- Series: Popular Science
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised edition (May 16, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019286212X
- ISBN-13: 978-0192862129
- Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.8 x 5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 129 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Meme Machine (Popular Science) Revised Edition
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Over a decade ago, Richard Dawkins, who contributes a foreword to this book, coined the term "meme" for a unit of culture that is transmitted via imitation and naturally "selected" by popularity or longevity. Dawkins used memes to show that the theory known as Universal Darwinism, according to which "all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities," applies to more than just genes. Now, building on his ideas, psychologist Blackmore contends that memes can account for many forms of human behavior that do not obviously serve the "selfish gene." For example, a possible gene-meme co-evolution among early humans could have selected for true altruism among humans: people who help others (whether or not they are related) can influence them and thus spread their memes. Meme transmission would also explain some thorny problems in sociobiology. From a gene's point of view, celibacy, birth control and adoption are horrible mistakes. From a meme's point of view, they are a gold mine. Few or no children free up the meme-carrier to devote more energy to horizontal transmission to non-relatives (monks and nuns the world over figured that out long ago), something the gene is incapable of. With adoption, memes can even co-opt vertical transmission between generations. Blackmore posits that, in modern culture, meme replication has almost completely overwhelmed the glacially slow gene replication. Well written and personable, this provocative book makes a cogentAif not wholly persuasiveAcase for the concept of memes and for the importance of their effects on human culture.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Blackmore presents some very compelling arguments describing the importance of memes as "selfish" self replicators. She goes so far as to say that memetic forces can outweigh genetic forces when analyzing what has driven human evolution.
The book was somewhat dense at times, and the last few chapters were somewhat out there (delving into quasi-Buddhist explanations of consciousness), but I would ultimately recommend the book.
"We once thought that biological design needed a creator, but we now know that natural selection can do all the designing on its own. Similarly, we once thought that human design required a conscious designer inside us, but we now know that memetic selection can do it on its own." (source: pg. 242, "The Meme Machine" by Susan Blackmore)
Or maybe a new Bill Moyer's show, called "The Power of Memes". Or the Hero's Journey and the monomeme.
This book does in fact address most of the issues raised by the negative reviews found on Amazon, and in my opinion is a superb introduction to memes. In fact I doubt most of the negative reviewers have even read the book, and some openly admit they have not read it.
Do not read this book expecting peer reviewed scientific proof. It is only an introduction to a theory.
It seems most of the negativity is not about the book itself but toward controversial science in general, and since this book references lots of science it is sure to be a target for hostility.
So if you have a problem with popular science books, finishing books, comprehension, Reductionism, Evolution, Richard Dawkins, Humanists, Atheists, or any member of the Darwin family, spare yourself the frustration and save your money.
Otherwise, if you just want an introduction to memes, this book should do fine.