The Selfish Meme

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?

Kate Distin's 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. She argues 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.

This book should find a wide readership amongst philosophers, psychologists and sociologists, and it will also interest many nonacademic readers.

The Selfish Meme: Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Meme Hypothesis
  3. Cultural DNA
  4. The Replication of Complex Culture
  5. Variation
  6. Selection
  7. The Story So Far
  8. The Human Mind: Meme Complex with a Virus?
  9. The Meme's Eye View
  10. Early Cultural Evolution
  11. Memetic DNA
  12. Memes and the Mind
  13. Science, Religion and Society: What Can Memes Tell Us?
  14. Conclusions

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

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