RE: virus: FAQ: v1.0 (b) - What is a meme?

Richard Brodie (
Sun, 20 Jun 1999 07:28:50 -0700


You're right, Blackmore was mistaken in citing me as a proponent of "vehicles." I actually said much the same thing in Virus of the Mind that she said, that the "vehicle" concept is problematic for memetics. Sue and I have talked at length and I am confident that we are in basic agreement about most parts of our model of memetics. She prefers to focus on direct transmission -- imitation of specific behaviors. I'm more interested in the cultural replicators that self-organize (or are designed) and utilize human minds to further their own ends (all in the "intentional stance," of course, not implying conscious intent).

Richard Brodie
Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme" Free newsletter!

-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf Of Tim Rhodes
Sent: Saturday, June 19, 1999 8:41 PM
To: Church of Virus
Subject: Re: virus: FAQ: v1.0 (b) - What is a meme?

Richard writes:

>Frankly, I think I know more about memes than the editors of the OED. Their
>definition, in line with Dawkins's original proposal which he later refined
>to be in line with mine, is so vague as to make the word useless for
>scientific purposes. It is becoming clear that there may be more than one
>cultural replicator. All of the book-length published works on memes that I
>know of use definitions similar to the one I used. Dawkins, Dennett,
>Blackmore, and Plotkin all agree with me on this.

"I shall use the term 'meme' indiscriminately to refer to memetic information in any of these forms; including ideas, the brain structures that instantiate those ideas, the behaviors these brain structures produce, and their versions in books, recipes, maps and written music. As long as that information can be copied by a process we may broadly call 'imataion', then it counts a a meme." --Susan Blackmore, _The Meme Machine_ (p. 66)

Blackmore would seem to be more flexible in the term's application than you are willing to be. (But perhaps she's just unaware of all you the things you "think you know" about memes.) For that matter, a page earlier in her "book-length published work", she sites your's among examples of problematic terminology regarding memes:

"Brodie (1996) follows Dennett and uses the term 'vehicle' for physical manifestations of a meme, as do others. However, there are problems with this analogy (Speel 1995)." --Susan Blackmore, _The Meme Machine_ (p. 65)

You might ask yourself if you're not confusing having the first word on the subject, with having the last.

-Prof. Tim