Richard Dawkins and Memes – Can the Man Be Serious or Is He Pulling Our Leg?

Tread Softly because you Tread on my Memes

Dawkins in his seminal paintings The God Delusion prepares us for an advent to his Meme generator no watermark principle with the repetition of an earlier observation:

“Because Darwinian natural selection abhors waste, any ubiquitous feature of a species – along with faith – have to have conferred a few advantage or it wouldn’t have survived.”

The purpose I say prepares us is due to the fact Dawkins is ready to release us on a voyage of absolutely unsubstantiated pie inside the sky. It is vital, therefore, that we’re organized to accept as true with some thing on a basis of trust by myself – that is, that the reasons for the survival of religion can simplest be located inside the confines of natural choice. We are reminded that the gain doesn’t have to relate to the survival of the individual. For instance, Dawkins factors out the genetic advantages of the bloodless virus, hence explaining its ubiquity amongst our species and introduces us to the idea of replicators other than genes, maximum specifically the idea of memes, which we might describe as devices of cultural inheritance.

To apprehend the character of memes, Dawkins argues that we need to look in extra detail at how herbal choice works. In trendy terms, natural selection have to pick between alternative replicators (defined as ‘portions of coded statistics that make genuine copies of themselves’). If a replicator is ‘proper’ at getting copied, it gets copied on the cost of those that aren’t so properly at getting copied. The archetypal replicator is a gene – a stretch of DNA this is duplicated. Dawkins applies this to memes and says:

“The central question for meme idea is whether there are gadgets of cultural imitation which behave as actual replicators.”

Genes continue to exist via virtue in their usefulness to the frame in which they take a seat. Might no longer the same be authentic of memes?

But memes have no bodily nature. This causes confrontation as to what constitutes a meme, in which they exist and the way efficaciously they reflect. Dawkins describes these problems as exaggerated. He draws an analogy among meme replication and an origami method for making a Chinese junk. In essence, he says that any manner that can be damaged down into discrete factors may be replicated accurately via word of mouth; on this manner, they may be self-normalising. In this manner, he argues, memes which are self-normalising and can reflect with hello-fidelity.

Susan Blackmore in The Meme Machine advocates that we should photo memes jostling for role in a global complete of brains. The ones that replicate exceptional are those which might be good at getting themselves copied, ie people who have direct enchantment, consisting of the immortality meme. Other memes will replicate greater correctly inside the presence of other memes (that is authentic also of genes).

Applying this to religion, some thoughts will reflect in their own right, others want to be blended with unique others. This debts for the distinctive nature of various religions. Dawkins says:

“In this version, Roman Catholicism and Islam, say, were not always designed by man or woman human beings, but evolved one after the other as alternative collections of memes that flourish in the presence of different participants of the identical memeplex*.” *(Memeplex which means mixture’s of memes inside the same meme pool).

In this way, religions can be visible as the manufactured from unconscious evolution instead of by way of the planned design of people. Not by way of genetic herbal choice – this best affords the hardware for predilections and biases – but by using memetic choice.

You may additionally well recognize, and even in case you don’t, I suspect that you may now not be amazed to listen, that Dawkins’ meme concept is broadly considered to be his Achilles heel. Before we explore the grounds upon which many reject the concept of the meme, allow us to positioned it inside the context envisaged by using Dawkins. In The Selfish Gene, he says:

“Will there nonetheless be any standard principle this is genuine of all life? Obviously, I do now not recognise however, if I needed to bet, I might put my money on one essential precept. This is the regulation that each one life evolves with the aid of the differential survival of replicating entities. The gene, the DNA molecule, takes place to be the replicating entity on our personal planet. There can be others. If there are, provided different conditions are met, they may nearly necessarily generally tend to turn out to be the idea for an evolutionary process.

But do we ought to visit distant worlds to locate different sorts of replicators and consequent, kinds of evolution? I suppose that a brand new form of replicator has recently emerged on this planet. It is staring us inside the face. It remains drifting clumsily approximately in its primeval soup (the soup of human lifestyle), however already it is attaining evolutionary exchange at a rate that leaves the vintage gene panting behind.”

Examples of such memes are tunes, ideas, capture-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of creating pots, religion and so on. The first thing we word here is that the analogy between gene and meme is defective. The gene is the coaching (not the advised), which results inside the phenotype (the behaviour we look at). The meme, meanwhile, in step with Dawkins, seems to be the phenotype. In the words of Alistair McGrath in Dawkins’ God; Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life:

“On any standard neo-Darwinian account, genes deliver rise to phenotypes. There is no question of phenotypical causation of genetic trends. To positioned it in a nutshell; genes are decided on no longer told.”

Dawkins manifestly picked up on flaw and when he wrote The Extended Phenotype he attempted to clarify his meaning:

“I turned into insufficiently clean about the distinction between the meme, itself, as replicator, and its ‘phenotypic outcomes’ or ‘meme products’ on the opposite. A meme should be regarded as a unit of records residing in a mind. It has a precise shape, realized in anything medium the brain uses for storing facts….. This is to differentiate it from phenotypic results, which might be its results within the outside world.”

Unfortunately, this rationalization solves one issue, only to right away present another. What is that this precise structure that the meme possesses? And what does Dawkins suggest with the aid of anything medium the mind uses for storing facts? He himself seems to realise the weaknesses in his role without assimilating the full implications of these weaknesses. In his preface to Susan Blackmore’s Meme Machine, he says:

“Another objection is that we do not know what memes are product of, or wherein they live. Memes have not but determined their Watson and Crick; they even lack their Mendel. Whereas genes are to be located in specific locations on chromosomes, memes probably exist in brains, and we’ve got even less hazard of seeing one than of seeing a gene.”

Alistair McGrath, in Dawkins’ God; Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life, makes a speciality of the shortage of proof helping the meme theory and draws a legitimate assessment between a believer, believing in God and Dawkins believing in memes. He asks, wherein is the medical evidence? Unlike genes, memes can’t be placed, they can not be defined biologically, chemically or physically and no physical transmission mechanism can be identified.

But Dawkins appears blind to this kind of complaint and he seems inclined to stretch his unseeing credulity to extreme lengths to hold on to his idea. Consider his guide of Susan Blackmore, the number one mover inside the improvement of ‘meme theory’. Her conclusions appear downright absurd. In Man, Beast and Zombie, Kenan Malik says:

“If we want to recognize the thoughts scientifically, we appear to should discard a fundamental factor of our humanity. Even these days this conundrum stays unresolved. Many cutting-edge philosophers and psychologists, consisting of Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmore, believe they have got observed a fully materialistic manner of describing the human thoughts…… As Susan Blackmore places in her ebook ‘The Meme Machine’, ‘When the word “I” appears on this book it’s far a convention that both you and I recognize but it does not talk to a persistent, conscious internal being behind the words’.”

Malek explains how Blackmore develops this idea:

“The creator who has taken furthest the anti-human common sense of memetics is Susan Blackmore, who denies that there may be some thing such as a non-public notion, a self or unfastened will. ‘What does it mean to mention I accept as true with?’ she asks. Since, ‘we can not virtually discover both the beliefs or the self who believes’ by looking into someone’s head, so we should conclude that ‘there’s most effective someone arguing, a mind processing the information, memes being copied or not’. If there’s no self with a fixed of ideals, who then wrote the Meme Machine? ‘I am only a story about me who’s writing a ebook’, Blackmore responds. A set of stories wrote the story that is ‘The Meme Machine’, and different sets of stories are now analyzing it.”

Malek is going on, thinking how Dawkins (and others – Daniel Dennet, Matt Ridley and John Maynard Smith) can assist Blackmore’s view when it is a contradiction of that of Leda Cosmides & John Tooby, (evolutionary psychologists we met inside the remaining section), whose views they also claim to aid? A key argument of theirs in opposition to the Standard Social Science Model is that it makes human beings puppets of way of life. Surely Blackmore’s view does the equal?

Of route, we can handiest apprehend Dawkins’ meme concept whilst we recognize that is an extension of his personal perception machine. He believes that the herbal world can only be defined in fabric phrases. Therefore, ideas, mind, feelings must be traceable to matter in a few manner. There ‘need to’ be a area within the brain where those intangibles exist in ‘truth’. Unfortunately, such deterministic leanings inevitably result in a state of affairs where we ought to surrender the idea that we’re energetic creators of our world. We genuinely end up phenomena, to be acted upon by the herbal, and necessarily cloth, factors of the universe. But Dawkins appears not able to confess wherein his philosophy has delivered him, hence the contradiction between his support for Cosmides and Tooby’s thoughts and his assist for Blackmore. This lack of ability to admit his dilemma is contemplated in his contradictory insistence that we’re the handiest creatures which can defy our genes and memes. In The Selfish Gene, he says:

“We have the electricity to defy the egocentric genes of our start and, if important, the selfish memes of our indoctrination.”

This is a obviously unsustainable contradiction and reeks of self-serving propaganda. Dawkins tries to sustain his position by way of making us a unique exception. It makes one surprise, where is the blind watchmaker? And as Kenan Malik says, ‘who is this we?’, if we’re not anything extra than a collection of memes? How can we don’t forget ourselves rational, aware beings if we are concern to the tyranny of our replicators? This highlights the confusion for all reductionists in keeping apart the concept of the brain from the thoughts. Reductionists, like Dawkins, ought to preserve that the mind can be reduced to the mind, that is a determinate material object. Rose, Lewontin and Kamin highlight the trouble this poses for Dawkins et al in Not in our Genes whilst they say:

“Such a function (reductionism) is, or have to be, absolutely in accord with the standards of socio-biology provided with the aid of Wilson and Dawkins. However, to undertake it would involve them inside the catch 22 situation of first arguing the innateness of much human behaviour that, being liberal men, they simply locate unattractive (spite, indoctrination and so on) after which to grow to be entangled in liberal moral concerns about responsibility for criminal acts, if these, like several other acts are biologically decided. To avoid this problem, Wilson and Dawkins invoke a free will that enables us to head towards the dictates of our genes if we so desire. Thus Wilson lets in that notwithstanding the genetic instructions that call for male domination, we are able to create a much less sexist society – at the fee of a few lack of performance – and is going on to speculate on the evolution of lifestyle. Dawkins offers independently evolving cultural gadgets or memes.”

We will encounter this essential contradiction in Dawkins’ worldview once more in later sections while we talk goodness and the moral law.

Incidentally, this segment includes every other example of the Dawkins style of argument. On page 194 he says:

“I have not done the experiment yet (I’d want to), but I actually have a sturdy prediction of what the result can be. My prediction is that now not all of the twenty teams will reach passing the talent intact down the line to their 10th contributors to generation 10.”

Whatever the power of the argument, there may be no way that this form of analysis can remotely be referred to as technological know-how. Dawkins’ concept of evidence could appear to consist of anything, regardless of how tenuous, that supports his view. And if there is no evidence, reputedly it is within the regulations to ‘make it up’ (“I haven’t carried out the experiment but I even have a robust prediction of what the result could be”). As part of this method, Dawkins underpins all his arguments with the guideline that natural choice raises awareness and with the aid of distinctive feature of this, is pertinent to all disciplines. Therefore, anything that seems not likely turns into probable if it suits the story, since that is what passed off with herbal choice and biology.

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