Kate Distin

The Selfish Meme: A Critical Reassessment - Cambridge University Press, 2005

Culture is a unique and fascinating aspect of the human species. How did it emerge and how does it develop? Richard Dawkins has suggested that culture evolves and that memes are the cultural replicators, subject to variation and selection in just the same way as genes are in the biological world. In this sense human culture is the product of a mindless evolutionary algorithm. Does this imply, as some have argued, that we are mere meme machines and that the conscious self is an illusion?

This highly readable and accessible book extends and strengthens Dawkins's theory and presents for the first time a fully developed and workable concept of cultural DNA. I argue that culture's development can be seen both as the result of memetic evolution and as the product of human creativity. Memetic evolution is perfectly compatible with the view of humans as conscious and intelligent.

The Selfish Meme is also available in Spanish and Chinese.


Read an extract from the book at the Cambridge University Press website, here.


"A model of clarity, the book's appeal is wide - from philosophers to sociologists, anyone interested in how cultures change will benefit from reading The Selfish Meme. Her rigorous approach makes her theory more palatable than other theories of cultural evolution."
Philosophy TODAY - read the full review here.

"Its chief virtue, however, may prove to lie in the precision with which she defines the concept and the philosophical commitments that underlie it. If we choose to reject the meme concept, it may be forphilosophical reasons as much as for anything else."
Social Science Information - ready the full review here.

"Kate Distin's book gives an excellent, thorough and comprehensive presentation and critical discussion of the field of memetics . . . read the book - it is worth it!"
Journal of Biosocial Science (2008) 40 - read the full review here.

"The Selfish Meme is a very readable and thought provoking book, and I would have no hesitation in recommending it to open-minded students and scholars in any biological, anthropological or sociological field."
CAMBRIDGE (The Magazine of the Cambridge Society) No. 57 - read the full review here.

"Distin's discussion is even-handed and informative for those wishing to update themselves on the current state of play in the field."
Scientific and Medical Network Review

"memetics is wrong."
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews - read the full review here.

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