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Memetics is the study of ideas, and their propagation. It is considered to be a protoscience. The term was popularized by the biologist Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion[1]. The thesis postulates that ideas follow a Darwinian form of Natural Selection, as the idea, or Meme reproduces by being accepted by people. It then mutates, as in a game of telephone, causing the most appealing version of the original idea to out compete the other variations of the original meme.


Memetics coins the following concepts:

  1. Memeplex, like a gene pool, a memeplex contains similar memes.
  2. Memotype, the actual content of the meme
  3. Memoid, people who have truly accepted the meme as truth.
  4. Memetic equilibrium. A state where the ideas are there, but the person does not let it get into the way of his/her goals.

Memetics and Religion

It can be argued that Religion itself is a meme,[2] primarily through the way religion propagates. Memetics holds that more attractive ideas will survive, and change through time, as the appealing tenets of it are kept and revised, and the unappealing forgotten, in a way reminiscent of doublethink [3] This can be applied to religion, as the unappealing aspects, or simply inconvenient aspects die out, as nobody holds them true. This is particularly vivid in the history of the monotheistic religions, the harsh penalties of the original memes have few adherents today. In regard to atheism as a meme, it appears that it is quite successful, as it has no fixed attribute, aside from the idea that there is no God, therefore there are no fixed unappealing tenets.


Memetics is criticized on several fronts, on the basis that none of the assertions have been tested, and in some cases, cannot be tested. Other critics decry it's lack of a code, as DNA has a code. This, apparently causes the evolution of memes to be far to chaotic to be measured usefully. Others yet say that it is simply another version of Semiotics, which only has it's ability to copy itself.[4]

See Also


  1. Dawkins, Richard. "Memetics." The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.
  2. The God Delusion Dawkins, Richard. Accessed 1/20/2012
  3. Propagation of Religion CNBN 2012-3824-1394 Chen, Alex
  4. Terrence Deacon, The trouble with memes (and what to do about it). The Semiotic Review of Books 10(3). James W. Polichak, "Memes as Pseudoscience", in Michael Shermer, Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. P. 664f.