Monday, 4 March 2019

Dawkins: memes are even more important than I dreamed

Here's the recent quote from Dawkins on Twitter:

I am increasingly persuaded, eg by Sue Blackmore (The Meme Machine) & @DanielDennett (all his recent books) that memes are even more important than I dreamed. Meme/gene coevolution probably explains human brain enlargement, origin of language + much else that makes us human.

This is, I think a turn around for Dawkins. Here he is at the 180 point, in 2008:

Although Darwin's theory can be applied to much beyond the evolution of organic life, I want to counsel against a different sense of Universal Darwinism. This is the uncritical dragging of some garbled version of natural selection into every available field of human discourse, whether it is appropriate or not. Maybe the "fittest" firms survive in the marketplace of commerce, or the fittest theories survive in the scientific marketplace, but we should at very least be cautious before we get carried away. And of course there was Social Darwinism, culminating in the obscenity of Hitlerism.

Apparently Dawkins has recently re-read The Meme Machine (source). He also commented: "What’s the memetic equivalent of kin-selected altruism? Who are my memekin? Memekin selection should make me work towards helping my students (grandstudents, readers of my books) to become meme fountains" (source) and "Why did we evolve bipedalism? Here’s my memetic theory. Temporary bipedalism is sporadic in primates: an eminently imitable trick, conspicuous demonstration of enviable skill. I think bipedal fashion meme spread culturally, sparking meme/gene (inc sexual selection) coevolution" (source).

These are well-trodden topics for this blog - e.g. see Walking made us human and Cultural kin selection.