Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Defining Our Terms

During the past few weeks I have read various blogs where the term meme is employed in a post. Michelle Malkin uses it frequently, and I know Phil used it at least once in a recent entry. I would imagine that most readers are like me and when you encounter an unfamiliar word you glance over it and pay it no mind. I know for me, if the word is particularly intriguing, I may grab my pocket dictionary and look up the definition.

Well, I think most of you know what a memo is, but what is a meme? The general usage of the word is of some idea or notion repeated over and over again and passed among the members of our society that takes on a life of its own, so to speak. Similar to a mental urban legend. The word has an interesting background I thought would be informative for many.

Dr. John Byl, professor of mathematics at Trinity Western University, describes the etymology of meme in his newest book, The Divine Challenge:

... [T]he biggest problem facing naturalistic evolution is how to explain the phenomenon of civilization. Our human minds are much more highly developed than seems to be strictly needed for mere survival. From whence comes our ability for highly abstract philosophical and mathematical thought, for music and literature, and so on? One ingenious attempt to answer ... [this] ... question looks beyond mere genes. Richard Dawkins extended evolution into the realm of ideas by inventing the concept of memes. A meme is an idea or behaviour that is imitated and passed on. Memes include all the words in our vocabulary, the games we play, the theories we believe, the songs we sing, the habits we have, and so on.

Memes, like genes, are reproduced by being copied. Memes, too, evolve through copying errors and natural selection.
Susan Blackmore has worked this notion out in detail in her book The Meme Machine (1999). She asserts that memes use our behaviour to get themselves copied. As the genes use our bodies as vehicles for reproduction, so likewise the memes use our brains. Indeed, the only real power memes have is that of reproduction. Blackmore writes:

Instead of thinking of our ideas as our own creations, and as working for us, we have to think of them as autonomous selfish memes, working only to get themselves copied. We humans, because our powers of imitation, have become just the physical "hosts" needed for the memes to get around (1999:8).

In short, we are mere meme machines. Blackmore believes many aspects of human behaviour can be explained in terms of competition between memes to get into our brains. This, she alleges, explains such diverse things as the evolution of the enormous human brain, the origin of language, our tendency to talk and think to much, human altruism, and the evolution of the Internet. Blackmore asserts that memes control the genes. Memes, not genes, drive civilization. Blackmore considers religions to be prime examples of powerful, and usually false, memes. The memes took a great step forward when they invented writing, and then printing, and then other forms of communication, from railways and ships to fax machines. (The Divine Challenge, 103-104).

Basically, the origin of the word meme can be summarized as follows:

1) It is a term coined by anti-theistic Christian hater, Richard Dawkins.

2) It is an idea developed by naturalistic evolutionists to explain the metaphysical, abstract ideas of humanity without having to involve a supreme deity. In other words, to provide a naturalistic evolutionary explanation for the human mind apart from a creator God.

3) The proponents of meme ideology attribute self existent, autonomous qualities to memes. They use a person's brain to reproduce themselves.

Interestingly, the same evolutionists who individualize memes with independent autonomy, also individualize genes with independent autonomy. However, genes are a physical and necessary component to the existence of an organism. They can't exist without an organism and the organism can't exist with out them. So, if these memes are real, then would not the same thing hold true for them as it does for genes? In other words, memes are an expression of human thought, which implies there is a mind already in place thinking and imagining, particularly the concept of a meme. I am know curious how these meme proponents will approach the age old chicken-egg dilemma that arises with memes. What came first, the mind or the meme?

So there you have the definition of the meme.


Blogger quicklikerodly said...

Another page in the never ending attempt of God-haters to try and explain away God to no avail. Thank you for the apologetic ammo.

7:27 AM, December 08, 2005  
Blogger Jim said...

Great explanation! That was a strange one to me as well. Well it's true that much of what we spout off has been gleaned from others, ultimately the origin of all truth is found in the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.

1:05 PM, December 08, 2005  

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