Memes Glorious Memes

Everyone loves memes, how we chuckle at LOLcats, how we laugh at their inherent creativity, how some of us take them pretty seriously politically. Conor Cunningham, however, really doesn’t like them. In an interview for the The Other Journal he lets rip:

as for memes, they are pure nonsense; you may as well speak of astrology or the X-Files. Not to sound too paradoxical, but if memes existed, first, we would never know, how could we? Second, how could there be more than one? Sure, we have things like fashion that some of us follow, but if, as Dawkins, Blackmore, Dennett, and company insist, we are created by memes rather than the other way around, then in a sense, there could only ever be one metameme. There could only be the selfish meme, because all thoughts, being illusory products of mimetics, would be evacuated of all content, and therefore, all thoughts would be instances of one type: small memes of the one great big meme. All thoughts would just be examples of the one “truth,” the metameme. This would have catastrophic consequences for science, because all scientific theories would be products of the selfish meme, like some great matrix; radical epistemological and ontological scepticism would surely follow.

I actually agree. From the perspective of any decent sociology mimetics is bunk and it makes no sense at all as social science. First because the problem of individuation Cunningham hints toward, second, the fact that Dawkins and crew tend to only consider it pejoratively in regard to religion, and third that like evolutionary psychology itself it is an inappropriate and facile explanation in the social sphere that tends towards ‘just-so’ stories that can never be verified or even argued against. However, these are not the claims here – there is an immediate move to the poking of philosophical problems. The argument for this is that all if all thoughts are memes then there must be some kind of flattening of distinction – all memes are equally true. But I don’t see how it this ends in there being one big meme “There could only be the selfish meme, because all thoughts, being illusory products of mimetics, would be evacuated of all content, and therefore, all thoughts would be instances of one type: small memes of the one great big meme” – I don’t see how that follows – surely even if we agree that there is this floating world of total untrue memes with no one being actually true as they are all memes, then I don’t see how this means there is one great big meme behind them – one massive ‘O Rly?’ owl, say.

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Richard Dawkins Keynesianism

I am with Negri on Keynes that Keynes was “a gentleman – that is, an honest bourgeois, not a petty-bourgeois like Proudhon, or an ideologue, but an easy man”. Proudhon was a localist after all, and we all know the petty-bourgeois nature of localism and those who believe it can resist capitalism – more on this later! Not that we should confuse any of the recent attempts at government intervention and regulation with Keynesianism – of course, none of them even consider the possibility of full employment as being a necessary goal. And we certainly shouldn’t confuse Keynesianism with anti-capitalism like so many friends do. I digress.

The popular form of Keynes states that inorder to stimulate the economy in the event of one of capitalism’s systematic downturns, the government must perform more activity, creating jobs and stimulating the economy as a whole, kicking the recovery into gear. This is illustrated by an example from his masterpiece The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money:

if the Treasury were to fill old bottles with bank-notes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal-mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is.

The simple point was – and against those who would claim that you need to build something socially useful (though this is to the good if this is possible, because more satisfied secure people do more economic activity) – the government should do something, anything to stimulate the economy.

My premise is this then – the government should require Richard Dawkins to release yet another book of the ilk of The God Delusion – feel free to come up with your own names in the comments. The sheer stimulation of the publishing industry, both in terms of newsprint and books either refuting his claims line by line, systematically or morally, or piggy backing his claims with fresh praise, would increase the economy to an unprecedented extent. The book should be a mix of generally bad arguments (like many of those he gives in the forebear) and very good (perhaps outsourced to the best atheist philosophers of religion) and/or very subtle and convoluted arguments indeed (perhaps those that it is near impossible to decipher and are open to numerous contradictory interpretations)  that would generate far more responses at far higher level of scholarship than the rather thin dash he gives us there. Better still, he could maybe do a series of the books.

Considering this would be done in a private consultation with Dickie Dawkins, it would sneak around conservatives opposed to stimulation of the economy. Its as good idea as any – maybe they could convince him to perhaps convert to a minor and obscure religion, in order to stimulate a further flurry of publication?

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