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Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit flat, 26 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Meme Machine (Popular Science) (Paperback)
Like many other reviewers I found this book a bit flat. The first third of the book is actually very interesting and has some exciting ideas. I like the idea that meme-gene co-evolution caused our big brains. There are certainly a few ideas that memetics sits well with. Culture does evolve and many of things we do do not offer us any particular biological advantage. This book attempts to address the reason why we do those things. It is in some ways a theory of how human culture developed: of interest to those studying art and culture.

What this book lacks however is science. A lot of the ideas are pure speculation and it's hard to take a lot of it seriously without good evidence. As the book progresses, the theory of memetics becomes weaker and weaker until Dr Blackmore ditches the theory altogether. Mid-way she spends some time on religion and alien abduction explaining why people believe in such fallacies. However, none of this really has anything to do with memes and these subjects certainly don't deliver any exciting memetic theory. I don't need to read a book on memetics to learn that most alien abduction stories probably aren't true.

And that's another thing this book lacks: a point. Although the idea of memetics is an interesting one, what grand theory does it really deliver? I was hoping for some exciting and controversial explanation for humanity but this book doesn't offer that. In fact, since memetics is largely concerned with mimicry, I think most people will find more answers and more science in books on psychology which certainly deal with mimicry and learning but use evidence to back their claims.

In a sense memetic theory gives a reasonably good explanation to why humans are distracted by culture, and why some pieces of culture work and others do not. At one time mimicry provided a genetic advantage (copying the tools other people made, etc.) but the idea-as-a-replicator gave us brains that are constantly distracted by things other than procreation so gave birth to art and religion. But for me the theory stops there. There's really not much else it can say that is of any use or interest. It's a bit flat. The first third is worth a read but the theory just fizzles out.
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