Friday, 27 October 2017

The memetic legacy of Richard Dawkins:

In my 2011 video/essay title "Dawkins Dangerous Idea", I approvingly quoted Paul McFedries as saying:

Richard Dawkins became famous in the 1970s for his concept of the selfish gene, and he has become infamous in recent years for his unyielding atheism. But I predict that Dawkins will be known, a hundred years hence, not for these contributions to science and culture but for the concept of the meme. Feel free to spread that idea around.

Now it appears that genetics blogger Razib Khan has come around to much the same idea, writing an article titled:

In 2546 Richard Dawkins Will Be Remembered For “Memes”

I still think that this is right. What is Dawkins second-biggest scientific idea? Probably the extended phenotype. That seems rather insignificant compaared to memes and memetics.


  1. Dawkins got it wrong when he wrote that memes were brain structures. They're contingencies of reinforcement.

  2. Contingencies of reinforcement shape behavior. They make a given behavior more probable or less probable. Memes replicate in the sense that they do that in a population.