The ‘meme’ delusion

A meme is a disembodied idea. However – an idea is only has reality if carried out in the material world. The brain = the vehicle. The meme concept arose out of the ‘selfish gene’ concept.

Meme theory = memetics – extends Darwinian evolution to include cultural processes, as well as genetic ones. Memes – therefore – propagate themselves in a meme pool, by leaping from brain to brain in an attempt to extend natural selection beyond the evolution of the species.

Meme theory = reductionism attempting to lever a particular biological process, based upon heredity, mutation and selection among organisms – into fields where it does not belong.

Meme theory = a way of explaining cultural evolution in sociobiological terms. Meme theory – reduces human beings to ‘meme machines’, with no free will or consciousness. Humans become mere hosts used by memes so they can replicate themselves.

Ideas – originate in human engagement with the material world. Human beings are not ‘machines’ or ‘passive hosts. Ideas survive because they have a material basis. To understand culture – need to understand its background the processes of history and class based power.

Therefore – the major transformations of human society are brought about by development of productive forces. This is the basis from which the ideological superstructure arises. Ideas – spread because we are social animals that grow up in an ideological context.

Meme theory = dehumanising, an expression of social pessimism and anti-humanism. Real humans – are not passive machines hosting passive memes.

Criticism of meme theory = the cumulative evolution of genes depends on biological selection pressures. There is no reason to think that the same balance will exist in the selection pressures on memes. Therefore – meme theory is a pseudo-scientific dogma. It is a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution. Memetics = reductionist and inadequate.


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