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Just in Time for Dawkins

Grushnik james.teo at chch.ox.ac.uk
Fri Apr 16 06:00:32 EST 1999


-- [ From Psyche-D: by Jesse S. Cook III * EMC.Ver #2.3 ] --

The 19 April 1999 issue of *Time* magazine contains an essay by
Richard Dawkins that was "adapted from his introduction to Susan
Blackmore's *The Meme Machine* (Oxford University Press)".
Accompanying Dawkin's essay is a short article headed "Is the Mind
Just a Vehicle for Virulent Notions?" in which it is stated that Susan
Blackmore's book "goes so far as to suggest that we are our memes".

The article also says that "Stephen Jay Gould...dismisses the meme as
a 'meanless metaphor'" and quotes H. Allen Orr, an evolutionary
geneticist, as saying: "I think memetics is an utterly silly
idea...It's just cocktail-party science."

Later it says: "Blackmore, taking the theory to its logical
conclusion, suggests memes account for the evolution of culture [and],
also, for consciousness itself.  The mind, in Blackmore's scheme of
things, is little more than a nest of memes."

This is follwed by some quotes from Daniel Dennett and then this: "One
advantage of memes over tradition, Dennett points out, is that it can
explain consciousness without resorting to a little man in the back of
the head calling all the shots."

The article then points out that Steven Pinker does not "accept the
nest-of- memes view of consciousness.  'To be honest, I don't even
know what that means,' admits Pinker.  The problem, he says, is that
memetics assumes [that] the brain is essentially passive...It doesn't
account for the self that responds subjectively, that feels sensations
such as love, envy, and pain.  'Babies are conscious,' he points out.
'...And their minds have not been infected by memes.' "

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I'm inclined to believe that 'self' is made up of memes, but I am hazy
about how the definition of consciousness used, can be described as
memetic. Sounds like a typical Time article now.




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