Talk:Memetics/Archive 1

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Susan Blackmore has recently mentioned [1] the term teme, defining it loosely as a replicator of a higher level than a meme. I tried to find a better description through google but failed. Does anyone know of a definition, examples, or an more information, particularly how it relates to memetics? 21:20, 22 October 2007 (UTC)

( I have to answer a captcha to answer a legit question on a talk page??? ) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:06, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Early talk, appears mostly 2002-4

Nearly every time I've heard memes and memetics mentioned, by philosophers and by others, it has been scoffingly. At least two of the complaints I vaguely recall is that it's just a pseudo-scientific fad and that it's an example of academic imperialism at its worst. A commonly made point is that biologists just aren't trained to think about culture and so naturally the whole notion is facile. Now, I am not saying this in order to get into a debate about these accusations--I'm saying them in order to try to get someone to add some such evaluations to the article. I'm not the person, because I personally don't know anything of significance about memetics (for all I know, I'd be the most avid memetics supporter, if I learned more about it; or I might end up supporting the views I just mentioned). I also have no idea how common the above criticisms are or whether they are fair. All of these things I don't know are important knowledge to have in presenting this issue as part of the article. But I do believe that the issue needs to be presented, either here or as part of the meme article.

Eh? Douglas Hoffstadter and Daniel Dennet are both very influential philosophers. (D.H. is actually principally a cognitive scientist who dabbles in philosophy.) And both have a very deep understanding of what science is. They both take memetics seriously, if only provisionally.
There are a lot of philosophers who still dismiss materialism too. That doesn't mean materialism isn't a valid, superior even, point of view from a scientific standpoint. I'm willing to bet that the same philosophers who dismiss memetics tend to be dualists and "scoff" at materialism too. --Brentt 08:52, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

By the way, we need to decide carefully really belongs in the meme article and what belongs in the memetics article. They can overlap, but as a first guess, I would say that the meme article should be about memes, while the memetics article should be about memetics.  :-) --LMS

I think of memes and memetics as the arch-example of scientism, the idea that the *methods* of the natural sciences (as opposed to the *insights* thereof) are appropriate to all things, but then again too much of the 'sociobiology' I've heard in public is biologists talking about society rather than anything more substantive. --MichaelTinkler

You mean "methods of science" like honest observation, rational discussion, rigorous testing? If those aren't appropriate tools for studying society, then I weep for its future. --LDC

Well. Let's start with "testing". Who's going to conduct the human experimentation to see if memetics works at a societal level. We're not talking about college students pressing buttons in a cognitive science lab, here! It's much more like the legend of Frederick II Hohenstaufen having orphan children raised without human speech to see what language they would turn out to speak (the Adamic language was the theory). --MichaelTinkler

Argument from lack-of-imagination is less than convincing. Yes, it's difficult to imagine ways to test societal influences, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Good after-the-fact analysis is one way (comparing similar cultures to determine the effects of a few variable); computer simulation is another. --LDC

indeed, lack-of-imagination is not convincing, but neither is the idea that there can be a few variables between similar cultures. Ants seem to work that way (what I've read about Wilson on ants is very convincing -- I was much less convinced by Wilson on the death penalty) but the evidence from anthropology is more recalcitrant. To begin with, observer phenomenon seldom seems to cause much trouble with ants.

Yes, it's very difficult. I understand why people often disdain "scientific" approaches to sociology, but what they generally mean to disdain is the jumping to conclusions by some over-eager human scientists on the basis of very limited data; things like evolutionary psychology can indeed be faulted for that. But the problem is not the scientific methods, but the natural human tendency to over-generalize from their results. The cure is greater adherence to the real principles of science--most significantly honesty and skepticism--not abandonment of them for other methods. --LDC

Current version of article says:

It tries to explain many very controversial subjects, like religions and political systems, using mathematical models.

How many studies of memetics have actually used mathematical models? I can't see why they couldn't be used, and I think I've even seen one or two papers attempting to construct these models for memetics; but 99% of the work on memetics I've seen has not used mathematical models. (It has mostly not even been applications of memetics, just arguments about the validity of memetics as an approach.) -- Simon J Kissane

The article defines memes as:

basic replicating unit of information

Can someone give me an example of a non-replicating unit of information? It seems to me that this definition reveals two fundamental problems with the notion of "memes": first, the term seems redundant (why not just call it "information?"); second, by invoking the model of "genes" it suggests that ideas or units of information reproduce themselves through mechanisms analogous to genetic reproduction.

Personally, the whole thing does smack of pseudoscience to me -- not because scientific methods are not appropriate to the study of humans (although the specific methods of specific sciences, like astronomy or molecular biology, may be inappropriate), but because it is really employing a metaphor to explain things. There may be something poetic about comparing ideas to genes, but making such comparisons hardly explain anything. In short, it doesn't sound like a theory to me, just an analogy.

I assume that there are people out there, including somewho have contributed to this article, who owuld disagree with me. I appeal to those people to clarify the definition of "meme" to make clear what this word adds to our conceptual tool-kit that is not already present in the phrase "idea," and, if possible, to explain a bit more how memetics is a scientific theory that has the power to explain things that people could not explain before the development of this theory, SR

How about adding a link to Viruses of the Mind ? susano 05:07 Sep 2, 2002 (PDT)

Since I can't conceive of a principled distinction between stuff to put in meme and stuff to put in memetics, I propose that we merge the two. I propose the merged article be called "memetics", because that seems a more encyclopedic name. Objections? --Ryguasu

"Meme" is the better name: although it is as yet an informal idea, it deserves its own article. "Memetics" suggests that there is an established science of memes, which there isn't as yet. If or when there is a science of memetics, we should have an article for it: at the moment, a sub-section in "meme" will be good enough for this. -- Anon

SR raises what he sees as two fundamental problems with the notion of memes: (a) that "meme" seems to be a redundant term, just another word for "information", and (b) the implicit notion that memes reproduce themselves through mechanisms analogous to genetic reproduction.

I think these are key questions, and it's difficult to see the article/s developing any further (or even just staying much as-is without controversy) unless there is some exploration of them. I'm sure that there are many answers to SR's questions. Here are mine. (For the sake of clarity and to stimulate thoughtful responses, these are over-simplified and shorn of "ifs" and "buts".)

(a) "Meme" is just another word for "information", the term is redundant. As a concept, yes: "meme" adds nothing. Gregory Bateson walked over all this territory many years ago, as did Marvin Harris. (Others to list here?) The one thing that is new about "memes" instead of "transmissible information" is that the term is intuitive: almost anyone can understand it. It seems to have neither the universal reach nor the subtlety of Bateson's formulation, but it is enormously more approachable. By recasting an old idea in a new and simple form, Dawkins took it out of the realm of obscure academic writing (if you have ever read Bateson in the original you'll know what I mean), and into the mainstream of human thought. This is its prime value.

[b) By invoking the model of "genes", "memes" suggest that ideas or units of information reproduce themselves through mechanisms analogous to genetic reproduction. Quite so. The question then becomes what is the harm in this? The immediate knee-jerk response is along the lines of "it is ridiculous to postulate that ideas and fashions and societies have genes and DNA chains, or anything remotely similar, therefore it is nonsense." But the mechanism by which information is encoded is irrelevant to the uses to which that information is put, and provided that the accuracy and reliability of reproduction is similar between any two different physical mechanisms, then for practical purposes we can ignore them. The actual encoding method, in other words, can for most purposes be regarded as a "black box" about which we need know nothing, so long as we know the degree to which we can rely on it. There is no better example of this than the development of the theory of natural selection. Darwin and Wallace knew nothing of genes, they had never heard of DNA or RNA, they had not the slightest clue as to how the giraffe embryo "knew" to grow a long neck, they simply observed that it did indeed grow a longer neck than the zebra embryo, and proceeded to formulate their wonderfully productive theories anyway - leaving the details of the physical mechanism for others to explore.

So far so good: we don't need to specify the encoding mechanism to think about "memes". We should not make the mistake, however, of taking the parallel too far. There is no particular reason why we should believe that a single, easily described encoding mechanism exits, or that it will be found in due course (we need not stand around waiting for the long-neglected papers of a 20th Century Gregor Mendel of The Mind to turn up). Information is stored, it is transmitted with varying degrees of success, it endures or does not endure. That is all. Whether we think of it as "memes" or in some other, broadly equivalent way becomes irrelevant from a purely scientific view, it's just putting different labels on the same black box. From a sociological or historical point of view, however, it is not irrelevant. Different formulations of ideas, different expressions of them, have different implications for action, change societies in different ways.

To summarise, I am suggesting that, strictly speaking, the term "meme" may very well be redundant, but that its usage is nevertheless important from a sociological point of view, especially as regards the sociology of science. Further, I suggest that the genetic analogy is best viewed not as a line of scientific enquiry, but as a tool used by scientists and others to persuade people to their point of view. In this regard, if no other, it is important and deserving of coverage in Wikipedia. Tannin 12:04 Jan 9, 2003 (UTC)

If there was a theory of memes, it might look something like this:

For over 99% of the human population, the attributes of an idea affect the transmission of this idea. The attributes will affect: (1) how likely an individual is to pass on the idea, (2) to whom the individual is likely pass the information, and (3) the manner in which the idea is transmitted.
If this theory is true, then it follows that:
  • Different designs of similar ideas will have different (or no) uses in society
  • It may be possible to make further theories matching idea attributes to transmission effects in a specific society
  • We can improve the quality of education by examining alterations to ideas that make them more likely to be assimilated by the student
If this theory is false, then it follows that:
  • Ideas are transmitted randomly, without regard to the attributes of the idea

Chira 23:27, 27 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Meme theory

Let's not be overly enthusiastic, here. It's not even certain that memetics is an accurate theory, or that it's even useful if it is, or just extra terminology. [2] --Maprovonsha172 19:54, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

The editors on this talk page have left excellent feedback on just that point. Personally, I wouldn't be critical of memetic theory at all, because I find it unfashionable to be critical of something that doesn't exist. Analogies are very different from testable statements. In its current state, memetics is useful for explaining and generating ideas, not for the laboratory. --Chira 20:04, 4 September 2005 (UTC)
Well there are the philosophers who produce only little of interest and then there are the scientists who can actually modell this. Memetics is a profound theory and in fact just as straightforward as evolution on a molecular scale. Clearly we live in a world constructed by our cortex, given that our profound understanding of the molecular world cannot account for such complex behavioral and societal patterns, to be so well conserved in a heritable fashion (gene expression via histone modification does have a minimal impact in this case) another explanation is required: How do we express such explanations? Well in scientific theories. How valid is this theory? Well i would say it is crystal clear that the requirement is valid also the outline - i mean it is really not that hard to come to the rational conclusion of the principle of memetics yourself. Where it starts to become interesting is of course once it is mathematically modelled, before it is just something that everyone is aware and everyone sees but isn`t really greatly influencing our world (in analogy to evolution, before the unraveling of the DNA molecule and it`s manipulation not much could be done). Once a profound memetics model exists its power is enormous: you could predict for instance how a religious movement like Intelligent-Design, influences the economy, where to invest, you could predict how over several generations wars and internal friction evolve and so forth. So in essence memetics can aid the modeling of society as a complex system and reduce the data significantly - because you can now clearly separate the superfluous social fragments from the meaningful conserved memes and their likelyhood of conservation (weighting etc.).
How important is something like that: Well a good model (imagine a "weather modeling", of our societal world means enormous power, preventive action and so forth. It sounds counterintuitive at first, but you should by now have seen memes everywhere (that is in short - conserved societal fragments). I am not studying memes, but am someone who sees their importance and ultimately came to the same concept/conclusion, before i ever read of memetics.
Slicky 10:06, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

To do list exported from "meme."

The To Do list at Talk:meme suggested these points should be covered, pertaining to Memetics: (Kaisershatner 15:51, 11 January 2006 (UTC))

  • explain how culture was analysed before we had memetics;
  • explain what memetics was able to explain or analyze that other methods could not;
  • explain why memetic was controversial when it appeared; explain when and how it gained (if it did) true scientific support -- it's a relatively new concept, and it still looks like pseudo-science to many. The article as it stands now (oct 2, 2004) assumes from the definition until the end that memetics is a scientific field in its own with no discussion whatsoever about controversies surrounding it;
  • describe how memetics helps in discussing the possibilities of conscious social/cultural evolution; it being analogous to evolution of biological organisms but with an improvement(?) on natures's hit-and-miss model.
  • about applications: better distinguish natural selection of the meme itself (when confronted with other memes), vs selection of its "host", and explain how memetics help in both cases (or not);

The Game

  1. You are playing The Game
  2. Whenever you think about The Game, you lose.
  3. Loss must be announced.

My links to The Game (game) keep getting removed. This game has obvious memetic properties and is potentially the ultimate meme. Its spread is being used to study various aspects of memetics. --Anon.

Potentially the ultimate meme? Are you even listening to yourself? --maru

(talk) contribs 05:21, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

Yes, obviously there are more successful memes (at the moment). But The Game only exists because of its memetic potential. An even simpler meme game would be this.

Maybe if we wanted to do a section on "popular memes" or "examples" or something to that effect then it could be included but as of right now we don't have that section so it should not be included. Fatrb38 (talk) 08:52, 5 February 2009 (UTC)

The Game Tree Project

The Game Tree Project has been set up to monitor the memetic transmission of The Game, an interesting meme than only exists because of its inherent memetic properties. My addition of this link to this article keeps getting removed, does anyone else feel this link will be of interest to people reading about memetics?

No. --maru (talk) contribs 23:01, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
I think it's OK to have that link in your comment in the talk page. If someone's *really* interested, they can find it there. Otherwise, please don't fill up articles w/ spam. Thanks. - JustinWick 19:07, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Memes & non-human animals

Has any thought been put towards the transmission of memes from, to and between non-human animals. Much of our technology was probably inspired by animals e.g. Aeroplanes from birds, but most of this information is a physical characteristic of the animal rather than a mental construct. However, when one animal learns a behavioural response from another, this is surely a form of memetic transmission. It is also likely that a number of human memes (not necessarily still 'alive' today) were aquired from watching the learned behaviour of an animal. Kernow 02:05, 2 March 2006 (UTC)

A lot of animal behaviour is not learned but is innate from their genes. However there are acceptions, dolphins and some primates such as chimpanzees are able to pass on a limited amount of behaviour, and even some of the more intelligent birds. As for humans learning a meme from birds regarding flight, this is not correct. Memes associated with flight would have originated in humans after observation of birds and experiments and then passed on by word of mouth, books etc... --Hontogaichiban 02:37, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, if you re-read what I said, I agree that learning to fly from the observation of birds does not count as a meme in the bird because it is a physical characteristic. However, memes are not limited to behaviour but to any information. This means that it is not just 'smart' animals that have memes. I have had a similar discission on the Meme talk page, where I used bees as an example. The famous waggle dance of honey bees conveys information regarding the location of food sources to other bees. Why is this information not memetic? Kernow 00:41, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Appeal for Assistance

I'm working on a wikibook but am stuck on the ideological foundation section of the book which describes government institutions as parasitic memeplexes which could be replaced by an alternative model based loosely on concepts borrowed from The Cathedral and the Bazaar, the GNU movement(particularly wiki), and the decentralized nature of the scientific community.

Any assistance of any kind would be sincerely appreciated.

--Wikitopian 17:09, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Poor quality of Memetics page and editors

I have to say, I'm very disappointed in this article and the quality of discussion this page. Memetics is well accepted in the UK at least. To a major extent it is as self-evident as evolution. As far as I'm aware the only people that scoff at memetics are the Christian far-right and various pseudo-scientists. Where are all the evolutionary psychologists? --Hontogaichiban 02:42, 21 May 2006 (UTC)

Actual psychologists tend to scoff at memes, too. It's basically pop psychology. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:12, 30 April 2009 (UTC)
Probably off working on/defending the evolutionary psychology pages; it's not at all universally accepted, especially in the US. --maru (talk) contribs 05:25, 21 May 2006 (UTC)

That's hardly surprising as so many Americans can't even understand evolution - an even more self-evident concept. I guess my point here is that the more ignorant half of the US shouldn't hold back and article for a concept that has so much support in the rest of the world.--Hontogaichiban 12:14, 21 May 2006 (UTC)

Agreed it is a self-evident as evolution but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's well accepted in the UK. A lot of peope have a problem with the ontological nature of memes. I think this stems from confusion between microbiology genes (i.e. cistrons) and evolutionary biology genes, which, like memes, don't have a distinct physical existence. Most people think that evolutionary genes refer to specific sections of DNA, which makes them easier to believe in. I think people find it hard to put faith into a science based on abstract concepts. Kernow 00:49, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

It's typical though of this sociological fluff that the excellent self publicist dawkins propagated for a time, before it all went down the drain where it should have been to begin with, that people calling this for what it is, irrelevant, pointless, etc. etc. and despite the vast majority of academia ignoring it, you get people branding others "far right christians" and "pseudo scientists". Whil e the actual fringe pseudo science are the memes itself. And let me correct the previous contributor here, by saying that plenty of people have put a lot of faith in sciences of abstract concepts, namely all sociologists, just not when the "concepts" where so very dimwited and hopelessly naive as here. And you tell from a mile that this page has been written from a few of the joe's still dealing with memes, which is so ironic to think that the meme theory wasn't a strong meme enough and will soon slip into oblivion, lol. This paragagraphs alone is laugh out loud funny, how it tries too hard initially to paint a rosy picture and by it's end it's pretty much evident the five people ever seriously having dealt with memes would rather forget it. Forgive my quoting it here, but it's worth it, for the laughs: "In 2005, the Journal of Memetics – Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission ceased publication and published a set of "obituaries" for memetics. This was not intended to suggest that there can be no further work on memetics, but that the exciting childhood of memetics, which began in 1996, is finally drawing to a close, and that memetics will have to survive or become extinct in terms of the results it can generate for the field of cultural evolution. Memetics as a social, Internet-fuelled popular scientific movement is now probably over. Many of the original proponents have moved away from it. Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett have both expressed some reservations as to its applicability[citation needed], Susan Blackmore has left the University of the West of England to become a freelance science writer and now concentrates more on the field of consciousness and cognitive science. Derek Gatherer moved to work as a computer programmer in the pharmaceutical industry, although he still occasionally publishes on memetics-related matters. Richard Brodie is now climbing the world professional poker rankings. Aaron Lynch disowned the memetics community and the words "meme" and "memetics" (without disowning the ideas in his book), and is reported to have died in late 2005." 06:38, 1 February 2007 (UTC) 06:31, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Reference on Measurement

Measurement is indeed a serious challenge for memetics; I suspect that this is in part due to a lack of research methodologists within the memetics community (although this is merely my own impression, and not something which should be propagated to the page). At risk of self-advocacy, I and a co-author published a substantive paper on this topic in 2003; the citation is Butts, C.T. and Hilgeman, C. 2003. "Inferring Potential Memetic Structure from Cross-Sectional Data: An Application to American Religious Beliefs." Journal of Memetics, 7. This paper demonstrates a statistical approach which can be used to identify certain types of latent structures which are potentially memetic in character. This identification is not conclusive (additional analyses are needed to confirm transmissibility), and it cannot recognize all potential memetic structures. On the other hand, the approach can be used with cross-sectional data (which is quite abundant), and is intended as a preliminary "screening" tool for identifying latent memetic structure. Not the last word on the topic, by any means, but hopefully a step in the right direction.

I am hesitant to add something about this to the page, since that has the character of self-dealing. (Also, I don't have time!) However, I hope that this text might prove useful to someone who is interested in expanding that section. The page clearly needs a lot of work (as some other discussants have noted), but then this is a somewhat awkward research area with an extremely high variance in quality. I am bullish about the general prospects for evolutionary approaches to the formation and transmission of culture (in part because of the large body of existing work in many different fields, very little of which goes under the "memetic" label), but don't know how "memetics" per se will work out. (I am confident, however, that reasonable approaches to measurement will have to be part of any successful venture in this area.) -CTB -- 05:03, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

Generate useful, novel predictions or die?

Given the amount of interest in Memetics, I find it odd that we're now suddenly at a "make or break" point, where Memetics must prove itself or be forgotten. I think memetics makes a lot of predictions that are simply difficult to test - but may become easier to in the future. Indeed String theory has cleverly avoided making any kind of useful, testable, and novel prediction since its inception, yet hundreds of PhDs toil over it each year, undaunted. Maybe memetics just needs more time? Maybe we need better equipment? Maybe it really is just a nice idea that didn't work out? - JustinWick 22:36, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Or maybe everyone wants to apply memetic principals to the theory itself. :) Seriously, I think it just hasn't met its Darwin yet. If you just baldly laid out the theory of evolution, it would've looked as useless as memetics does now, but Darwin ingeniously predicted and explained a lot in his books. --Gwern (contribs) 06:21 9 December 2006 (GMT)
The concept of memes seems to me to be an extremely useful meme (to stress a recursive point). I am puzzled why people should feel inclined to believe otherwise. Every single aspect of day to day social interaction, at every scale in a society, for instance, constantly involves their exchange. So I think it would be a bit naive or misleading to compare memetics to string theory, since so many examples of it can be found around us in day to day life, whereas string theory does not seem to produce any (uniquely) testable predictions. --Gremlin 06:46, 6 May 2007 (GMT)
I remember having seen this criticism that memetics too is also not testable in Karl Popper's terms. For instance, how does one find out if memetics is really a meme? It does appear to be one, but how does one show it?
On the other hand, IMHO predictions of string theory are certainly testable - we just do not have particle accelerators powerful enough to do the job! SDas 03:14, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

I'm just spit-balling here, but IMHO mimetics is a word that unifies all of those who experienced a flash of insight in realizing that there was a possibility of thinking about some fields in the social sciences, well, scientifically. Many attempts to quantify in these fields, for example using very artificial measurement scales, haven't been dramatically insightful. Evolutionary thinking seems to have more potential. Mimetics is a word that those of us bitten by the evolution bug who have no deep knowledge or, at least, credentials in any specific field of the social sciences rally around. It seems to me much more likely that evolutionary thinking will provide a wave for some active academicians to advance their careers and reputations (while serving Truth, of course). There are plenty of indications of this (infectious disease, immunology, theory of mind, evo-devo, evolutionary psychology, technological evolution, evolution of organization populations), some more fruitful than others. At an early stage of the introduction of evolutionary ideas to a field, when there are few in the field actively interested, specialists have to go outside their own field to find folks of like mind to share their thoughts with and learn by analogy with other fields. Mimetics might have been a good label for inter-disciplinary conferences at such an early stage. It is probably past that stage now. There may be thoughts to think, books and articles (popular, professional, and academic) to write, and careers to build, but mimetics will probably go the way of catastrophe theory, chaos theory, complexity theory. Maybe it will have as good a run as artificial intelligence. I just hope that it doesn't become an embarassment, generating books reminiscent of those with "quantum" in the title in the self-help section of the bookstore. DCDuring 14:33, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

The point of the previous comment is to determine whether anyone disagrees that "meme theory" is a misnomer. IMHO, it would be more accurately called the "meme meme". (I know someone said that, but don't have a cite.) I would like to edit out the unsubstantiated statements that pretend that there is a meme theory. You can pretend all you want, of course, if you've got citations that meet WP standards. DCDuring 23:45, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

"The meme meme has manipulated lots of brains since Dawkins unleashed it." Robert Wright in a NYT review of Susan Blackmore's "The Meme Machine", April 25, 1999. DCDuring 23:53, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Are languages memes (memeplexes) too?

Languages themselves share many features of memes: they evolve, mutate, spread and die out. A human child must learn a language (or languages) from an adult, implying that this knowledge does not come by default. Wouldn't that imply that languages themselves are also forms of memes, not only tools for spreading other memes?--FreedonNadd 19:51, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

Yes, languages are certainly memes. I do not think they are memeplexes, just single (albeit large) memes. A religion is a memeplex though - there are several memes in it - the memes for prayer, meme for anti-abortion views, memes for distrust of science, etc. I think of languages as single entities.
(I think one should have a section for mind viruses (i.e. a religious meme a la Susan Blackmore).
From an algorithmic standpoint, although both memes and genes play the Darwinian game, memes differ from genes in being subject to local improvement (besides much higher mutation), and hence undergo a more Lamarckain evolution. I personally cannot see how a language undergoes local improvement/Lamarckian evolution though. SDas 03:04, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
If memetics is ever to be a real field of study, than it would have to provide some useful insight into something. The likelihood that there will be reputable work done at the scope of an entire language in the near future is nil. I wonder whether something more useful could be done at the level of phrases, words, pronunciations. In any event, the work hasn't been done yet and therefore can't be reported in Wikipedia, IMHO. DCDuring 14:05, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

I think you could go as far as talking of memeplex, here.
A language does not stand by itself, it is part of a whole "national spirit", if you will. It has a personality of its own, rather than being merely a way to convey data between beings in geographically similar areas. The need to defend the purity of your own language (in France, la Loi Toubon, for example), to prevent dilution and excessive mutations, comes to mind as part of the memeplex of any language. Why do people care about "text message speech", or "haxor speech", for instance? Are they not part of the natural evolution of languages? We care because we teach (and were taught) our children a "proper" form of the language, correct them when they speak it improperly, (in English for example, you'd correct your kid if he used "scarfs" as the plural for "scarf") but we all know they immediately go out and butcher it, coming up with new expressions, coining formulas they heard on TV, etc.
To answer SDas above, the language, at the local level is constantly changing and evolving, kids in different social groups at school, gangs in different areas, social cliques on the Net, etc.
But because of other memes that are part of the memeplex (IMO), there is a tendency towards stability: that need to define and limit our language through spelling, grammar, syntax, _official_ dictionaries, etc.
That ancestral fear put in us by stories like that of Babel, that teach us that linguistic chaos would lead to chaos, pure and simple.
Also look at the various reforms some languages go through, through governemental decisions and the reactions they generate. I'm thinking of the recent evolutions of German, for example, where "officially" the β has disappeared, but there are many other examples if you care to look it up.
Anyway, yes I think you can consider languages themselves memeplexes, that come on top (or next to) the very concept of communicating ideas to other beings.
I think local evolution is rather obvious if you spend about five minutes listening to kids speaking together outside of a classroom environment.
Internet groups are IMO not always representative, as long as in said group there is an assumption that the person on the other side is an "outsider" and therefore we need to speak the "proper" language. For example here. On the other hand, topical newsgroups are a prime ground for the study of local evolution of a language, I believe. -Philippe J. 21:47, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Taken from the WP:MOS about Talk pages:

  • Keep on topic: Talk pages are for discussing the article, not for general conversation about the article's subject (much less other subjects). Keep discussions on the topic of how to improve the associated article. Irrelevant discussions are subject to removal.

It's not as if the article doesn't need a lot of work. DCDuring 23:38, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

History of the Term (Mneme Ain't Meme)

I think the discussion of the origin of the term here is almost certainly wrong. "Mnem-" is a word stem derived (by a memetic process ?!) from the Greek word for memory. Mimesis is a Greek word for imitation. Dawkins must have been more interested in drawing on the analogy with imitation than with some analogy (which I can't see at all) with memory processes. The discussion in the meme article seems much more likely. We could probably find some interview with Dawkins that discussed what he was thinking when (if) he coined it. In any event, like Chinese water clocks, the 100-year-old claimed prior invention bore no fruit. DCDuring 14:46, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

summary of reference was too sweet

I saw this change [3], and put it back like this [4], because it didn't reflect accurately the linked reference, possibly making people think that it's a critique of problems with the code script thingie like, when it's actually a full blown attack against memetics as a pseudoscience (calls it "pseudocientific" both on the summary and on the text, a "child's fable" and other non-niceties) --Enric Naval (talk) 22:10, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Crack smoking, or just illiteracy?

The second sentence in the article is Starting from a metaphor used in the writings of Richard Dawkins, it has since turned into a new area of study, one that looks at the self-replicating units of culture.

When he introduces it, Dawkins writes (the wording will be off, because this is from memory) "this is not a metaphor ... memes exist in the physical world as structural changes in the brain, created by the learning practice."

Maybe before people write about a specific book on Wikipedia, they should have to first read that book??!? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:10, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

I've changed the word "metaphor" to "proposition". VsevolodKrolikov 14:57, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

Where's the science?

I cannot understand how "memes" can be considered as science. It was a metaphor used by Dawkins trying to invent a way to explain how religion has survived in human population. There's nothing we know specifically about memes, what is their structure, how they affect the brain, how exactly they are passed on. I mean, where's the science? Unless there's some real breakthrough, it can hardly be considered a field of science. It may explain try some things, but it alone does not make it a realiable theory. Memetics makes neo-Darwinism look bad with these kind of fairy tales. (talk) 21:27, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

This was answered in 1976. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:09, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

It is not a science. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:19, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

Merging with W:Meme

Its seems merging this article with W:Meme would make sense.

The current TOC of "Memetics":

  1. History of the term
  2. Internalists and externalists
  3. Maturity
  4. Critique
  5. New developments
  6. Terminology

The current TOC of "Meme":

  1. Origins and concepts
  2. Transmission
  3. Memes as discrete units
  4. Evolutionary influences on memes
  5. Memetics
  6. Doubts
    1. Lack of philosophical appeal
    2. Application
  7. Religion
  8. Memetic explanations of racism
  9. Memetic accounts of personality
  10. Memes in Internet culture

Some comparison:

  • W:Meme
    • B-class
    • 3950 words
    • Has an archived discussion
  • W:Memetics
    • Start-class
    • 2900 words
    • Has not an archived discussion

--Dan Polansky (talk) 16:11, 26 February 2009 (UTC)

Let's not confuse meme with memetics

While the term "meme" has become widely accepted as meaning "an idea that spreads virulently", memes are not well accepted in the sense that serious memeticists mean them. Memetics as a global theory of idea transmission and development to compare with evolutionary genetics is quite a different issue to observing how "all your base are belong to us" has travelled about the internet. The commonly understood version is simply another word for an idea or phrase. On the other hand, memetics is, in large part, a theory of how information is organised neurologically and communicated physiologically. Most people do not even realise that there are intelligent people who seriously believe this strong version of memetics, of information "literally parasitising your brain" to quote Dawkins. Most people make the mistake (as pointed out above) of thinking Dawkins was employing a metaphor in The Selfish Gene. As such, to say that memetics is "self-evident" or "as obvious as evolution" is unscientific in the former case, and trying to steal scientific authority in the latter. Memetics has no consistently operationalisable definition of meme, for Heaven's sake.

In short, we should not treat memetics with such respect simply because people accept the notion of "meme" as used in common parlance. That common usage is not the same as that meant by memeticists. Wikipedia has no place reflecting common misunderstandings, and the pro-memetics people should not try and take advantage of them. VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 13:44, 6 April 2009 (UTC)


Considering that the competitors of "Memetics" is "Semantics", "Semiotics", "Mythology" and "Ethics" which have longer and more established traditions, I find it unlikely the word actually will become a term. However, it is a nice Category:Buzzwords (hint: add [[Category:Buzzwords]] at the bottom of the article!), and a carrier of the ("memetic" ;^) idea of comparing DNA with language deep structure, for whatever that's worth. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 21:21, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

Nobody said anything. This implies everybody agree with me! I'll add it myself! Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 09:08, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

Controversial or bulls**t?

Reading this article it's difficult to decide wether debate on memetics is a matter of philosophical disagreement, misunderstanding or if it's just genuine psuedo-science. I'm not really qualified to decide for myself since I'm actually a teenager in school... Is this a source of embarrasment for Dawkins(who is always so critical of psuedo-science) and co or is it a genuine subject of debate? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:37, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

You're probably smart and well balanced for seeing this. Actually: I think memetics is for Dawkins just a funny rhetorical tool, although he is really sinking to the knees into a philosophical clay sticking him to a fixed position. However, he seem to drive his atheist scientian position — which is his main political line — with a good deal of humour and humility, so I think he doesn't take himself too seriously. Just consider this memetic concept an interesting vision that inspires but doesn't have too much contact with reality. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 09:03, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

Endless attempts have been made to apply the methods of science to psychology. They all are doomed to end in a torrent of meaningless dog Greek. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:46, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

More critique

Another deeply critical stand-point: The new pseudoscience of memes by Aaron Lynch on, presents a condescending stand-point from a linguistic perspective. I'll consider adding it to the article L8R on, but not exactly now. If any1 is faster than me, be welcome! Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 09:14, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

Correction: Not by Aaron Lynch, by Mark Rosenfeldter. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 09:21, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
More corrections: Mark criticizes Aaron Lynch'es book from an evolutionary, a historical and factual perspective, rather than an obviously linguist perspective. Nevertheless... Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 09:43, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

What does it mean (Memetics)?

The first three lines tell where it comes from but not what it is.
Somebody who actually knows what it means has to write it down in
the concise/summarized explanation.
It schould be the first sentence to describe what that concept is.

Jangirke (talk) 12:55, 13 April 2010 (UTC)

Meme or Memetics?

There seems to be some disarray over what belongs in the Meme entry and what belongs in Memetics. Has anyone else noted this?

Agreed. I followed the link here from Rene Girard's memetic theory, and was briefly bewildered to see it linked to Dawkins. There's a similarity of names but not of anything else! (talk) 15:02, 21 May 2012 (UTC)

meme potential resource

From Talk:Occupy movement#Meme resource, NYT ...

'Camps Are Cleared, but ‘99 Percent’ Still Occupies the Lexicon by Brian Stelter published November 30, 2011; excerpt ...

The slogan was chanted again early on Wednesday morning in Los Angeles and Philadelphia as police there cleared out the Occupy campsites in each city. As they lost physical ground for their local movements, protesters told each other online, “You can’t evict an idea.”

A version of this article appeared in print on December 1, 2011, on page A1 of the New York Times print edition. This article mentions the Vanity Fair Joseph Stiglitz article that is mentioned in Talk:Occupy Wall Street#The New York Review of Books resource (talk) 03:04, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

Start phrase possible edit

Like Jangirke said above I don't think the first lines are properly chosen in the article. The first line carries with it an assertion which is subjective as long as it's not developed further in the article or referenced to another article somewhere. The line goes like this:

"Memetics is a controversial theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, originating from Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene" To say that memetics are a controversial subject carries two risks. One is linguistic, in my opinion, as every new theory is controversial at first(though it's curious that in more than 30 years opinions didn't settled) so it's rather redundant to say "controversial" as it would be to say "relative" instead. The second issue I have with the phrasing is of more importance and has to do with the fact that such an adjective placed at the very front-line of the article scars the entire article with the subconscious idea that this is still a very much debatable topic, that hasn't earned much recognition. While there have been many books written on the subject it's not an idea that has penetrated the main audience but it has penetrated the scientific community. It is a debatable, controversial theory but I would leave this remark as a conclusion not a definition. Geostik (talk) 23:23, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

A house built on sand?

I expect this is a difficult article to edit.

Could the lead contain a brief paragraph or two to give an example and a general sense of the subject matter? Thanks. Wanderer57 (talk) 15:45, 30 September 2012 (UTC)


I've found refs from the 1990s: [5], [6], [7], [8], [9]. Maybe we can use them here and on the meme article, since it looks like they don't use these refs yet. There's quite a lot of info. - M0rphzone (talk) 01:21, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

Is an intelligent blog discussion an encyclopedic source?

Self-published sources authored by experts may be used as sources in WP but how about a series of comments on a blog page by knowledgeable participants? I am referring to a discussion between Jeremy Burman and Tim Tyler, Was there a misunderstanding of memes? , in which they discuss Burman's recent paper, "The misunderstanding of memes: Biography of an unscientific object, 1976–1999". I suspect this source has been added (by JTBurman) to clarify points and address issues that are not addressed in the paper. The discussion is on topic and informative but it's informal and certainly not peer reviewed. Comments? Jojalozzo 03:37, 16 February 2012 (UTC)

You're right: I added it because it clarified something that seemed not to have been adequately expressed in the article. Yet the article itself, I should mention, was not self-published. It was peer-reviewed and published in Perspectives on Science by MIT Press. Because the discussion at Tyler's blog was directly about that piece, and because I have not yet written a follow-up article, I felt that its inclusion here would not be misleading. JTBurman (talk) 19:44, 8 April 2013 (UTC)


The article says: 'Memetics is also notable for sidestepping the traditional concern with the truth of ideas and beliefs. Instead, it is interested in their success.'

This may well be true, but it needs to be clarified what the 'tradition' is that is being sidestepped. Jamesthecat (talk) 02:13, 24 March 2013 (UTC)

What is this article about? I can't understand it. It seems to wander. It needs more good references. Soranoch (talk) 20:25, 16 October 2013 (UTC)

Criticism and Previous Developments

I recall, distinctly, running across a book in the UW Milwaukee library called Memiosis, which was a French, perhaps continental philosophical, discussion on the transformations of meaning between literature and reality, or some such topic bordering on the topic of semiotics. I'm having a hard time finding a reference to the book online at the moment, since the Net is littered with meme dominated results. But, here's my point: there was, apparently, an area of literary studies or philosophy previously labeled with this root word, PRIOR to Dawkin's meme-virus.

I would also expect this Wikipedia article addressing Dawkin's use of meme to also include some talk or reference to the area of criticism between semiotics and memetics, such as one might find in the following article:

Thanks for looking into these two points. I don't have the time to be an encyclopedist at this moment, but felt it important to tag the article for others who may be concerned with accuracy! Enshook (talk) 01:41, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

Memetics as code script and Original works

Is there any research that correlates the idea of 'code scripting' to that of Memetics?

'Code Scripting' is the idea that the basic formation of any developed 'language' is due to the physical mechanism of the communication media.

e.g. 'I can not communicate in a vacuum because I speak in air' and this disallows EM frequency communication.

Memetics may incorporate multiple media formats...

The section entitled 'New Developments' looks like an original source and may use biased reasoning. — Preceding unsigned comment added by AnotherName356 (talkcontribs) 04:37, 10 May 2016 (UTC)