MEMES!

I think its funny that even people who HATE Richard Dawkins, I mean, the people who would run the man down with their car and eat the corpse raw, or even just the hundreds (thousands?) of douche bags who wrote ‘reviews’ or ‘rebuttals’ of ‘The God Delusion’ without actually reading it– Their lives have been positively influenced by Dawkins.

How?

MEMES!:

The word meme originated with Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. He hypothesised that one could view many cultural entities as replicators, and pointed to melodies, fashions and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behaviour. Because humans do not always copy memes perfectly, and because they may refine, combine or otherwise modify them with other memes to create new memes, they can change over time. Dawkins likened the process by which memes survive and change through the evolution of culture to the natural selection of genes in biological evolution.

Link just in case you get ‘LOADING LOADING LOADING…

Comments

  1. #1 Tommykey
    January 29, 2010

    or even just the hundreds (thousands?) of douche bags who wrote ‘reviews’ or ‘rebuttals’ of ‘The God Delusion’ without actually reading it– Their lives have been positively influenced by Dawkins.

    I had that happen on a number of occasions in blog comboxes. Some Christian would claim “Dawkins said (fill in the blank” in The God Delusion.” And having read it myself and having it nearby on my bookshelf, I would retrieve it, find the passage the person is alluding to, see that he or she got it totally wrong, and then I would post what Dawkins actually wrote. It was clear to me that they had not read the book but were just regurgitating what someone else had claimed Dawkins had written without bothering to check it out themselves.

  2. #2 BeamStalk
    January 29, 2010

    I’m not saying, I’m just saying?

  3. #3 jose
    January 29, 2010

    Only the fittest memes survive in the cubicle-monkeys’ stewed minds.

    I guess half of my memome is retroviral too, or more likely all of it.

  4. #4 Gabriel Hanna
    January 29, 2010

    Sometime ago there was an argument here about whether natural selection applied to RNA and ERVs and whatnot. And we pointed this out then, that natural selection applied to memes and whatnot, and that Dawkins had written as much in 1976.

  5. #5 Chayanov
    January 30, 2010

    And then there are the people who read “The God Delusion” (but not for comprehension) who claim that Dawkins is a militant fundamentalist whose arguments don’t apply to their oh-so-sophisticated and nuanced religious beliefs. Even though they can never provide examples of those sophisticated and nuanced beliefs or how those beliefs destroy Dawkins’ arguments.

  6. #6 Oran Kelley
    January 30, 2010

    How exactly is “meme” an improvement over “idea?”

  7. #7 Oran Kelley
    January 30, 2010

    And then there are the people who read “The God Delusion” (but not for comprehension) who claim that Dawkins is a militant fundamentalist whose arguments don’t apply to their oh-so-sophisticated and nuanced religious beliefs.

    Who are you talking about?

    I ask because I don’t recall ever having seen this argument made. I’ve seen people take issue with Dawkins’s philosophical arguments (that is, whether he actually disproves the philosophical possibility of God) and I’ve seen people criticize the way he characterizes actually existing religion in a patently unsophisticated ways (rather than relying on the actually existing sociological research in this area) and I’ve seen people criticize his position that religion is inherently pernicious.

    But I can’t recall anyone saying “My personal belief is much too sophisticated to be susceptible to Dawkins’s arguments.”

    I suspect this is (ironically) a misreading of Terry Eagleton?

    From a philosophical viewpoint, it doesn’t matter whether anyone actually believes in the sophisticated version of theism you put forward. What matters is whether or not Dawkins has addressed that possibility in his effort to disprove God’s existence. These kinds of arguments are frankly boring, but it was one of the kinds of argument Dawkins set out to make, so he’s stuck with the sophisticated rejoinders, however worthy they may be (I neither know nor care).

    As far as actually existing religion goes, Dawkins relies almost exclusively on what people say they believe. There is already a fairly rich literature telling us there’s a discrepancy between what people say and how they behave indicating that religion is a lot more complex a matter than Dawkins would have it in TGD (simply false consciousness). For a scientist to blithely ignore this literature is, indeed, a problem.

    The religion being found my anthropologists and sociologists ISN’T sophisticated in the sense of a sophisticated taste in wine or food, it is *complex* in the sense that it can’t be easily defined by quoting a few lines from the bible or a firebreathing sermon. Why Dawkins and his supporters should be positively phobic about treating religiosity as a real-world phenomenon with real-world complications, I don’t know. But the failure to do so represents a failure of the book, and the failure to recognize even that an alternative exists is a pretty fundamental failure on the part of Dawkins’ fanboys and girls.

    Lastly, Dawkins’ hostility to arguments that religion may have been selected goes way, way beyond what the evidence would justify. (In fact, I suspect that’s why he invented memes, so that religion can be explained as a parasite, which evolved to benefit the fictitious entity “meme,” rather than as a selected-for trait that evolved for our benefit.)

  8. #8 Tyler DiPietro
    January 30, 2010

    tl;dr

  9. #9 Anonymous
    January 30, 2010

    @#7: Wow. Where to start?

    Dawkins’s philosophical arguments (that is, whether he actually disproves the philosophical possibility of God)

    I don’t recall him trying to disprove the possibility. In fact, I recall him saying in an interview that of course it’s possible that god exists, it’s just not very bloody likely. -2 for misrepresentation/straw man.

    As far as actually existing religion goes, Dawkins relies almost exclusively on what people say they believe. There is already a fairly rich literature telling us there’s a discrepancy between what people say and how they behave . . .

    So I’m not to rely on what you tell me you believe? You’re lying to me? That’s not very nice.
    But I know what you mean. I’ve run into this discrepancy in discussing religion with fundamentalist christians. Their arguments immediately devolve into quotes from scripture and sophistry. I’ve never met one who successfully resolved this conflict.

    I think it’s this very conflict, also known as hypocrisy, that makes religious people so repulsive to many atheists, e.g., the people that are self-righteously protesting abortion that have no problem with having an abortion themselves, or their daughter having one to protect the family reputation. And those that have no problem blowing up abortion clinics, murdering doctors and nurses, while preaching “thou shalt not kill.”

    Why Dawkins and his supporters should be positively phobic about treating religiosity as a real-world phenomenon with real-world complications, I don’t know.

    And I don’t know what you’re talking about. The real world complications of religiosity, such as those I just mentioned above and hundreds of others, are exactly what Dawkins and his supporters are always talking about. If people kept their goddamned religion to themselves instead of a) trying to impose it on others, b) using it as an excuse to murder people, c) using it as an excuse to subjugate women, d) and on and on and on, then Dawkins would have never been moved to write such a book.

    Sheesh!

    And now on to the comment I originally wanted to make:

    That was great! Thanks, ERV! I have the sudden urge to watch Fantasia again.

  10. #10 Fitz
    January 30, 2010

    I have the sudden urge to watch Fantasia again.

    and I have the urge to watch The Neverending Story.

  11. #11 Tyler DiPietro
    January 30, 2010

    ‘How exactly is “meme” an improvement over “idea?”‘

    This is a loaded question. Memes are a succinct way to think about ideas and their proliferation. Whether there will ever be an empirical science of memetics or not, I don’t know. But thinking of ideas as selfish replicators that vary stochastically can yield some insights into the behavior of, e.g., online communities.

  12. #12 Chayanov
    January 31, 2010

    Who are you talking about?

    People I’ve had that exact argument with.

    I ask because I don’t recall ever having seen this argument made.

    Your limited experiences are not my problem.

    But I can’t recall anyone saying “My personal belief is much too sophisticated to be susceptible to Dawkins’s arguments.”

    These same people have made, almost verbatim, that comment.

    As for the rest, I agree: tl;dr

  13. #13 Oran Kelley
    January 31, 2010

    This is a loaded question. Memes are a succinct way to think about ideas and their proliferation. Whether there will ever be an empirical science of memetics or not, I don’t know. But thinking of ideas as selfish replicators that vary stochastically can yield some insights into the behavior of, e.g., online communities.

    Online communities are made up of entities we already know exist, people. Why not explain the proliferation of ideas via what we know about them rather than inventing this notional entity?

  14. #14 Shirakawasuna
    January 31, 2010

    Oran Kelley, your last question is like asking why natural selection is a useful idea, it’s just populations changing with respect to environmental pressures, right? Why not just describe them!?

    The obvious answer, if you actually *tried* thinking about this and learning about it, is that the abstraction is a good descriptor and useful in communicating an idea.

  15. #15 Tyler DiPietro
    January 31, 2010

    “Why not explain the proliferation of ideas via what we know about them rather than inventing this notional entity?”

    If you want to focus on the people and their characteristics, then you would do that. If you want to focus on the ideas themselves, then much is gained by looking at them as entities in their own right with their behavioral characteristics. Remember the necker cube metaphor from The Selfish Gene.

  16. #16 Oran Kelley
    January 31, 2010

    There are very good reasons why the Selfish Gene is a useful metaphor and the Selfish Meme is not. Heredity proceeds by rules which we can discern, and from recognition of the *process* we posit an entity to which that recognizable process is attached. At first the entity is notional, then, later, we see it. And we even notionally think of the thing as having interests. All fine.

    With memes we’ve got . . . a process of propagation, recombination and mutation that we really don’t understand very well, involving vessels–us–that we don’t understand very well. So we have little grip on the process or processes here . . . what makes us think we can posit a new entity?

    Because it makes social behavior easier to explain in an ad hoc sort of way (because it hugely oversimplifies the phenomenon)?

    It would seem to me that the appropriate metaphor would be man positing God when unable to explain lightning or the origins of the earth or his own mortality.

    Easier, perhaps, but wrong.

  17. #17 Oran Kelley
    January 31, 2010

    People I’ve had that exact argument with.

    Oh, thanks for clarifying. Would these people be willing to say anything I’d like people to have said, or do they only do it for you?

  18. #18 Chayanov
    January 31, 2010

    Would these people be willing to say anything I’d like people to have said, or do they only do it for you?

    Is it really that hard for you to concede that some people out there do believe that sort of thing? Your comment says far more about you than it does me.

  19. #19 Tyler DiPietro
    January 31, 2010

    “Because it makes social behavior easier to explain in an ad hoc sort of way (because it hugely oversimplifies the phenomenon)?”

    It’s an old principle in statistics that “oversimplification” depends on the application (e.g., how principal components are needed to preserve X amount of information?). Memes target a high level of abstraction, they merely look at ideas and their reproductive success. There are a bajillion other processes involved that are abstracted away, but that’s often the point.

  20. #20 Oran Kelley
    January 31, 2010

    Is it really that hard for you to concede that some people out there do believe that sort of thing? Your comment says far more about you than it does me.

    Do I believe someone out there believes that? Sure, someone believes about everything. Do I believe that this belief is common enough to merit complaining about it as you did in the passage I quoted? No. That’s why I asked. Because I hadn’t seen anyone say this, but I had seen several people misread Terry Eagleton’s review of Dawkins in just this manner.

    Could be I’m wrong and people saying what you say they say are thick on the ground, but neither of us can come up with an example, apparently.

  21. #21 Oran Kelley
    January 31, 2010

    reproductive success

    Evidence that ideas reproduce rather than are produced, like, say, pennies? Begs the question.

    The problem with memes is that it “abstracts out” or elides what matters, just as God elides the actual causes of natural phenomena. Man trades an honest and possibly productive “I don’t know yet” for the illusory satisfaction of an erroneous answer.

  22. #22 Tyler DiPietro
    January 31, 2010

    “Evidence that ideas reproduce rather than are produced, like, say, pennies?”

    Ideas can be imitated to varying degrees of fidelity rather than being generated ex nihilo. This could be seen as a form of reproduction with imperfect heredity.

    “The problem with memes is that it “abstracts out” or elides what matters, just as God elides the actual causes of natural phenomena.”

    And fans of Spinoza use God as a metaphor for the combination of all natural causes.

    Memes don’t elide anything particularly important when looking at the reproductive success of an acronym like “LOL” or its manifold descendants (.e.g., “lawl”, “lulz”, “lollers”, etc.). If you want to look into causal history, memes won’t tell you much, just like genes won’t tell you much about extinction events or other contingencies. Like I said, it all depends on the application.

  23. #23 Chayanov
    January 31, 2010

    Could be I’m wrong and people saying what you say they say are thick on the ground, but neither of us can come up with an example, apparently.

    Okay, I see the confusion. You’re looking for an argument from authority (“Well, Terry Eagleton doesn’t say this” — who said he did? I certainly never did), whereas I’m talking about actually interacting with people outside of blogs.

    You don’t believe I had such conversations. I don’t record my conversations just to satisfy doubters. So, you can remain smugly ignorant, and I can move on.

  24. #24 Oran Kelley
    February 1, 2010

    Okay, I see the confusion. You’re looking for an argument from authority (“Well, Terry Eagleton doesn’t say this” — who said he did?

    No, what I’m looking for is called an “example.” Like when I say there’s black swans all over the place and you say, “Show me some.” They don’t have to be authoritative swans, just a few prominent examples.

    You don’t believe I had such conversations. I don’t record my conversations just to satisfy doubters. So, you can remain smugly ignorant, and I can move on.

    Oh, so you’re bullshitting. Why didn’t you say so a long time ago?

  25. #25 Oran Kelley
    February 1, 2010

    Ideas can be imitated to varying degrees of fidelity rather than being generated ex nihilo. This could be seen as a form of reproduction with imperfect heredity.

    Well this is true of a lot of things that are reproduced in the non-biological sense. Like sound recordings, say. The reproduction of ideas as an imperfect, analog and creative process would seem to me to be a much more plausible explanation than ideas being quasi-biological entities.

    And fans of Spinoza use God as a metaphor for the combination of all natural causes.

    But when a Spinozist tries to impose theological concepts on nature, rather than imposing materialism on our concept of the divine, I think we agree there is a problem. And along with the metaphor of memes comes an entire explanatory framework (gene’s eye evolutionary aparatus) that I see no reason to apply to this object.

    Memes don’t elide anything particularly important when looking at the reproductive success of an acronym like “LOL” or its manifold descendants (.e.g., “lawl”, “lulz”, “lollers”, etc.). If you want to look into causal history, memes won’t tell you much, just like genes won’t tell you much about extinction events or other contingencies. Like I said, it all depends on the application.

    I guess one question would be what DOES the mimetic theory tell you. Certainly the variations on a hot word are explained pretty well by linguistics. The mere fact of propagation doesn’t seem to require a theory of quasi-biological idea reproduction. Many things are propagated in a culture. I just don’t see what memes contribute.

    When you are looking at things like LOL, you are getting down to a kind of cultural phenomena that very few people have the patience to study–there’s always something like LOL and the particularities of them often just don’t have that much apparent significance. (Heil Hitler or Peace and the like being not entirely ephemeral exceptions.) In other words, I’m saying you could rewind history, replace LOL with some other acronym and history would play out much the same. The content of such cultural ephemera doesn’t seem to matter as much as the fact that it is shared within communities and acts as a kind of signal or bond among that community and sometimes blows up way beyond it, as with LOL.

    The place to start studying something like this is with human subcultures and how they work, moving up to sociality in mass culture, how it works, how people develop feelings of belonging and fulfillment through things like new words, and new TV shows, and new celebrities that are famous for being famous. This is the ground on which we build our sense of shared experience and commonality.

    Are there qualities in these things that make them more appropriate to play this role? Sure, I doubt a 127-letter compound word in German is going to become the new Californian catch-phrase. And some people DO seem to be able to ride the zeitgeist with amazing skill, but that comes from knowing about people, and applying that knowledge to ideas. Not the other way around.

    Giving the idea primacy in this sort of study is a mistake.

    For people who study (at least what once seemed) relatively uncomplicated things like genes, I can see the temptation to reduce cultural phenomena to something whose rules we already know. But cultural phenomena are a people thing, involving human history, human struggles, human hopes, human volition, human willfulness and human arbitrariness.

    All of this is, I’m sure, determined, but the forces at work at at a whole other level of complexity than those working on the genes of species with nothing or little in the way of culture.

  26. #26 Prometheus
    February 1, 2010

    Oran Kelley @ #25

    Don’t you find it a bit facile to reduce memetics to some sort of popular intellectualized masturbatory study of keyboard cat?

    I understand your position and you state it well but it seems to make a formal criticism of a casual application. There also seems to be an implication that Dawkins claims genetics and memetics are substitutable as opposed tothe use of one as a workable model for the other. He does not and never has made such a claim.

    It is unclear how a compelling criticism can be made by disregarding how useful the proposition of memes has been in most academic taxonomies. At the time Dawkins proposed the model there had been a decade of fishing about in behavioral science, two decades in literary criticism god-knows-how-long in linguistics (at least since 1876), anthropology, ethnology etc. for descriptors of the sort Dawkins achieved in a fell swoop.

    Epigrammatic repetitive sticky-dataesque self confirming leitmotifish Saussurean linguistic signs which may or may not have an epideixic and or pictographic component or be entirely limited to the latter….is a little top heavy, gives no clue as to how they disseminate and are not necessarily more accurate descriptively than…. meme.

    I have a lot of criticisms of Dawkins’ writing style* and think he leaves himself wide open as a self-appointed firebrand for a great many legalistic and philosophical sucker punches.

    But memetics is sheer brilliance.

    His meme proposal was remarkably insightful, has resolved innumerable impasses in innumerable disciplines and just because it was as predictive of the fleetingly absurd as it has been of the providentially profound, does not detract from the contribution in the slightest.

    *some complex propositions can’t be simplified without rendering them incorrect or incomplete but they don’t become more accessible by merely repeating them a dozen times using different examples. I know he and Hofstadter are pals but Dawkins can’t do what Hofstadter does and needs to give it a friggin rest.

  27. #27 Tyler DiPietro
    February 1, 2010

    The reproduction of ideas as an imperfect, analog and creative process would seem to me to be a much more plausible explanation than ideas being quasi-biological entities.”

    This sounds a lot like the usual objection that the evolutionary processes involved in culture are Lamarckian instead of Darwinian. I suppose that in general, it is true, since idea propagation can’t be made fully discrete. However, enough of it resembles a passive and discrete process that you can look at it as such. I chose “LOL” as an example because it’s overwhelming success comes mostly from people passively passing it along.

    “I guess one question would be what DOES the mimetic theory tell you. Certainly the variations on a hot word are explained pretty well by linguistics. The mere fact of propagation doesn’t seem to require a theory of quasi-biological idea reproduction.”

    This may be a source of confusion. Memes aren’t strictly “required” for anything as of now, they are merely a convenient notion that provides a different perspective. Ideas themselves are discrete entities, their frequencies change due to a selective process. You don’t have to invoke it, but I think this is a place where Dawkins necker cube metaphor takes on particular relevance.

  28. #28 Oran Kelley
    February 1, 2010

    Don’t you find it a bit facile to reduce memetics to some sort of popular intellectualized masturbatory study of keyboard cat?

    Well, yes & no. I think these sorts of phenomena present the strongest case for memes as they have the fewest human interest implications, which I think is why Tyler proposed it.

    I’m agreed that folks studying cultural phenomena were taking a confusing array of approaches . . . but I don’t think that’s too terrible a thing when the object you are dealing with is large and variegated. Natural History took a number of distinct approaches, as well, some of which merged, some of which fell by the wayside, some of which became extremely important over many decades of study.

    One thing with memes is that it seems to be an effort to short circuit this process by essentially importing a method out of the natural sciences into the social sciences.

    You say it’s a metaphor, but my concern is that it isn’t a productive one on balance.

    Memes have “resolved innumerable impasses in innumerable disciplines.” Do you have a couple of examples? I’d be interested to see how.

    What I question is that, at this time, a fundamental cultural unit is something that we need to be thinking about very much, and that the drive to do so represents a net loss for our understanding of culture.

  29. #29 Gabriel Hanna
    February 1, 2010

    I have no problem with the idea of memes, but I think people should be on guard against misapplying it. There is always the temptation to misuse the idea to try to discredit an argument without applying it, by talking about the argument’s mimetic properties instead of the argument.

    For example, I might say I believe that for this reason and that reason I believe in X. And you might respond, that the only reason I believe in X is because the meme has these properties. Kind of like when people psychoanalyze their opponents rather than engage them, we’ve all seen people do that.

  30. #30 Sven DiMilo
    February 1, 2010

    How exactly is “meme” an improvement over “idea?”

    It’s a broader category. A meme is anything that is passed along culturally. Catchphrases, melodies, ideas, prejudices, and stories are all memes.

  31. #31 Prometheus
    February 1, 2010

    Oran Kelley@#28

    “Memes have “resolved innumerable impasses in innumerable disciplines.” Do you have a couple of examples? I’d be interested to see how.”

    Sure, lets take one from lit crit that bleeds over into sociology and anthropology with a rail siding in linguistics.

    While Roland Barthes pioneered the application of persistent cultural mythologies including propositions as varied as soap commercials and the public perception of the operation of genius (the meat grinder of Einstein’s brain)Semiotics is left with a huge collection of repetitive signifiers or Saussurean background noise which is only effectively adressed by the proposition and propagation of memes.

    You can dismiss this if you want but if you do every African American studies department in the U.S. would like a word with you in the alley.

    Memes also come in very handy with source documents. For example:

    “I think this 17th century diarist is using an extended metaphor but I can’t parse it because it just seems to be a tangle of colloquialisms.”

    If you are able to compare the diarist to other writers to identify and remove what only conforms to memes i.e. monkeys, magpies and millstones (Elizabethan lulz) or charms,hookers,draw latches and cross biters (Elizabethan spam)you can see the extended metaphor as well as identify class, area, audience and character of the writer because you know what sticky data (memes) propel him or her.

    As a “fundamental cultural unit” (whatever that means) memes are easily unpacked overnight bags forgotten at depots along the whole of our historical express line.”Carthago delenda est!” is a meme. Picture the contents of that little grip. If you think unpacking this luggage is a “net loss for our understanding of culture” then that doesn’t make you a critic it makes you a snob.

    Now did you actually find that interesting?

    I suspect you were just being snide but I played along in case you weren’t and because it might interest someone else.

  32. #32 Oran Kelley
    February 1, 2010

    While Roland Barthes pioneered the application of persistent cultural mythologies including propositions as varied as soap commercials and the public perception of the operation of genius (the meat grinder of Einstein’s brain)Semiotics is left with a huge collection of repetitive signifiers or Saussurean background noise which is only effectively adressed by the proposition and propagation of memes.

    The main problem with Barthes work (and Saussure’s) is that it just isn’t all that good as cultural analysis or as a basis for cultural analysis. Trying to complete their project is like trying to complete Lamarck’s.

    And simply saying memes address the deficiencies of semiotics doesn’t tell us anything. Which deficiencies? How?

    As a “fundamental cultural unit” (whatever that means)

    The archetypal replicator is a gene, a stretch of DNA that is duplicated, nearly always with extreme accuracy, through an indefinite number of generations. The central question for meme theory is whether there are units of cultural imitation which behave as true replicators, like genes. I am not saying that memes necessarily are close analogues of genes, only that the more like genes they are, the better will meme theory work . . .–Dawkins

    As genes are the fundamental genetic copying unit, so the ideal meme is the fundamental cultural copying unit.

    If you think unpacking this luggage is a “net loss for our understanding of culture” then that doesn’t make you a critic it makes you a snob.

    Now that’s a bit of a leap! What I’m saying is that there is no bag. Never was one. And that the notion that culture is divided into these convenient, discrete units for your unpacking is completely illusory.

    Culture just isn’t very much like DNA.

    If you are able to compare the diarist to other writers to identify and remove what only conforms to memes i.e. monkeys, magpies and millstones (Elizabethan lulz) or charms,hookers,draw latches and cross biters (Elizabethan spam)you can see the extended metaphor as well as identify class, area, audience and character of the writer because you know what sticky data (memes) propel him or her.

    None of this seems to me to require the idea of memes, and I can’t see how the idea even helps. Knowledge of the commonplaces and context is essential to any worthwhile interpretation of something like a centuries old diary. Has someone produced a novel interpretation of an already well-known Elizabethan diary using memetics?

  33. #33 William Wallace
    February 2, 2010

    I read Dawkin’s Delusion, twice, in which Dawkin’s wields his double edge sword as though it only cut one way. Barely worth a rebuttal. I hear it is popular with “F*** you, Dad” part time gentiles, though.

  34. #34 Prometheus
    February 2, 2010

    Oran Kelley@#32

    “The main problem with Barthes work (and Saussure’s) is that it just isn’t all that good as cultural analysis or as a basis for cultural analysis. Trying to complete their project is like trying to complete Lamarck’s.”

    That’s another facile dismissal and has the additional quality of not being not true at all i.e. yanked out of your keester. I really have no intention of providing you with examples until you grow bored with inventing fake objections, find the one that suits your particular palate or until the sun burns out. I get enough of that crap with christian apologists and don’t intend to be the barn while you play Texas Sharpshooter. Stamina and rectitude are not the same thing.

    “As genes are the fundamental genetic copying unit, so the ideal meme is the fundamental cultural copying unit.”

    This conclusion has a lot to say about your presumption of classical forms. So much so that it completely disregards the paragraph that proceeds it.

    Having read your blog I am beginning to believe you are prepared to dismiss any aspect or application of Dawkins’ work on the basis of it being from Dawkins.

    If you want to impeach him there are better ways to do that.

    Dawkins and Meyers, for instance, have a bias similar to yours against Von Haeckel. While Von Haeckel’s recapitulation theory among others is horrifically wrong and has done a ton of damage, they engage in the pretense he was of no value to the dissemination of evolutionary theory because he poses problems for them in debates.

    Kunstformen der Natur and other illustrated taxonomies contain recitations of the fundamentals of darwinian evolution and were far more common in science libraries (because of their astounding beauty) than Darwin’s own books for quite some time. Pretending Von Haeckel was not one of Darwin’s best publicists because he was somewhat nuts is intellectually dishonest.

    God Delusion was certainly self indulgent, simplistic and preachy and I understand that a lot of people were butthurt over it especially the accommodationista but it is hardly a basis for concocting a dismissal of an entire body of work dating back forty years.

    Going after memetics because you find the originator strident is like throwing Goethe’s Nachlass on the fire because you found a letter that omitted an umlaut.

    It is the uniquely unctuous form of dishonest self congratulatory criticism that Terry Eagleton (Roman Catholic Marxist Millionaire) throws off in sickly sweet miasmac clouds.

    Eagleton’s dismissal of the form or basis upon which someone chooses to express atheism is as absurd as accusing someone who is not playing chess of cheating at chess.

    William Wallace@#33

    shut up.

  35. #35 Sven DIMilo
    February 2, 2010

    Dawkins and Meyers, for instance, have a bias similar to yours against Von Haeckel. While Von Haeckel’s recapitulation theory among others is horrifically wrong and has done a ton of damage, they engage in the pretense he was of no value to the dissemination of evolutionary theory because he poses problems for them in debates.

    Assuming you meant “Myers,” wrong on both counts.
    Myers on Haeckel:

    Nowadays, it seems that the only time anyone brings up that name is in the context of his failed theory of the biogenetic law, but that’s hardly fair. He was an energetic and influential figure in the history of developmental biology, and he was responsible for synthesizing many of the scattered observations of experimentalists and natural historians into a more coherent and universal set of explanations for animal development.

    Dawkiuns on Haeckel.

    That took about 10 seconds of googling.

  36. #36 Prometheus
    February 2, 2010

    Myers on Haeckel:

    “Ernst Haeckel was an enthusiastic promoter of evolutionary theory in the late 19th century.”

    Followed by four paragraphs of intense bitching about how much recapitulation screws things up and gets used against him as ammunition by creationists.

    He does this over and over again, keep googling.

    Dawkiuns (I assume you meant Dawkins… Mr Kettle) on Haeckel.

    Did you actually read the passage you linked describing the Darwin meeting as irksome and making Von Haeckel sound like a Beatles fan sleeping on Ringo’s porch with an autograph book.

    For the record that didn’t happen. Von Haeckel in August of 1866 presented Darwin with a copy of the “Generelle Morphologie” which he dedicated in part to Darwin.

    Darwin’s response, “You confer on my book, the Origin of Species, the most magnificent eulogium which it has ever received.”

    Neither of them wants to acknowledge Von Haeckel’s prominence as the powerhouse of German zoology for forty years and both crawfish in a heartbeat over the embryo illustrations as if he was doctoring a photograph as opposed to seeing what he wanted to see as an illustrator.

    While biologists are lavishly prepared to give Darwin the license of context they are just as prepared to hang the whole of the wrong turns, eugenics, racism and genocide done in evolution’s name on contemporaries like Von Haeckel.

    But wait, you know this.

    Don’t be oblique.

  37. #37 Oran Kelley
    February 2, 2010

    That’s another facile dismissal and has the additional quality of not being not true at all i.e. yanked out of your keester. I really have no intention of providing you with examples until you grow bored with inventing fake objections, find the one that suits your particular palate or until the sun burns out. I get enough of that crap with christian apologists and don’t intend to be the barn while you play Texas Sharpshooter. Stamina and rectitude are not the same thing.

    Sorry, just never found Saussure’s work or Barthes to be particularly insightful or useful. I don’t think this is an uncommon opinion.

    BTW: I have a lot of issues with Dawkins, but I don’t deny everything he’s ever said. He’s written some of my favorite books, and he’s deserves credit for bringing the work of Williams, Price & hamilton to life. But he’s got a real problem with religion, which I’m fairly certain accounts for memes.

    And if you “great breakthroughs of memetics” can’t withstand scrutiny, fine. We’ll leave it at that. I left my waders at home, anyhow.

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