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The Meme Machine (1999)
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 019286212X, Paperback)In The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins proposed the concept of the meme as a unit of culture, spread by imitation. Now Dawkins himself says of Susan Blackmore:
Showing greater courage and intellectual chutzpah than I have ever aspired to, she deploys her memetic forces in a brave--do not think foolhardy until you have read it--assault on the deepest questions of all: What is a self? What am I? Where am I? ... Any theory deserves to be given its best shot, and that is what Susan Blackmore has given the theory of the meme.
Blackmore is a parapsychologist who rejects the paranormal, a skeptical investigator of near-death experiences, and a practitioner of Zen. Her explanation of the science of the meme (memetics) is rigorously Darwinian. Because she is a careful thinker (though by no means dull or conventional), the reader ends up with a good idea of what memetics explains well and what it doesn't, and with many ideas about how it can be tested--the very hallmark of an excellent science book. Blackmore's discussion of the "memeplexes" of religion and of the self are sure to be controversial, but she is (as Dawkins says) enormously honest and brave to make a connection between scientific ideas and how one should live one's life. --Mary Ellen Curtin
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:37 -0400)
Uniquely among animals, humans are capable of imitation and so can copy from one another ideas, habits, skills, behaviours, inventions, songs and stories. These are all memes, a term first coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 at the end of his book The Selfish Gene. Like genes, memes are replicators, competing to get into as many brains as possible, and this memetic competition has fashioned our minds and culture, just as natural selection has designed our bodies. We are what the memes have made us: we are all of us meme machines. Can the analogy between memes and genes do useful work? Can it lead us to powerful new theories that actually explain anything important?This book ends by confronting the deepest questions of all about ourselves: the nature of the inner self, the part of us that is the centre of our consciousness, that feels emotions, has memories, holds beliefs and makes decisions. Susan Blackmore makes a compelling case that this inner self, the 'inner me', is an illusion, a creation of the memes for the sake of their own replication.
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