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Copyright © 1997, Jay Ligda.  All rights reserved.  Published by Humans in the Universe and Jay Ligda.


      I'd like to introduce a relatively new concept, that of a meme.  The word meme was coined by Dawkins (as cited in Dennett, 1991) to mean a small unit of cultural transmission.  He coined it to sound like gene, a small unit of biological transmission that is the driving force behind evolution.  Memes, like genes, are subjected to the same laws of evolution, survival of the fittest, and reproduction.  However, memes reproduce by being being passed from one mind to the next.  The fittest memes will survive, evolve, and provide a foundation for society and for future memes to evolve (Dennett, 1991).

      Examples of memes are, an escape route a potential prey uses to escape from a predator.  This meme will survive if it is successful and if it gets passed to another.  Language is a meme.  Pinkler (1994) argues that the biological base for language is instinctual; the actual language an individual speaks is learned (passed from one mind to the next).  Human-made fire is a meme; so is the wheel, a stone tool, agriculture, and walls that enclose and protect a city.  Mathematics is a meme, as is Darwin’s theory of evolution, and Beethoven's fifth symphony.  The Cartesian paradigm is a meme and so too is quantum physics.  The written word, the telephone, the personal computer, and the internet are all memes.  This web-site is no more than a composite of memes that I have collected from the minds of others through the written word.  In my mind, I synthesized and recombined the memes, and through the written word, I share them with you.

      The significance of memes is that they shape our culture, behavior and beliefs.  They shape our paradigmsParadigms in turn, are memes.  Memes as well as paradigms can be mutually exclusive.  Mutually exclusive memes that appear within the same mind space will lead to confusion within the individual as a "contrary" is created in the information that person lives by.  Mental disorders such as schizophrenia, are the result of this (Bateson, 1972).

      Some memes are designed to assist in the transportation of memes from one mind to the next.  The layout of the keys on my keyboard is an example of such a meme.  I call these, memes-to-help-transmit-memes

by Jay Ligda

(This work is a all or part of an original work first published/written for John. F. Kennedy University:  Final Integrative Project., Mar1996.)

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  • Bateson, G. (1972).  Steps to an Ecology of Mind:  A Revolutionary Approach to Man's Understanding of Himself.  New York, NY:  Chandler.
  • Dennet, D. (1991).  Consciousness Explained.  Boston, MA:  Little, Brown.
  • Pinkler, S. (1994).  The Language Instinct:  How the Mind Creates Language.  New York, NY:  Milliam Morrow & Company.
  • Pearson, D. & Shaw, S. (1982).  Life Extension:  A Practical Scientific Approach.  New York, NY:  Warner.


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