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HOME > PAST ISSUE > July-August 2010 > Article Detail

LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

Skip the Memes, Please

To the Editors:

Olli Arjamaa and Timo Vuorisalo wrote a very interesting and informative article, “Gene-Culture Coevolution and Human Diet” (March–April). But rather than confine themselves to easily verifiable historical types of explanation—narratives, analyses or interpretations implied from concrete instances and events—they introduce an abstraction: “meme.” (I almost said “distraction.”)

Like the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz’s “monads,” a meme can be anything. How does it aid understanding to explain the familiar with the less familiar? How does it aid understanding to invoke remote causation, where easily accessible historical explanations do the job well enough? Crème brûlée is just crème brûlée; to describe it as a meme seems gratuitous. Had I thought the article a mere meme, I might have avoided reading it. If I had, I’m rather glad to say, I would have been the poorer for it.

José Alfredo Bach
San Marcos, TX


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