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Dawkins’s linguistic junk food – a hedge against thinking

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Possibly, Richard Dawkins’s worst offense against the world of reason is the coining of the word “meme” – a “unit” of “thought” that replicates in the minds of others by neo-Darwinian natural selection. The idea itself is, of course, hardly a useful description of how people influence each other, but it serves very well as a lazy substitute for precise language.

For example, we might hear about the “hate Hilary Clinton meme”, the “Islam is the religion of peace meme”, or, even more inexcusably, the “religion meme”. These short cuts are short circuits.

How about, in order,

“Many Democrats have a strong aversion to Hilary Clinton”, “Some claim that Islam is a religion of peace”, and … well, what in Hull DOES Lazybrains mean by the “religion meme”? Probably something like, “I despise traditional spiritual beliefs.”

Do you see the problem here? Once Lazybrains is compelled by his Inner English Teacher to actually say what he means, he will need to defend it rationally and with evidence.

Or maybe I should save myself lots of work by just calling all this the “mental laziness meme”?

Then I wouldn’t have to say what I mean, but I would at least have modelled the proposition ably.

3 Replies to “Dawkins’s linguistic junk food – a hedge against thinking

  1. 1
    Sonfaro says:

    Is there any emperical evidence to support the ‘meme’ meme at all? I never understood how he came to that conclusion.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    semi OT;

    Expecting the best, fearing the worst with placebo effect – February 2011
    Excerpt: Poor expectations of treatment can override all the effect of a potent pain-relieving drug, a brain imaging study at Oxford University has shown.,,, The researchers used brain imaging to confirm the participants’ reports of pain relief. MRI scans showed that the brain’s pain networks responded to different extents according to the volunteers’ expectations at each stage, and matching their reports of pain.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....ffect.html

  3. 3
    O'Leary says:

    Thanks bornagain77, I believe that is called the nocebo effect, and yes, it is real.

    That’s why drug manufacturers pay so much attention to the way pain relief medication is marketed, as Mario and I noted in The Spiritual Brain.

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