Presumably not to be confused with a V-Meme, or what is often shortened to just "meme".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VMeme On Jul 8, 2006, at 6:03 PM, new.morning wrote: > http://www.stnews.org/books-2847.htm > > Excerpts > > The idea of memes falls short > > Here is what I consider to be the strongest of these models in detail > — the "meme," which is a hypothetical cultural or intellectual > replicator. In this model, religions might be memes that infect our > brains. They are not necessarily parasitic but could be symbiotic, > conferring advantages on those who are infected. > > Is belief in God a meme? It's an idea that Dawkins floated back in > 1976, and it lingers to this day. > > ----- > > The most interesting aspect of this book is its appeal to science. I > would place Dennett in the broad tradition of naturalist explanation > of religion that includes Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx and Sigmund > Freud. Whatever the benefits of religions, Dennett and these writers > believe that they arise entirely inside human minds. No spiritual > realities exist outside us. Natural explanations may be given > regarding the origins of belief in God. Now I hesitate to mention > this, but this is clearly a rather circular argument, which > presupposes its conclusions. > > ---- > > Alister McGrath says Dennett's Breaking the Spell doesn't understand > religion — never mind explain it > > By Alister McGrath > (June 2, 2006) > > The first point that got me nodding in agreement comes very early in > Breaking the Spell, the new book by Daniel C. Dennett: People > sometimes get defensive about religion. > > Religious people often get the most defensive when challenged about > the basis of their beliefs, which hinders any serious debate about the > nature of their faith, Dennett says. I know what he means. The issue, > I suspect, is that a challenge to faith often threatens to pull the > rug from under the values and beliefs that have sustained someone's > life. But this is a general problem with any significant worldview, > not just religion. > > I gave a lecture last year on the religious views of Richard Dawkins, > England's best-known atheist. It was pretty standard stuff. I simply > demonstrated how Dawkins' atheism was not adequately grounded in > argument or evidence and represented a highly skewed reading of the > natural sciences. Afterward, I was confronted by an angry man who told > me that I had destroyed his faith. His atheism rested on the authority > of Dawkins. Now, part of me felt that this was just too bad and he > ought to be more critical about evaluating evidence. But another part > of me noted that some beliefs — not all, but some — matter so much to > us that we base our lives upon them. We all need to examine our > beliefs, especially if we are naive enough to think that we don't have > any. > > `Vertebrate without a backbone' > > So how, I wondered, would Dennett clarify the distinction between a > worldview and a religion? The dividing line is notoriously imprecise, > and many would say it is constructed by those with vested interests to > defend. Here I must confess to some puzzlement. Dennett tells us that > "a religion without God or gods is like a vertebrate without a > backbone." If I were leading a discussion about how to define > religion, this would be the first definition to be considered — and > the first to be rejected because it is so inadequate. What about > nontheistic religions? Vertebrates by definition have backbones. The > concept of religion does not entail God. > > So why this unworkable definition? I initially thought that it was > because Dennett has American Protestant fundamentalism in his gun > sights. > > After I had finished the book, I could see why he took this line. > Dennett wants to explain religion in terms of evolutionary theory. He > asserts that the existence of God is a fantasy that once carried some > kind of survival advantages. So religions that don't believe in God > don't really fit the bill. > > I have to say that I was simply not persuaded by his account of what > religion is, which most religious people will regard as > unrecognizable. Perhaps it tells us a lot about what leading figures > in America's political and intellectual left think about religion. > > Breaking the spell's spell > > The most interesting aspect of this book is its appeal to science. I > would place Dennett in the broad tradition of naturalist explanation > of religion that includes Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx and Sigmund > Freud. Whatever the benefits of religions, Dennett and these writers > believe that they arise entirely inside human minds. No spiritual > realities exist outside us. Natural explanations may be given > regarding the origins of belief in God. Now I hesitate to mention > this, but this is clearly a rather circular argument, which > presupposes its conclusions. > > So what models does Dennett propose for the origins of faith in God? > The "sweet tooth" theory — or the hypothesis that just as we have > evolved a receptor system for sweet things, we might also have a "god > center" in our brains. Such a center might depend on a "mystical gene" > that was favored by natural selection because people with it tend to > survive better. > > Just a moment, where's the science? What's the evidence for this? > Instead of the rigorous evidence-driven and evidence-based arguments, > I found mights and maybes, speculation and supposition. These theories > are evidence-free and wi speculative. It reminds me of those TV ads > that say "This could help you lose weight as part of a > calorie-controlled diet." Could. The TV ad writers would love to be > able to say their product was "clinically proven" to do these things, > but they can't. There's no evidence. > > The idea of memes falls short > > Here is what I consider to be the strongest of these models in detail > — the "meme," which is a hypothetical cultural or intellectual > replicator. In this model, religions might be memes that infect our > brains. They are not necessarily parasitic but could be symbiotic, > conferring advantages on those who are infected. > > Is belief in God a meme? It's an idea that Dawkins floated back in > 1976, and it lingers to this day. > > First, the meme is just a hypothesis, and one that we don't need > because there are better models available in, for example, economics > and anthropology. If genes could not be seen, we would have to invent > them — the evidence demands a biologically transmitted genetic > replicator. Memes can't be observed, but the evidence can be explained > perfectly well without them. > > Darwinizing Culture by Robert Aunger contains a quote from Maurice > Bloch, a professor of anthropology at London School of Economics, that > sums it up best: the "exasperated reaction of many anthropologists to > the general idea of memes" reflects the apparent ignorance of the > proponents of the meme hypothesis about the discipline of anthropology > and its major successes in explaining cultural development without > feeling the need to develop anything like the idea of a meme at all. > > At this stage, the issue is simply whether memes exist, irrespective > of their implications for religion. > > I say, and most active scientists say with me, that there is no > evidence for these things. As Simon Conway Morris writes in his book > Life's Solution, memes seem to have no place in serious scientific > reflection. "Memes are trivial, to be banished by simple mental > exercises. In any wider context, they are hopelessly, if not > hilariously, simplistic," said Morris, a professor of evolutionary > paleobiology at the University of Cambridge. > > I was slightly puzzled that the arguments of such leading critics of > memetics were not identified and confronted point by point in Breaking > the Spell. This book makes a critique of religion dependent on a > hypothetical, unobserved entity, which can be dispensed with when > making sense of what we observe. Isn't that actually a core atheist > critique of God — an unobserved hypothesis that can be dispensed with > easily? > > If I were an atheist, I would want to drop this memetic approach, > which merely weakens my case, and head back to the safer territory of > a Marxist dialectical reading of history, which is much more > intellectually rigorous and evidence-driven. But far be it from me, as > a lapsed atheist, to tell those of you who still believe how to do > your job. > > If memes exist, atheism is a meme > > What do memes do? Dennett tells us that they spread beliefs, such as > beliefs in God. So are all beliefs spread by memes? Or just the ones > that anti-religious critics don't like? Is there a meme for atheism? > In Dennett's book, his explanation of "Simple Taxonomy" certainly > suggests so. And because there is no compelling scientific evidence > for these things, is there a meme for believing in memes? > > This is certainly a problem for Dawkins — the originator of this > notion. As many of you will know, Dawkins makes an unsuccessful > attempt to evade the trap of self-referentiality by saying that his > own ideas are different. God is caused by memes; atheism is not. > Anyone familiar with intellectual history will spot the pattern > immediately: My ideas are exempt from the general patterns I identify > for other ideas, which allows me to explain them away. My fear is that > Dennett has fallen victim to this same weakness. So is it just belief > in God that is a meme? Surely atheism is as well. > > Susan Blackmore, England's most able defender of the meme hypothesis, > recently stated that atheism is a meme. If so, all viewpoints are > affected in the same way, whether religious or anti-religious. > Therefore, which is memetic orthodoxy and which is heresy? > > How would Blackmore and Dennett be able to settle that point > scientifically? If they are not able to do so, then we have a > nonscientific debate about imaginary entities, hypothesized by analogy > with the gene. And we all know how unreliable arguments based on > analogy can be — witness the fruitless search for the luminiferous > ether in the late 19th century based on the supposed analogy between > light and sound. It was analogically plausible but nonexistent. The > analogy was invalid. > > Dawkins tells us that memes are merely awaiting their Crick and > Watson. I think they are merely waiting for their Michelson and > Morley. > > Alister McGrath is a professor of historical theology at Oxford > University. > > This article is adapted from remarks delivered at the Royal Society > for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in London in > response to Daniel C. Dennett's book Breaking the Spell. Used with > permission. > > > ====== > > from amazon > on another book by same author > > Amazon.com > Consciousness is notoriously difficult to explain. On one hand, there > are facts about conscious experience--the way clarinets sound, the way > lemonade tastes--that we know subjectively, from the inside. On the > other hand, such facts are not readily accommodated in the objective > world described by science. How, after all, could the reediness of > clarinets or the tartness of lemonade be predicted in advance? Central > to Daniel C. Dennett's attempt to resolve this dilemma is the > "heterophenomenological" method, which treats reports of introspection > nontraditionally--not as evidence to be used in explaining > consciousness, but as data to be explained. Using this method, Dennett > argues against the myth of the Cartesian theater--the idea that > consciousness can be precisely located in space or in time. To replace > the Cartesian theater, he introduces his own multiple drafts model of > consciousness, in which the mind is a bubbling congeries of > unsupervised parallel processing. Finally, Dennett tackles the > conventional philosophical questions about consciousness, taking issue > not only with the traditional answers but also with the traditional > methodology by which they were reached. > > Dennett's writing, while always serious, is never solemn; who would > have thought that combining philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience > could be such fun? Not every reader will be convinced that Dennett has > succeeded in explaining consciousness; many will feel that his account > fails to capture essential features of conscious experience. But none > will want to deny that the attempt was well worth making. --Glenn > Branch > > From Publishers Weekly > Tufts University cognitive scientist Dennett claims to have developed > a major new theory of consciousness, yet his view of the brain as a > massive parallel processor is a familiar one. What is different in his > counter-intuitive theory is the claim that human consciousness, rather > than being "hard-wired" into the brain's innate machinery, is more > like software "running on the brain's parallel hardware" and is > largely a product of cultural evolution. Author of Brainstorms , > Dennett leads the adventurous gently through thought experiments, > metaphors and diagrams in a treatise keyed to the serious, diligent > reader. He presents a plausible evolutionary scenario of how > consciousness could have emerged from the hominid brain. Dennett's > audacious, tantalizing foray into the mind's inner workings ties up > loose ends at the interface of cognitive psychology, artificial > intelligence, neuroscience and biology. > Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to > an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. > > > > 94 of 120 people found the following review helpful: > Lots of Words to Explain Very Few Ideas, August 18, 2002 > Reviewer: Tom Gray (Fort-Coulonge, Quebec Canada) - See all my reviews > This book contains a great many words. Unfortunately, it contains only > a very few ideas. This book could very well be contained in a 15 page > white paper. Indeed it has. The same ideas have been published in the > paper 'Time and the Observer - The Where and When of Consciousness in > the Brain' by the author (Dennett) and Kinsbourne. Even in that case > the 15 page paper is contained in a 33 page text. To use the clich, > Dennett will not use a paragraph when several chapters will suffice > > I would advise anyone who wishes to understand the ideas contained in > this book to read the paper. You will not have to waste your time in > plowing through hundreds of pages of superfluous explanation. The > paper is anthologized in 'The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical > Debates' that was edited by Block, Flanagan and Gazeldere, which is > also available from Amazon. You will get the same ideas as contained > in this book plus many many more. > > Another strategy would be to read one of Gerald Edelman's books which > contains many fewer words in much better expositions of a great many > more ideas that are much more trenchant and insightful. > > Was this review helpful to you? YesNo (Report this) > > > > 41 of 60 people found the following review helpful: > Grossly Overrated, April 22, 2002 > Reviewer: T. Gwinn (USA) - See all my reviews > (REAL NAME) > Since this book has received such a proportionally large amount of > attention, I assumed it would be well-argued and solidly constructed. > The argumentation is weak and sloppy, and the book is ultimately > trying to explain away - rather than explain - consciousness. > > We are never really told how, in fact, the 'Joycean machine' that is > "the stream-of-consciousness virtual machine"(p. 276) (which is the > main reason most of us bought this book) works! > > Halfway through the book, he says (p. 275) "...if my theory of the > Joycean machine is going to shed light on consciousness at all, there > had better be something remarkable about some if not all of the > activities of this machine, for there is no denying that consciousness > is, intuitively, something special." > > In the remaining 200+ pages of the book, he mentions (not explains) > the phrase 'Joycean machine' on only 7 additional pages. > > Read John Searle's book "Mystery of Consciousness" instead. There > Searle reviews many authors including Dennett. As do I, Searle also > consider's Dennett "imprecise and evasive" (p.115), and as he says "I > regard Dennett's denial of the existence of consciousness not as a new > discovery or even a serious possibility but rather a form of > intellectual pathology."(p.112) > > Was this review helpful to you? YesNo (Report this) > > > Customer Reviews > Average Customer Review: > Write an online review and share your thoughts with other customers. > > 3 of 5 people found the following review helpful: > Great book, but doesn't "Explain" Consciousness, June 4, 2006 > Reviewer: Brian Steidinger (Illinois) - See all my reviews > Says comic book guy: Consciousness Explained...most pretentious title > ever! Few will finish reading Dennett's 528-page book and say to > themselves "Well that explains it." In fact, Dennett does not claim to > explain consciousness, saying instead that he paints, in broad > strokes, the outline a scientific, non-question-begging theory of > human consciousness would take. Addressing the theoretical merits of > such a theory are difficult, and Dennett provides two appendices, one > for scientists and one for philosophers, aimed at tying his claims to > specific experimental predictions. That's a start. > > Dennett has been accused of being long-winded, taking readers on long > asides or cascading mind games until his main thesis has been > obfuscated to oblivion. That's harsh. I don't value Dennett in spite > of his asides, but because of them. His thought experiments and > analogies are brimming with insight, even if, in the end, their > additive effect fails to sum up to a complete explanation of > consciousness. In fact, this is a ubiquitous feature of books about > human consciousness, from Dennett to Hofstadter to Pinker--the > epistemological journey is always more fascinating than its final > destination, which seems forever tentative or illusory. > > Dennett starts with thought experiments aimed at setting the mood for > the rest of the book, including a perspective on hallucinations, from > phantom-limbs to full blown phantom-people, that whets the appetite > for the meal to come. He moves on to the first opponent of his > theory--Descartes' "ghost in the machine" dualism, exposing it as > scientifically defunct from a physical point of view. He spends much > of the rest of the book battling what he calls Cartesian > Materialism--a vestige of Descartes' idea of a central theatre of > human consciousness within the brain. His alternative, dubbed the > "Joycean Machine" or "Pandemonium Architecture" of human consciousness > does not crop up in a well-defined form. Actually, a more important > title would have been What Consciousness Isn't. > > Consider the following that form Dennett's foundation. Human beings > and chimpanzees diverged from a common ancestor about six million > years ago. Since that splitting off, the human brain has evolved to > four-times its original size, mostly through the enlargement of the > cerebral cortex. The evolution of human brains was not correlated with > an evolution of bipedalism or human culture. No major changes in human > neuroanatomy have taken place in the last ten thousand years, meaning > that physiologically we are just as cognitively capable as our > illiterate, language and culturally bereft ancestors. With no > hardware-level changes, Dennett relies on the concept of a meme--or a > unit of cultural replication--for a software level understanding of > his Joycean Machine. The meme was first coined by Richard Dawkins in > 1976 and is not an uncontroversial idea. Consider this--the wiring of > a Chinese speaking brain and an English speaking brain must be > different due to different lingual memes, but no one with any > certainty can tell a Chinese brain from an English brain. Without a > proper model of its physical manifestation, it's difficult to make the > case that memes have high fidelity replication or fall under similar > modes of selection as genes, which Dawkins proposed as their > biological analogues. In The Extended Phenotype Dawkins backpedals in > the face of criticism for his meme concept, claiming its primary > purpose was to highlight important differences between cultural and > biological evolution, and not to frame an entirely new science of > memetics. Dennett partially agrees that such a science is untenable in > Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Still, he relies heavily on it in > Consciousness Explained in order to frame a software-level > understanding of human consciousness. > > The best part of this book is Dennett's use of thought experiments and > his analysis of certain cases of brain damage, including the > split-brain procedures used to treat severe epilepsy and a model for > understanding scomota, a condition of partial blindness. His CADBLIND > thought experiment, where he delineates a system of computer-aided > design machinery for creating and manipulating a three dimensional > image and answering questions about it, sheds light on our familiar > misconceptions of the "mind's eye". Similarly, his attack on the > philosophical concept of phenomenology, often interpreted as an attack > on the existence of consciousness itself, offers keen insight into how > his views differ from traditional materialist takes on human > consciousness. In a review of one of his newer books on human > consciousness, Susan Blackmore (author of The Meme Machine) regrets > that Dennett has since changed his mind about some of the concepts of > consciousness proposed in this book. I think even if he completely > repudiated the beliefs stated in this book it will still be worth the > read. Again, it may not explain consciousness, but it takes you on a > journey that is epic in scope and interesting at every turn. I highly > recommend this book. > > Was this review helpful to you? YesNo (Report this) > > > > 4 of 5 people found the following review helpful: > Not for the weak of mind, April 30, 2006 > Reviewer: Joshua King "Seeker of TRUTH" (Nashville, TN) - See all my > reviews > This book is extremely hard to follow and the author assumes you have > a huge vocabulary including Memes, Cartesian theater, etc. This is > probably easier reading for some one with a masters in pychology.I > agree with the 1 star reviewer that said the writing style did not > carry the point across and that I felt like chapters were started in > the middle of a thought with out establishing a context. I picked up a > few key learnings, but what I learned could have been reduced to about > 20 pages. This was VERY tedious reading and hard to finish. Pick > another book on consciousness very little is explained. > > Was this review helpful to you? YesNo (Report this) > > > > 8 of 8 people found the following review helpful: > Random thoughts on consciousness, not an explanation, March 29, 2006 > Reviewer: Orkblork (Boston) - See all my reviews > I expected to find this book stimulating and informative, but came > away feeling that Dennett is vastly overrated and quite ordinary in > his thought process, logical skills, and writing. This book does not > explain or offer a theory on -- as its title promises -- what > consciousness is; it merely offers a lot of random observations on and > stories about consciousness. Dennett seems to start everything he > writes somewhere in the middle of a conversation he has been having > with himself; he doesn't know how to properly introduce a topic to the > reader. He begins the book not with an overview of his subject or a > presentation of a thesis, but with a chapter on hallucinations -- a > very specific area of consciousness. I indulged it with the > expectation that it would provide an entry point into a broader > argument he wished to advance; instead it was just the first in a > random string of narratives. > > I suggest that in lieu of Dennett's writings on consciousness, one > read John Searle or Robert Ornstein. Or if you want an engaging, > conversational style of writing on the subject, look into Oliver > Sacks. > > > Was this review helpful to you? YesNo (Report this) > > > > 5 of 6 people found the following review helpful: > Heavy going but worthwhile, February 25, 2006 > Reviewer: Dale C. Cook "student of life" (Woodville, MA USA) - See all > my reviews > (REAL NAME) > I have to wonder if the critics giving Dennett one star read the same > book I did. I will grant that the book is very wordy and slow-moving > in places. It is the kind of read where you need to put it down and > think about what you've just read. The arguments are sometimes very > tedious, but then the notion of a central observer and Cartesian > Theater are hard to shake. > > As a former computer specialist now happily retired, I particularly > resonated with his parallel processor with serial software idea. My > own master's work was in AI and I was fascinated by neural networks > and the (few) attempts at duplicating them (Thinking Machines comes to > mind.) > > I'm eagerly looking forward to reading some of Mr. Dennett's other > books and will gladly set aside the time needed! > > > Was this review helpful to you? YesNo (Report this) > > > > > > > > > ------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor -------------------- > ~--> > See what's inside the new Yahoo! 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