Re: Dennett, memes and Darwin TNG.
That's inherent in the very concept of a meme; in fact, it's exactly what the word was coined to describe in the first place, before Dennett got a hold of the idea. It was even deliberately made to rhyme with "gene" to tie memetic evolutionary behaviour to genetic evolutionary behaviour. Genes survive in a physical environment with other genes, and transmit themselves down germlines; memes survive in an informatic environment with other memes, and transmit via communication. What survives depends, in both cases, on their ability to integrate, cooperate or out-compete other genes/memes, and propogate themselves efficiently. Complexes form between codependent units that form systems of propogating together more often than not, making the distinction of a single genetic/memetic unit more of a gradient than an absolute line.
The way I understand it Dawkins invented 'memes' as a device to illustrate that evolution/natural selection works in another field too. He never wrote much about it, it was more something he mentioned in bypassing.
When the idea was picked up by others they tried to expand it and formalize it, but the idea has never really taken off. Maybe because it's such a simple idea and so self evident...too small to have a hook maybe. It's just a device. Maybe it needs to be part of a memeplex to get spread.
It's a powerful device though. Like the realization that whether a meme is true or not has little to do with if it gets spread. And that a person is more likely to think a meme is true if he/she hears it from many sources - and that the result is that one person can reject a meme everyone around him/her hold and very well be right.
When I started thinking about this I began to look at new memes and ask: If this isn't true, would it still spread? I started to look for the hook and replication mechanism. This was a revelation.
Memetics is this small elegant personal thing. It's a bit like not eating pork. The meme of not eating pork doesn't spread well by itself, but if it's a part of the larger memeplex of a religion you get a lot of people not eating pork.
Now if memetics was part of a biopunk identity and that took off....
What Dennett does is to take memes a bit further than just being a personal device. What he is doing is incorporating memes into Darwinism... he is not just saying that it's a neat device for personal use. Which is what the others were doing and the reason why they were busy expanding and formalizing the thing. Dennett says that memes – for humans – can be as defining as genes are.
And we, humans, are environments for both, and completely controlled by neither.
I think Dennett is the first person to actually say that. It's a Darwinian explanation to why our species most of the time doesn't behave like animals. A question there wasn't really a satisfying evolutionary answer to before. Dennett solved the problem by pointing out the obvious.
It's incredibly elegant. (Now that I think about it. Maybe Dennett provided the vehicle most likely to spread memetics.)
He is very poetic about it, though, isnt he?
I like the guy a lot, can you tell?