What does it all Meme ?

Posted: February 1, 2007 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo


I recently watched the matrix films,not for the first time. I love the ideas behind the films,especially the way agent smith, initially part of the matrix, becomes obsolete and like a virus, multiplies and threaten the operating system running the matrix.

I am beginning to feel a little like agent smith,in that I,being a Christian, have been likened to a virus! I threaten -apparently. You have been warned!

According to Richard Dawkins my Christianity is a sign that I have been infected with a virus of the mind, known as a ‘meme’ a term coined by Dawkins -oh it sounds like the word gene,is that deliberate?

Why is Christianity being considered a virus of the mind,what empirical evidence is there for this approach ?Well apparently Dawkins decided it was so,I can’t argue with someone who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. Anyone with furniture that impressive must be right!

Are all ideas to be considered a virus of the mind or just ideas Dawkins doesn’t like? Sounds a little like subjective criterion with no evidential foundation, but what would I know, I’m infected and infecting?

A virus has generally a negative impact on the host organism,being called a virus therefore does not engender feelings of warmth -except if I think of bacteriophage, which have a positive impact on humanity by destroying pathogenic bacteria. If I am to be likened to a virus, then I have decided I’m a bacteriophage.

Can you choose which virus you can be ? I know Richard (if I may call him that ,after all he knows so much about me) would possibly not agree. This quote from the great man demonstrates his stance towards those of a superstitious nature,that is those who prefer subjective criterion over evidential foundations :

“It’s time to question the abuse of childhood innocence with superstitious ideas of hell-fire and damnation. Isn’t it weird the way we automatically label a tiny child with its parents’ religion?”

I wonder if Richards Children are atheists?

On a more serious note this rhetoric reminds me of Nazi Germany and there portrayal of Jews in films and in literature such as Hermann Essers, Die jüdische Weltpest ( The Jewish World Plague, 1939) as a contagion ,a source of disease ,as a virus. This type of suggestion paved the way for the worst atrocities one group has brought to bear on another.

Aaron Lynch comments on the idea of meme as a thought contagion,he says:

‘The term “thought contagion” is neutral with respect to truth or falsity, as well as good or bad. False beliefs can spread as thought contagions, but so too can true beliefs. Similarly, harmful ideas can spread as thought contagions, but so too can beneficial ideas…Thought contagion analysis concerns itself primarily with mechanism by which ideas spread through a population. Whether an idea is true,false, helpful, or harmful are considered mainly for the effects they have on transmission rates.’


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