http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree ... virus-mind
I have always had a lot of respect for the memetic idea of religion worked on by Dawkins, Dennett and Blackmore.
Reading the article I am a little surprised how easily she is giving it up, despite being impressed with her honesty at saying when she thinks she is wrong.
However the crux of the article for me is:
1) Surely many viruses are? There are many viruses out there that cause increased promiscuity or even attractiveness, and affect the mind/intelligence and not only to their detriment either.But unless we twist the concept of a "virus" to include something helpful and adaptive to its host as well as something harmful, it simply does not apply. Bacteria can be helpful as well as harmful; they can be symbiotic as well as parasitic, but somehow the phrase "bacterium of the mind" or "symbiont of the mind" doesn't have quite the same ring.
2) She is worried about differentiating between viruses, parasites, bacteria and more. What she seems to fail to forget is that such distinctions are not even possible in memetics. Bacteria and parasites in this context are just viruses with a "body" of their own. There are massive differences between them, but not in the context of discussion of what they are at their basics: A method of delivering a "payload" into the infected host. A "payload" that is delivered to only benefit the infection, but can have both detrimental and beneficial effects to the host. Memes HAVE no such distinction. Ideas can not appear as cells, or multicellular distinctive versions in the brain. A meme is a meme is a meme.
I think her work needs refinement and improvement, I have done since I first heard her speak and read her books. But the tone of this article is one of throwing her hands up and packing in the lot, and that is a serious waste and a serious error in judgement.
The world is full of things like toxoplasmosis. Infections that get into the brain and can cause increases in promiscuity, athletic tendency and much more.
Maybe the word she needs is not "bacterium of the mind" or "symbiont of the mind" but "infection of the mind" and that rings just fine to me. I certainly have never heard a scientist give up before because some necessary relabeling of their work doesn't have "quite the same ring". Is she working to produce science, or cute slogans I wonder?