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    • #1056
      Argumentative Atheist
      Points: 100,923

      A lot of people are familiar with the term “meme” but don’t know what a meme is. Asked about the term most people think of pictures from the internet, but this isn’t correct.

      To really understand it properly I would suggest you read The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins. The book is fascinating for several reasons, but it also introduces you to the concept of a meme. A meme is essentially the most basic part of an idea. Like a gene is for biology a meme is a mental gene.

      He posits, and backs up his theory with good logical argument, that a meme is the building block of an idea. When it can’t replicate itself and pass itself onto other minds then it dies out, much like a gene that is detrimental to the organism it inhabits tends to die out. Memes can also band together, again much like genes in biology, to create a more complex mental construct.

      All concepts that you see and hear are basically made up of individual memes that survive for many reasons, it could be that they’re nice and people like them, such as with platitudes, or it could be because they describe a truth about the world and are therefore valuable, such as scientific concepts, or because they help entertain or teach people something, such as stories.

      Any concept, complex or otherwise, is built from memes. Religions are an excellent example of memes. They are some of the most well adapted meme complexes that have ever existed. They started out as crude, basic superstitions or beliefs, and easy to dismiss. But they had value. They could be teaching aids, ways to comfort people, ways to control or manipulate people, etc… Some of them became associated with others and became more complex and sophisticated, more able to deflect any criticism, others died out.

      Eventually, much like a virus, the only ones left were the ones best at defending themselves and passing themselves onto others. The value of them became lost in the defence mechanisms built into the meme organism/concept.

      Some value is still there, but it is vastly outweighed by meme defence mechanisms and simple entertainment value.

      Religions are a meme, or a story, that is excellent at deflecting criticism.

      Memes are a fascinating subject.

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