Friday, March 31, 2006

Of Mice and Meme

Egregious Charles has this to say:
"Meme" is a word that automatically makes me very suspicious. It is almost always used as shorthand for, "I don't know any evidence for this idea and can't imagine that anyone else does, so there must be some other explanation for its prevalence." Mainly it signals weaseling out of debating an idea on it's merits; tag an idea a "meme" and you shift the discussion to how it's transmitted rather than whether it makes sense. A similar technique is Bulverism, where you shift the discussion to the motives of one debater; e.g. you don't like affirmative action because you're a racist.
Very true. It is interesting that Wikipedia notes:
Calling someone's ideas/beliefs/action a "meme" therefore does not constitute an insult, but saying that it is "just a meme" does.
Often using the word "meme" or "memetic" is also a great way to conceal biases with a facade of scientific-sounding jargon. For instance some people like to label religions as "memetic viruses." This is just a sly way of saying that your religion is using you for its benefit but your detriment.

This outlook on religion is not a coincidence since the whole memetic concept was created by Richard Dawkins, an athiest and award winning secular humanist. That is not to say that the whole memetic concept is anti-religious. It isn't. However there are a lot of anti-religious people employing it as a methodology. Let's just say I am not a big fan of most of Dawkin's work.

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