Saturday, October 5, 2013

What is a Memeplex?

 A memeplex is a group of memes which in combining have enhanced their chances of reproduction and survival. 

Meaning, their original environment bound them together.
By interacting with a changing environment their survival fitness improved.
There was no 'conspiracy of memes planning a collective future'.  That's a straw-man interpretation.

The Meme Machine  by Susan Blackmore addresses how memeplexes are everywhere, dominating human thought and interaction.

Memeplexes are more than religions.  Some are benign, some are beneficial and some are downright poisonous.  Nationalism is a viral memeplex.  Corporate Capitalism, crusading under the banner of "Democracy", spreads its "good news" to the whole world.

So Dawkins well-known position that the eradication of fantastic metaphysical claims would resolve the world's problems is short-sighted (though it needs more consideration here in Middle America). 

If you contemplate the memeplex, you might conclude Science is also a memeplex.  It is an assortment of complementary ideas passed down over generations.  It is cumulative.  It has a sophisticated immune system to scrutinize information before it is added to the cannon of knowledge.  It has co-opted social institutions (schools, governments, etc.) to colonize human brains in both vertical and horizontal transmission. 

A scientific mind is not simply one that accepts the scientific discoveries of others, but one which tests the discoveries of others.  It can apply the Scientific Method to new problems as they arise in the environment. Science has the cumulative wealth of tradition, the ability to adopt new theories when the evidence permits and the flexibility to adapt knowledge appropriately to new environments. 

So, let us reframe Dawkin's assertion.  It is not that all viral memeplexes are barbaric in the light of the non-mempelex of Science.  From the host of viral memeplexes humanity uses, Science is best for improving human knowledge and quality of life.

We must remember as we journey into memetics that Dawkins and Blackmore are guides but we would be ill-advised to adopt them as gurus and bask forever in their shadow.


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