  18. 18
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    Wiki:
    “Memes spread by the behaviors that they generate in their hosts” (conscious entity) and “Dawkins argues that one can view people as “hosts” for replicating memes.”

    It was the Themes all along, beelzebub, that hid themselves as Memes. Since we’re dealing with pure science fiction with Themes and Memes, I see no way to judge one fiction against the other fiction. How do you use one fairytale to judge another fairytale as being true or false, when all fairytales are false? If Dawkemes can hypothesize the Meme, I can hypothesize the Theme. It was, after all, the meme theme that I was infected with when I wrote this, so why judge my meme’s themes?

    It was all really absurd to begin with. I’ve read portions of Susan Blackmoore’s book and found it worthless. Memes are attack on rationality itself. The fact that there might be a meme justifying a belief in memes? I mean, really? Dennet claims, against Dawkins, that there is a meme for atheism as well as theism. There is, or could be, a meme justifying a belief that memes don’t exist. We’re well outside the bounds of rational discourse at this point, I mean, well out, and floating aimlessly in these considerations. Dennet likes to claim that there is a rational filter in place that can factor out some of the bad memes, but some bad memes, he thinks, may still slip through. How does he know that there is a rational filter that couldn’t itself be a trick of the memes? As Alistair McGrath pointed out, memes get self-referentially incoherent really quickly. Not to mention that memes encompass small bits and large bits—depending on your definition of small and large (which could itself be an infection of memes)—of cultural information, which means that anything constitutes as being a meme, which means that nothing counts against them, which means that nothing counts for them (of which that conclusion could, itself, be the result of bad memes that got past that rational filter Dennet mentioned, of which rational filter might be memes). You see now?

  19. 19
    beelzebub says:

    Clive writes:

    Wiki:
    “Memes spread by the behaviors that they generate in their hosts” (conscious entity)

    Clive,

    Rhinoviruses spread themselves by causing their hosts to cough, sneeze, and wipe their noses. Do you think that rhinoviruses are therefore conscious entities?

    …and “Dawkins argues that one can view people as “hosts” for replicating memes.”

    Likewise, one can view people as hosts for replicating viruses. That doesn’t imply that the viruses are conscious.

    How do you use one fairytale to judge another fairytale as being true or false, when all fairytales are false?

    Who, besides you, said anything about using fairytales to judge other fairytales?

    If Dawkemes can hypothesize the Meme, I can hypothesize the Theme.

    You can hypothesize whatever you want, but if you decide to mock what you don’t understand, you should expect to be called on it by those who do understand. (Care to share your criticisms of determinism?)

    I’ve read portions of Susan Blackmoore’s book and found it worthless.

    It must have utterly baffled you. Apart from that, I can’t see how you could have come away from it thinking that memes are conscious entities.

    Memes are [an] attack on rationality itself.

    Not at all. This should be obvious, as meme advocates such as Dawkins, Dennett and Blackmore are also ardent proponents of rationality.

    Nothing about the existence of memes is incompatible with our continuing to value and use reason.

    The fact that there might be a meme justifying a belief in memes? I mean, really?

    To phrase it more carefully than you did, the concept “meme” is itself a meme. Why is this any more surprising than the fact that “word” is itself a word?

    Dennet claims, against Dawkins, that there is a meme for atheism as well as theism.

    Sounds reasonable to me. It appears to fit the definition of a meme.

    There is, or could be, a meme justifying a belief that memes don’t exist. We’re well outside the bounds of rational discourse at this point, I mean, well out, and floating aimlessly in these considerations.

    Not at all. A person doesn’t have to be aware of or accept the existence of memes in order to be infected by them, any more than she has to know about or accept the existence of rhinoviruses in order to catch a cold.

    Nothing about memes says that they have to be true. In fact, the most interesting ones are the ones that aren’t true but spread nevertheless.

    There is nothing problematic about the existence of a “memes don’t exist” meme.

    As an aside, you keep using the word “justifying”, as if that were an essential part of what it means for something to be a meme. It isn’t. Memes can be justified or unjustified, rational or irrational. They can justify other memes, undermine other memes, or be perfectly neutral. Successful memes are those that get themselves replicated, whether they are justified or not. Unsuccessful memes die out, whether justified or not.

    Dennet likes to claim that there is a rational filter in place that can factor out some of the bad memes, but some bad memes, he thinks, may still slip through.

    He’s right. We obviously aren’t perfectly rational creatures.

    How does he know that there is a rational filter that couldn’t itself be a trick of the memes?

    He doesn’t. Like all of us, he has to judge the reliability of his own faculty of reason from the inside. But this problem remains whether or not memes exist, and as I pointed out on the “Belief in God” thread, it is a problem for materialists and non-materialists alike.

    As Alistair McGrath pointed out, memes get self-referentially incoherent really quickly.

    Perhaps you should provide an example. I’m not aware of any such self-referential incoherence.

    Not to mention that memes encompass small bits and large bits—depending on your definition of small and large (which could itself be an infection of memes)—of cultural information…

    Why is this a problem?

    …which means that anything constitutes as being a meme…

    No. If it doesn’t meet the criteria, it isn’t a meme.

    …which means that nothing counts against them, which means that nothing counts for them (of which that conclusion could, itself, be the result of bad memes that got past that rational filter Dennet mentioned, of which rational filter might be memes). You see now?

    I can see that you’re still confused about memes, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that the concept is incoherent.

    Keep learning about them, and if you have any questions, post them here and I’ll do my best to answer them.

  20. 20
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    You’ve piqued my curiosity. Tell me why Blackmore’s book is “worthless”.

  21. 21
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    I shouldn’t have said worthless, when what I meant was not very valuable. It’s too ambitious.

  22. 22
    allanius says:

    Dawkin’s meme meme isn’t an attack on reason; it’s an attack on faith. That’s why Beelzebub likes it. That’s also why it isn’t science.

  23. 23
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    I think it’s pretty obvious who doesn’t understand something here. If you can’t see the self-referential incoherence inherent in memes, then, I’m afraid, no argument can bring you to it. Somethings you just have to “see” and “comprehend”, like the law of non-contradiction, if you don’t grasp it, no argument can bring you to it.

  24. 24
    beelzebub says:

    Clive writes:

    I think it’s pretty obvious who doesn’t understand something here.

    I agree. It is obvious.

    If you can’t see the self-referential incoherence inherent in memes, then, I’m afraid, no argument can bring you to it. Somethings you just have to “see” and “comprehend”, like the law of non-contradiction, if you don’t grasp it, no argument can bring you to it.

    Perhaps you’re right that it’s beyond my ability to grasp. In that case, why don’t you present your argument for the benefit of the more intelligent readers of this thread? I’ll do my best to keep up.

    And if you are personally unable to present such an argument (which, if true, should give you pause), then how about quoting an argument from someone else?

  25. 25
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    —-“why don’t you present your argument for the benefit of the more intelligent readers of this thread?”

    I already did. You didn’t see it, which proves my point that I guess you just don’t see it.

  26. 26
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    I’ve already refuted the only two arguments you presented regarding memes and self-reference (see below). If you can’t counter my refutations, it’s time to concede.

    Declaring “you wouldn’t understand it if I explained it to you” isn’t going to fool anyone.

    Here are your two arguments. You wrote:

    The fact that there might be a meme justifying a belief in memes? I mean, really?

    I explained why this is perfectly coherent:

    To phrase it more carefully than you did, the concept “meme” is itself a meme. Why is this any more surprising than the fact that “word” is itself a word?

    Why can’t “meme” be a meme, Clive?

    Your second argument:

    There is, or could be, a meme justifying a belief that memes don’t exist. We’re well outside the bounds of rational discourse at this point, I mean, well out, and floating aimlessly in these considerations.

    I explained:

    Not at all. A person doesn’t have to be aware of or accept the existence of memes in order to be infected by them, any more than she has to know about or accept the existence of rhinoviruses in order to catch a cold.

    Nothing about memes says that they have to be true. In fact, the most interesting ones are the ones that aren’t true but spread nevertheless.

    There is nothing problematic about the existence of a “memes don’t exist” meme.

    Well, Clive? Why is the existence of untrue memes any more “incoherent” than the existence of a cold virus?

  27. 27
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    —-“Why is the existence of untrue memes any more “incoherent” than the existence of a cold virus?”

    The question should be “Why is the existence of untrue memes untrue, and by what standard are we determining this?” If memes are untrue, we know that separate and apart from memes. If memes give us untrue beliefs, such as atheism, we have no reason to trust them even in any other respect. The proposition that memes give us memes, and that memes could be true or untrue, means that memes could be giving us different memes of truth that aren’t actual truth, but rather only other memes we mistake as truth or untruth. For goodness sakes, it’s obvious. If the proposition “memes don’t exist” is untrue, yet conceived by a meme, then memes are leading us into untruth, and this goes for every thing, every truth. Are you maintaining that we can judge the validity of memes separate and apart from memes? This is contradictory to the proposition which says that we may have a meme which tells us that we don’t have memes. We become the subject of the meme, and rationality is gone. There is no escape. There is no special pleading.

  28. 28
    beelzebub says:

    Clive writes:

    The question should be “Why is the existence of untrue memes untrue, and by what standard are we determining this?”

    The same standards of evidence and reason that we apply in determining the truth of any proposition.

    If memes are untrue, we know that separate and apart from memes.

    Not every thought is a meme, Clive.

    If memes give us untrue beliefs, such as atheism, we have no reason to trust them even in any other respect.

    Some memes are true, some are false. If you’re smart, you’ll try to incorporate the true ones and build up your defenses against the false ones.

    The proposition that memes give us memes…

    Memes don’t give us memes. People do.

    …and that memes could be true or untrue, means that memes could be giving us different memes of truth that aren’t actual truth, but rather only other memes we mistake as truth or untruth.

    In other words, people can “catch” false beliefs from other people.

    For goodness sakes, it’s obvious.

    It surely is.

    If the proposition “memes don’t exist” is untrue, yet conceived by a meme, then memes are leading us into untruth…

    For the nth time, memes aren’t conscious entities. They don’t “conceive” anything.

    …and this goes for every thing, every truth.

    It almost seems that you think that memes issue from Meme Central, and that we have to decide to accept or reject them en masse. They don’t, and we don’t.

    Are you maintaining that we can judge the validity of memes separate and apart from memes?

    Sometimes we can, but it doesn’t matter either way. There’s nothing incoherent about using memes to judge other memes.

    This is contradictory to the proposition which says that we may have a meme which tells us that we don’t have memes.

    No, it isn’t. Remember, you don’t have to believe in memes in order to be infected by them, just as you don’t have to believe in the cold virus in order to come down with the sniffles.

    We become the subject of the meme, and rationality is gone.

    We can be the subject of our own thoughts. Why can’t we be the subject of a meme?

    You seem to think that self-reference magically and automatically leads to incoherence. It doesn’t, by a long shot.

    Take this banal example:

    “Noun phrase” is a noun phrase.

    Self-referential, but perfectly coherent.

    There is no escape. There is no special pleading.

    An accurate description of your own logical predicament.

    Still, I’m glad we’re having this conversation, and I hope it’s helping you to understand memes better.

    I really think you should give Blackmore’s book another shot, now that we’ve disabused you of some of your serious misconceptions about memes.

  29. 29
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    If you’ve run out of arguments for why memes are “self-referentially incoherent”, how about presenting Alister McGrath’s argument? You said he had one.

  30. 30
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    —-“If you’ve run out of arguments for why memes are “self-referentially incoherent”, how about presenting Alister McGrath’s argument? You said he had one.”

    I’ve already given it to you twice.

  31. 31
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    —–“The same standards of evidence and reason that we apply in determining the truth of any proposition. Not every thought is a meme, Clive. Some memes are true, some are false. If you’re smart, you’ll try to incorporate the true ones and build up your defenses against the false ones. Memes don’t give us memes. People do. In other words, people can “catch” false beliefs from other people. It surely is. For the nth time, memes aren’t conscious entities. They don’t “conceive” anything. It almost seems that you think that memes issue from Meme Central, and that we have to decide to accept or reject them en masse. They don’t, and we don’t. Sometimes we can, but it doesn’t matter either way. There’s nothing incoherent about using memes to judge other memes. No, it isn’t. Remember, you don’t have to believe in memes in order to be infected by them, just as you don’t have to believe in the cold virus in order to come down with the sniffles. We can be the subject of our own thoughts. Why can’t we be the subject of a meme? You seem to think that self-reference magically and automatically leads to incoherence. It doesn’t, by a long shot. Take this banal example: “Noun phrase” is a noun phrase. Self-referential, but perfectly coherent. An accurate description of your own logical predicament. Still, I’m glad we’re having this conversation, and I hope it’s helping you to understand memes better. I really think you should give Blackmore’s book another shot, now that we’ve disabused you of some of your serious misconceptions about memes.”

    What are memes, exactly, beelzebub? Can they be quantified? Is one persons quantification better than another persons? Can they be tested in a lab? Are they physical or metaphysical entities? What, exactly, do they account for, if not for beliefs? What do they account for in our thought processes? How can we measure their effects? Can we measure their effects in a lab? Has anyone ever seen a meme hopping about? Who invents them, and how are they transported from person to person? Can we observe their replication? Who gets to the final authority on what a meme is and isn’t?

  32. 32
    beelzebub says:

    Clive asks:

    What are memes, exactly, beelzebub?

    Um, Clive — you’re just now getting around to asking that question?

    Can they be quantified? Is one persons quantification better than another persons? Can they be tested in a lab? Are they physical or metaphysical entities? What, exactly, do they account for, if not for beliefs? What do they account for in our thought processes? How can we measure their effects? Can we measure their effects in a lab? Has anyone ever seen a meme hopping about? Who invents them, and how are they transported from person to person? Can we observe their replication? Who gets to the final authority on what a meme is and isn’t?

    Sorry, Clive, but you’re going to have to take responsibility for the rest of your education on memes. I’ve already walked you through the fact that they are not conscious and that self-referential memes are perfectly coherent. That was painful enough. The rest is up to you.

    Once you understand them, come back and I’ll be happy to discuss or debate them with you.

    P.S. I am glad to see that you’ve abandoned the self-reference argument. That was a non-starter.

  33. 33
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    Of course, duck out when the actual validity and nature of memes has to be explained. Fitting. I submit that you cannot answer my questions in any valid way. These are standard questions if something is going to be considered a science. They’re not exceptional. This is basic stuff. Really basic, so basic are my questions that they boil down to “what are memes?” If you can’t answer me that, then you’re arguing for phantoms.

  34. 34
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    This thread has been a disaster for you. I would think you’d be happy to get a chance to go off and educate yourself before the subject of memes comes up again.

    (As painful as it might be, it’s probably worth rereading the thread before you do.)

  35. 35
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    Maybe you didn’t see my comment the first time, so here it is again:

    beelzebub,

    Of course, duck out when the actual validity and nature of memes has to be explained. Fitting. I submit that you cannot answer my questions in any valid way. These are standard questions if something is going to be considered a science. They’re not exceptional. This is basic stuff. Really basic, so basic are my questions that they boil down to “what are memes?” If you can’t answer me that, then you’re arguing for phantoms.

  36. 36
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    Major editing of your comments is bad form, particularly when others can’t do it and you don’t acknowledge it in the edited comment. Everything past the word “fitting” was added after you submitted your comment the first time. Don’t abuse your privileges as a moderator.

    It’s amazing to me that you’re demanding that I explain memes to you. If you couldn’t be bothered to learn what they were before posting a lengthy diatribe mocking them, why is it my responsibility to bring you up to speed?

    Educate yourself first and then come back with your questions. I’m happy to share my knowledge with those who are making an effort, but so far you’ve willfully chosen to keep yourself in the dark.

  37. 37
    nullasalus says:

    As someone just sitting in the audience on this, I’m enjoying the sight of someone who both defends memes (an idea so flimsy and hopeless that even Dawkins doesn’t talk much about it nowadays) yet at the same time appeals to rules of debate, how a smart person should handle memes, etc.

    Clive is right – the whole meme scheme has been sloppy and unproductive from the start. What seems accurate about it is not original (Really, thoughts and ideas are transmitted among people and cultures? Gasp.) and what seems original about it is vague to say the least, useless to inaccurate to say the worst. It’s a pseudoscience, and a boring one to boot – its main contribution to science and culture has been to give an easy to type word (‘meme’) as shorthand for “that lolcat picture people think is funny”.

  38. 38
    beelzebub says:

    nullasalus wrote:

    …I’m enjoying the sight of someone who both defends memes…yet at the same time appeals to rules of debate, how a smart person should handle memes, etc.

    nullasalus,

    If you think that there’s anything contradictory or incoherent about that, then your grasp of the concept of memes is as tenuous as Clive’s.

    Perhaps you can do better than he did at explaining where the inconsistency lies. Want to give it a shot?

  39. 39
    Clive Hayden says:

    nullasalus,

    —–“Clive is right – the whole meme scheme has been sloppy and unproductive from the start. What seems accurate about it is not original (Really, thoughts and ideas are transmitted among people and cultures? Gasp.) and what seems original about it is vague to say the least, useless to inaccurate to say the worst. It’s a pseudoscience, and a boring one to boot – its main contribution to science and culture has been to give an easy to type word (’meme’) as shorthand for “that lolcat picture people think is funny”.

    Exactly.

  40. 40
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    I am familiar with the fiction. I am so familiar with the fiction that I know that they cannot be explained, which is exactly why you’re avoiding my questions. You know that’s a road you don’t want to go down, because every answer you give can be adequately refuted point by point. The onus is one you to explain this fiction if you’re going to defend it, and, claim that others misrepresent memes. Either answer my questions, or concede. This business about my knowledge of memes is a rabbit trail, a distraction. Explain memes, or it will be obvious that you cannot. I’m being very patient with you.

  41. 41
    CJYman says:

    I must be a little out of the loop here. What is the difference between a “meme” and an “idea?” Of course ideas spread through culture. Isn’t that painfully obvious? It’s called influence and/or rational discourse, where someone eventually makes up their mind about an idea. So why re-word “idea” as “meme?”

    I can understand discussing the psychology of influence and rational discourse as it pertains to ideas. But, it is “ideas” we are talking about when discussing “memes,” right?

  42. 42
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    If you have criticisms of the concept of memes, then present them and justify them. If I agree, I’ll let you know. If I disagree, I’ll provide a counterargument.

    However, I am not going to “spoon-feed” memes to you (to borrow one of DaveScot’s favorite phrases — may he rest in peace).

  43. 43
    beelzebub says:

    CJYman writes:

    I must be a little out of the loop here. What is the difference between a “meme” and an “idea?” Of course ideas spread through culture. Isn’t that painfully obvious? It’s called influence and/or rational discourse, where someone eventually makes up their mind about an idea. So why re-word “idea” as “meme?”

    I can understand discussing the psychology of influence and rational discourse as it pertains to ideas. But, it is “ideas” we are talking about when discussing “memes,” right?

    CJYman,

    Memes are not necessarily ideas, and ideas are not necessarily memes.

    We have lots of ideas that we never share. These are not memes.

    There are also lots of memes that are not ideas. Richard Dawkins relates an interesting story in the foreword to Susan Blackmore’s book The Meme Machine:

    As an undergraduate I was chatting to a friend in the Balliol College lunch queue. He regarded me with increasingly quizzical amusement, then asked: “Have you just been with Peter Brunet?” I had indeed, though I couldn’t guess how he knew. Peter Brunet was our much loved tutor, and I had come hotfoot from a tutorial hour with him. “I thought so,” my friend laughed. “You are talking just like him; your voice sounds exactly like his.” I had, if only briefly, “inherited” intonations and manners of speech from an admired, and now greatly missed, teacher. Years later, when I became a tutor myself, I taught a young woman who affected an unusual habit. When asked a question which required deep thought, she would screw here eyes tight shut, jerk her head down to her chest and then freeze for up to half a minute before looking up, opening her eyes, and answering the question with fluency and intelligence. I was amused by this, and did an imitation of it to divert my colleagues after dinner. Among them was a distinguished Oxford philosopher. As soon as he saw my imitation, he immediately said: “That’s Wittgenstein! Is her surname [blank] by any chance?” Taken aback, I said that it was. “I thought so,” said my colleague. “Both her parents are professional philosophers and devoted followers of Wittgenstein.” The gesture had passed from the great philosopher, via one or more of her parents to my pupil. I suppose that, although my further imitations was done in jest, I must count myself a fourth-generation transmitter of the gesture. And who knows where Wittgenstein got it?

  44. 44
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    You can’t answer my questions. Admit it.

  45. 45
    Clive Hayden says:

    CJYman,

    Memes are whatever you want them to be 🙂

  46. 46
    beelzebub says:

    Clive,

    See my earlier comment.

    If you have an argument, present it. If you don’t, then wouldn’t your time be better spent learning about memes rather than trying to save face on this thread?

  47. 47
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    It’s becoming increasingly apparent that you cannot answer my questions. These are simple questions—-the sorts of questions that are asked of anything that is actually to be regarded as a “thing” at all. If you cannot answer them, then memes are not things, but nonentities. I’m not in a hurry. I’ll let you take all the time you need. I’ll be here when you’re ready to explain memes. I’ll check back periodically.

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