I don’t have a big problem with the concept of memes so long as the meme-gene analogy is not excessively rigid. Susan assures is that Rob’s, Joe’s and my old fears in this regard are unfounded.
There is good and bad here. It is good if it means that one source of anti-meme FUD in academia will quit with the misguided criticisms based on an unsympathetic interpretation of memetics. I have become pretty fed up over the years with people citing Peter Richerson as a reason for not using the "meme" term. Peter may be an expert on cultural evolution, but his criticisms of memes were generally feeble and inaccurate. As I see it, this situation is his fault - since he is the aggressor. If he quits with the invalid criticisms of the efforts of his fellow researchers, hopefully we can all get along a bit better.
However, I see two negative points. Firstly, memetics is not based on an analogy. Instead we have the Darwinian algorithm playing itself out in multiple media.
As Susan Blackmore put it:
memetics is not based on analogy but on the principle of universal Darwinism: the idea that memes undergo the same evolutionary algorithm as genes.
Just so. Secondly, according to my favored classification scheme, memes are not just like genes, they are genes. Genes are the units of heredity in evolution. Genetics is the science that studies heredity. Memes are the units of heredity in cultural evolution - and so they are a subset of genes - just as cultural evolution is a subset of evolution.
Of course, this is an argument about terminology. However, according to a literal reading of his comment, Peter would have a "big problem" with the position that memes are not just like genes - they are genes.
I've though long and hard about this over the years, and the terminology I favor is the best that I can think of - given the history of the field. I don't see much of a "big problem" here. Indeed, if there is a "big problem" in the area, it is with those who try and use the terms "gene" and "genetics" for something else. The science of heredity and the unit of heredity are ideas that deserve to be taken seriously. Parochial treatments of these topics are not acceptable as science.