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Middle aged heterosexual, WASP male. Semi retired, semi-sane and semi-serious. And endangered species and I'm not going quietly!!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Church of Allan - The Plain Truth About God

A serialization of the book, The Plain Truth About God.

Chapter 12. Thanks for the Meme-ories!

Among some Psychologists and nearly all Sociologists of the last few decades, a new phrase has come into use that describes a “belief system” which contains within itself the instructions for its own self-propagation.

This belief system we could call a replicator!

In The Selfish Gene-Viruses of the Mind (1976) Richard Dawkins proposed that just as biological evolution can be studied at various levels - cultural evolution can also be broken down and studied in its most basic forms.

He argues that the clearest way to think about any form of evolution would be to work from the point of view of its smallest replicating entities.

In the case of genetics, it is the gene.

By analogy, studies of cultural evolution in Darwinian terms can best be looked at by examining the smallest replicating units in a culture.

In this case, they are units, or ideas, that we call “Memes.”

Examples of these “Memes” are popular tunes, catch phrases, fashion, and ways of making certain objects or cultural norms that are practiced by everyone.

** Thoughts, like fleas, jump from man to man. But they don’t bite everybody.—Stanislaw Lec (1909-1996)

Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperm or eggs, so Memes propagate themselves in the Meme-pool by leaping from mind to mind by imitation.

In addition, this imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

A perfect example of a self-replicating Meme is a catch phrase from a T.V. commercial for a hamburger that you might remember!

“Where’s the beef!”

This phrase was self-propagating to the point where it took on a life of its own and was repeated by everyone.

“Where’s the beef” became a catchword for the product itself and could stand on its own without any other explanation.

It had a rhyme and rhythm to it that made it a natural to be passed from one person the next and by this very characteristic is one of the prime examples of a cultural “Meme!”

These “Memes” or replicators, cannot do anything on their own of course, but have within themselves the ideas or “hooks” that can trigger a self-replicating process within our brains that seem to give them a life of their own.

Every bit of fashion, or style, or new song, or popular phrase, or idea that is a Meme will be self-replicating to a greater or lesser degree.

And like a virus or parasitic worm, every successful Meme must perform at least two actions.

1. Ensure it takes up long-term residence in its host.

2. Brings about the conditions for its spread.

Biological evolution works by the mutation of genes and natural selection. The genes that produce an advantage are reproduced at a greater rate than genes that fail to confer an adaptive advantage.

In other words, genes that produce a biological advantage are rewarded, while genes that do not are punished by being reproduced less and eventually dying out.

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has argued that something similar happens with ideas and social practices.

Since ideas are not autonomous beings, we know that it is humans who do the actual competing for bits of information in our minds.

So, while these “Memes” do not compete on their own, they propagate in our minds.
Nevertheless, some ideas and practices act as if they were autonomous since they promote their own success by encouraging their survival and accurate reproduction in a large numbers of believers.

In the competition for believers, Memes that aggressively promote their own survival propagate, while those that do not die out.

This is what we mean by Memic selection.

In real life, Memes are usually sets of related ideas that we can call belief systems, and they must do more than simply require their reproduction in people.

Some beliefs become very adept at sticking in people’s minds, such as the phrase from an old T.V. commercial; “Where’s the beef!”

Because these Memes stick out, they eventually spread to wide prevalence.

This line of study, known as Memetics, has far-reaching implications for beliefs about religion, health, family politics, war, abortion, sexuality and just about every other topic that concerns us.

Memetics offers us new ways to look at the spread of irrational thoughts and ideas by reversing the old adage of how people acquire beliefs.

Instead, it asks us the reverse: “How beliefs acquire people!”

When beliefs take an active roll in acquiring new adherents, they are turned into very potent Memes that we can call “thought contagions!”

These “thought contagions” are insidious in their propagation from mind to mind because first of all, as the phrase suggests, they are so contagious.

(Where’s the beef!)

Secondly, and even more importantly, successful mind viruses, just like computer viruses, are extremely hard to detect. If you happen to be the victim of one, the chances are that you do not even know it!

Allan W Janssen is the author of the book The Plain Truth About God (What the mainstream religions don't want you to know!) and is available at the web site www.God-101.com

Visit the blog "Perspective" at http://God-101.blogspot.com

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Anonymous Delores Williams said...

Why is it that nonreligious people feel compelled to write and talk about him with all the other subjects available. Maybe it is God that is in them and they will be another Paul.

Thursday, March 20, 2008 1:04:00 p.m.  

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