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New PDF release: Character and Culture

By Lester H. Hunt

ISBN-10: 0847684741

ISBN-13: 9780847684748

ISBN-10: 084768475X

ISBN-13: 9780847684755

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Additional info for Character and Culture

Sample text

UNIVERSAL DARWINISM 17 We should think of it like this – evolutionary theory describes how design is created by the competition between replicators. Genes are one example of a replicator and memes another. The general theory of evolution must apply to both of them, but the specific details of how each replicator works may be quite different. This relationship was clearly seen by the American psychologist Donald Campbell (1960, 1965) long before the idea of memes was invented. He argued that organic evolution, creative thought and cultural evolution resemble each other and they do so because all are evolving systems where there is blind variation among the replicated units and selective retention of some variants at the expense of others.

The ones we regularly meet are the successful ones – the ones that made it in the competition for replication. My question is simply – which memes are those? I am going to take the meme’s eye view as a way of tackling several controversial questions. I shall start with a simple one. The question itself may not be profound but it does turn out to be rather intriguing – and it will give us practise in thinking from the meme’s point of view. Why can’t we stop thinking? Can you stop thinking? Perhaps you have practised meditation or some other method of calming the mind.

As we shall see, some theories of cultural evolution are little more than this idea; others try to specify a mechanism but still come back to biological evolution as the only driving force, while just a few involve the concept of a second replicator as memetics does. This is what makes memetics so distinctive and so powerful. The whole point of a memetic theory of cultural evolution is to treat memes as replicators in their own right. This means that memetic selection drives the evolution of ideas in the interests of replicating memes, not the genes.

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Character and Culture by Lester H. Hunt


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