Life is but a meme

Every now and then Cecil Adams and the The Straight Dope rise above their self-adulation and write something insightful.

"What do memes add to the conventional understanding of the propagation of culture? Just this: They remove the element of conscious choice, making the process purely mechanical. Just as natural selection accounts for mankind's origins without invoking God, meme theory accounts for our cultural edifices without positing a 'self' or a 'soul.' That solves a long-standing philosophical conundrum: If we accept the idea of an unbreakable chain of cause and effect at the molecular level and take the materialist view that our brains are just complicated arrangements of molecules, there doesn't seem to be any room for free will. Susan Blackmore, in The Meme Machine (1999), argues that with memes there doesn't need to be. Free will and the sense of self are illusions. I'm not an independent actor, just an assemblage of memes (a 'selfplex'). Things happen not because 'I' make choices but because of interaction between the memes of which this 'I' is composed. One objects: So how did you write your book, lady? Blackmore's response: Creative types don't create; they're merely vehicles by which evolving memes manifest themselves. ('The book wrote itself.') Sounds like the woolliest college bull session ever, I know, but even if you don't buy it you've still got to think: Whoa. "

I bet in some of these books, people are working on Meme metrics, ways of rating which memes will proliferate. Then we could get into the realm of hypotheses and predictions. Of course, the reason I just thought of that is because the scientific method meme has been so successful. Right?

This stuff smacks of V's story about potatoes manipulating humans into growing them. A neat, late-night-college way to look at it, but not terribly useful. Potatoes and memes and technology will propagate, not because they're particularly catchy, but because they help us, improve us, make us happy. Even the pop-tune memes. Any meme metrics will show that Christianity and the Scientific Method proliferated because they improved people's way of life. In its own way, so did the Macarena.