Friday, February 10, 2012

Is This a Parody to Show How Dumb the Whole "Meme" Business Is?

John Stossel says that ideas have sex. My questions are legion.

When the idea that, when tied, one should hold the ball for the last shot in hoops, mates with the idea that the number of primes is infinite, what does their offspring look like?

If two ideas of the same sex have been steadily mating for many years, should we allow them to be married?

Is it moral for ideas to have anal sex?

And, most of all: The concept of a gene is useful in biology because it represents a unit of inheritance, and based upon the genes present in the two parents, we can make very good probabilistic predictions about various traits of their offspring.

But, besides just making up a cute name that sounds kind of like "gene," what is the identifiable unit of inheritance in ideas? How do we detect what "memes" are present in various ideas? What mathematical formulas have been developed for predicting which "memes" will appear in the "offspring" of two ideas?

Wait: You say the answers are "there isn't one," "we don't," and "none"?! So this is just the new phrenology?


  1. I actually attended a debate between Pinker and Dennett, with Pinker arguing that the memes are a pseudo-concept that has taken us nowhere for 35 years.

    The term originates with Dawkins, and it started as basically the sociological version of gene. What Ridley gets at, moreso in the book, is that gene is to biological evolution as meme is to cultural evolution.

  2. "What Ridley gets at, moreso in the book, is that gene is to biological evolution as meme is to cultural evolution."

    Right. Which is total rubbish. There just is no science of "memetics" anything like the science of genetics. Pinker is spot on.

  3. To be honest, I have played with the idea of using memes as an alternative to the rational choice explanations of stuff in social economics (especially Leeson's paper on Sassywood) as a way of getting around De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum criticisms. I haven't gone anywhere with it (perhaps fittingly), but I remain agnostic on the issue.


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