The Reasoner's Library
This site is under construction.   Please come back later.                                               Kelly Jones 2007        

Comments on Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, by Kelly Jones


The main problem with the meme concept is that any meme is presented as holding meaning, quite apart from anything constructed by any particular "survival machine" that hosts the meme.    Dawkins conceives of specific memes as being decidely meme-ish, when many people believe them.    This ultimately means that everything a human being thinks, may be a meme, if virtually everyone else believes them to be true.    In other words, no one creates meaning for himself, but meaning is created by a kind of mass conveyor-belt consciousness.    Dawkins seems to believe that the essential meaning of any concept is not constructed by an individual, using his own memory and thought-processes, but is always present in at least an essential form, in some kind of "primeval soup" - a meme pool or cultural environment, that exists quite apart from conscious thought-processes.    He seems to believe that everyone has the same private meme vocabulary, with which to construct exactly the same meanings:

Much more probably, unconscious memes have ensured their own survival by virtue of those same qualities of pseudo-ruthlessness that successful genes display.    The idea of hell fire is, quite simply, self perpetuating, because of its own deep psychological impact.    It has become linked with the god meme because the two reinforce each other, and assist each other's survival in the gene pool.

and

For example, suppose the success of a meme depends critically on how much time people spend in actively transmitting it to other people.    Any time spent in doing other things than attempting to transmit the meme may be regarded as time wasted from the meme's point of view.

I do agree with the idea of reincarnating ideas, within one's own mind.    However, this is based on evidence (one's memory); so it cannot be certain that memes are in fact passed on to even oneself, let alone other "vehicles".

Another untrivial problem is Dawkins' use of the idea of "Immortal Coils" to refer to replicators.    He states that replicators are dependent on the right conditions to exist, but then states that they are immortal.    I cannot see how something can live forever if it is wholly dependent on the right conditions arising.    There is no certainty that this will be the case.    Also, he states that "The only kind of entity that has to exist in order for life to arise, anywhere in the universe, is the immortal replicator".    I'd like to know, what about the original replicator that has not yet replicated?    Is it a living entity or not?