Memes (31 Jul 2002)

I'm going to quote out of an email reply I just wrote tonight. It's a little rambling, but never mind. I think it's kind of interesting and hopefully will help me get a grip of my thoughts faster next time I'm thinking around these areas.

Tune of the moment: Scooter - Ramp (The Logical Song) (Radio Mix)

I don't think memes/genes are conscious, but I do think that, as replicators, they can exert a powerful influence to aid their replications. You can often pick out features in memeplexes (a set of interacting memes which can be functionally treated as a whole) designed as an `immune system' etc. For example the Christian ideas of "I am the one true god, worship no other" and of faith seem (to me) to fit into that category.

You can certainly pick out other categories of memes in memeplexes too:

  • Insertion vectors:
    • explaining the meaning of life
    • giving hope after death
  • Gene interactions, keeping the host alive:
    • Rules for hygiene and living
  • Replication:
    • (Evangelical branches are strong in these)
    • Unbelievers go to hell come Judgement Day
    • Missionary stories
  • Benefit for the creator (sometimes):
    • Scientology

Memes/genes also provide an ethical axiom which allows the construction of morals which I consider to be reasonable. Of course I'm working backwards here (from the high level towards to axioms) and I'm sure that working the other way could lead to morals that I couldn't accept.

However, it does lead to some positions which many would find objectionable. For one I much more supportive of animal testing than most. I'm also quite supportive of the idea of genetically modifying a human germline with the proviso that we get better at it first.

I don't think I can articulate the structure I want to at the moment. Maybe I'll come back to it later. (if you're reading this I guess I didn't).

Later: Ok, I still don't think I can articulate it so I'm leaving that last paragraph in, but here goes:

Since I'm making value judgements about moral systems I must have some built in morality (memes) which almost certainly come from my upbringing. My upbringing is mostly Christian, but not strongly so. My parents don't go to church etc so I have a pretty common Western set (don't kill people, be nice etc).

However, I feel the need to justify those memes and I flat out reject the theistic aspects of Christianity. I also reject some of those upbringing moral memes. So either I have `scientific model' memes too or something is built in.

Now, morals change all over the world and can generally be overridden/ignored in a Lord of the Flies type of way. But there is a certain sense of grace that I'm wondering might be built in. The grace I'm talking about is the beauty of great mathematical proofs or the elegance of superb design.

I cannot see that this is generally communicated as a meme and it seems to have existed (in some individuals) in many different cultures and at many different times.

So maybe my need to justify my moral set comes from an inbuilt human attribute rather than a meme. And an justification needs axioms, which is where memetic theory came in.