As the “meme baton” replicates itself from email to email I have to wonder what happens should you choose not to pass it on. Does the “meme” die? Or are you cursed in some way for choosing not to participate? What I find particularly troubling is that a few people who have sent me an invitation express amazement at how contagious this “meme baton” has become. Contagious? It’s as if they had no choice but to respond and pass it on. They were not necessarily compelled to do so, but instead, as Dawkins might put it, were infected to participate.
I wish I could go back a few thousand years or so and seek out Socrates. It would be interesting to see what kind of dialogue we could intitiate in trying to define a meme. If it is a process of replication by which invidivuals pass on ideas, beliefs, and so forth as Dawkins describes, then it would seem to me that this would raise a few philosophical questions in determining the validity of his argument. What happens, for example, if an idea is not passed on. Does that mean that idea no longer exists? Do we love, hope, cherish, and pray because our brains have been replicated to do so? And if much of what we do in life is no more than a process of imitation and replication, then what about free will? Perhaps I am begging the issue, but what troubles me about Dawkin’s theory is that ideas, beliefs, and emotions can be so easily quantified and explained without necessarily debating the validity of those ideas, beliefs, and emotions. And so I am left to wonder, just what kind of abstraction am I dealing with here that my poor, humble mind doesn’t understand?
Dawkins, R., The Selfish Gene( Oxford University Press, 1989).