Susan Blackmore:
THE MEME MACHINE (Oxford University Press, 1998)

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Blackmore subscribes to the radical view that each mind is but a meme machine ("a memeplex running on the physical machinery of a human brain"). Human action is the product of interactions between genes, memes and their environment. A "memeplex" is a group of memes that band together for some mutual advantage. They assimilate memes that are compatible with them and reject memes that are incompatible. This way the memeplex as a whole becomes stronger and stronger and each participating meme benefits. Religions and ideologies are memeplexes. Blackmore paints of picture of minds invades by memes all the time, that function only as processors of memes. The author asks "Can you stop thinking?" implying that we do not think, we are thought by the memes that invade us. As Dawkins has shown, memes are replicators: they behave in a way similar to genes, except that they spread from mind to mind. The notions of variation, mutation and natural selections apply unchanged. Blackmore formalizes this view in an extension of the modern synthesis: Darwinian thinking must be applied to two replicators, not just one, and the result is meme-gene coevolution. There are phenomena that cannot be explained by genetic motivation alone (eg, language, which does not seem to provide any genetic advantage) but are easily explained by memetic motivation. Humans evolved along not one but two axes: the genetic one and the memetic one. Language spreads memes, therefore language evolved to better spread memes. Language does not represent an evolutionary advantage for genes, but for memes. Both genes and memes are replicators with equal status. The evolution of the human race is driven by evolution of two replicators. Blackmore accepts that the two replicators may behave in slightly different ways. After all, memetic evolution is Lamarckian (acquired traits can be passed to the offspring), and genetic evolution is not. Genes and memes are both replicators, but the analogy ends there. The conscious self is also a memeplex, it is a story built by memes. In this sense, it makes no sense to talk of free will. Free will is the consequence of the story (the very complex story due to many many interacting memes) that is playing in the brain. "Body design" is achieved through competition between genes, i.e. genes compete to be passed to another body and in the process the body is shaped. "Mind design" is achieved through competition between memes: memes compete to be passed to another mind and in the process the mind is created. Both genetic and memetic factors are needed to explain what we are. In general, genes give us some skills, then memes determine how we use them. For example, one can be genetically gifted as a writer, but then it is memes that determine what she will write.

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