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Memes, memes, hedgehogs and sharks.
June 25, 2013 2:51 AM   Subscribe

Richard Dawkins talks about memes. [SLYT, contains flashing images]
posted by zoo (47 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ducks Go Quack, Chickens Say Cluck
posted by Blasdelb at 3:16 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Hansel, he's so hot right now..."
posted by Maverick_Mac at 3:44 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Richard! Reggie Watts ate the fish! We have a whole audience waiting for his wild vocal stylings. What do we do?"

"Don't panic! I think I have an idea..."
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:05 AM on June 25, 2013


Once it got to the crazy visuals and generic techno, I started skipping through the remainder of the video.
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 4:30 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


At least he sounds more educated than when he talks about Muslims.

But think how much worse Romney would have been.
posted by DU at 4:52 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Richard Dawkins talks about memes. [SLYT]

Werner Herzog eats his shoe.

Better.
posted by Fizz at 4:56 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ok, I was all ready to give this a go. I started watching and thought, "Hey! He's actually addressing the evolution of the idea of the meme itself and how it has mutated to this new sense called 'Internet meme'." He even implicitly alluded to the idea of humans being active, social agents in the spread of cultural memes (rather that passive replicators). Maybe I can quote this in my dissertation...it's certainly got some real simple soundbytes that are succinct and current improvements on his original ideas from 40+ years ago.

Then sharks and hedgehogs. What happened at 5 minutes in? Then the dinosaur catching the jumping shark...is that ironic metaphor or sheer stupidity? And his music solo...what am I supposed to do with that?

Also, this post needs an epsilepsy tag (who would have thought?).

I'm glad he's more interested in spreading memes than genes.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:09 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This may be one meme that fails to propagate....

(I live in hope)
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 5:11 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Added note about flashing images.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:17 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


That took an interesting turn.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:25 AM on June 25, 2013


I fear he's going for the Kevin Warwick Visiting Perfessorship in Credibility Destruction of a Formerly Respectable Discipline.
posted by Devonian at 5:29 AM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Whatever happened to CyberKev?

Certainly a hint of fame is the worst thing can could possibly happen to some people.
posted by Artw at 5:38 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this what a 21st-century midlife crisis looks like?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:43 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Captain Cyborg is alive and well and making me switch off my radio/TV in fulminating anger on a regular basis.

HULK SMASH!
posted by Devonian at 5:51 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeeeah, I saw this the other day. I'm a big fan of the Dawkmeister, but really. Richard, Richard, Richard. No. Just no. This is like your version of dad dancing.
posted by Decani at 5:52 AM on June 25, 2013


Richard Dawkins and the ascent of madness
posted by Artw at 5:59 AM on June 25, 2013


What the hell was that?


"His links with the far right are extensive"

Say whaaaat? Is this person relying on Dawkins's lack of litigousness to avoid a pretty clear-cut libel case here?
posted by Decani at 6:07 AM on June 25, 2013


Say whaaaat? Is this person relying on Dawkins's lack of litigousness to avoid a pretty clear-cut libel case here?

Seeing as everything that comes out of his mouth about muslims sounds exactly like relatives of mine and people in my town that think republicans are "too liberal", i'd believe it. Plus his basically telling a woman who was sexually assaulted at an atheist convention to basically suck it up, and be glad she at least wasn't living in a third world country, yeah, good luck with any "clear cut libel". He's no different than the far right, and probably does have many links to it. Seriously, fuck Dawkins and those who defend him for these things because they believe the same as him in other areas.

Is this what a 21st-century midlife crisis looks like?

It reminds me of the trend a few decades back (not sure exactly when it was) where accountants and business people would try to seem "cool" or "wacky" by wearing odd hats or ties in interviews on television. It's like your racist grandparent trying to be funny or hip by doing something that makes everyone ashamed for them when they say or do it (see Paula Deen).
posted by usagizero at 6:33 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Decani: "What the hell was that?


"His links with the far right are extensive"

Say whaaaat? Is this person relying on Dawkins's lack of litigousness to avoid a pretty clear-cut libel case here?
"

Dude, the author linked to it right there.

http://www.loonwatch.com/2013/04/richard-dawkins-anti-islamanti-muslim-propaganda-exposed-the-facts/
posted by ShawnStruck at 6:34 AM on June 25, 2013


Well here's Andrew Brown in the Guardian: Richard Dawkins and the meaningless meme: Dawkins's video is designed to go viral yet completely misunderstands the way that real internet memes spread.

.."And this in turn points at the fatuity of the meme concept if it is intended (as it was) to be a serious account of cultural transmission. It is entirely without reference to meaning. What can be copied – and what is – are simple patterns of sound or words or pictures. But what makes these things worth communicating is their meaning. And in the video above you see the perfection of something designed to be copied without any meaning at all."

That's nearly 50% of the whole article, or articlette. But it's nice to see the word 'fatuity' in a newspaper.
posted by glasseyes at 6:45 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that some well-meaning copyeditor at The Grauniad had let it stand due to misreading it as "fatality"
posted by ardgedee at 7:05 AM on June 25, 2013


From that Guardian article: "Older readers will remember Downfall videos and even lolcats."

Sob. Guess I'll be going to live on a farm any day now.

(I thought it was funny. A bit clunky, but Dawkins clearly has a sense of humour (was there a post on Mefi a while back where he read out his hate mail?). Am enjoying people lecturing him on memes. Am also (less enjoyably) wincing at a Saatchi related company having "Just For Hits" as a slogan at the moment)
posted by Hartster at 7:32 AM on June 25, 2013


I remember Hamster Dance and Mahir!
posted by Artw at 7:39 AM on June 25, 2013


All your base are belo-

Slumps over. Silence.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:45 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even as a rabid atheist I am NOT a fan of Dawkins, but I got a good laugh out of this. He was always a show-boating racist weirdo, it's like Mitch Hedberg's joke about Cheese Whiz: Why not make it glow-in-the-dark? It's not as if it had a lot of integrity as a product to begin with. Also, as a proud member of the VHEMT, I really like the one-liner "I'd rather spread memes than genes". It makes sense!
posted by Mooseli at 7:45 AM on June 25, 2013


"His links with the far right are extensive"

Not to derail here, but 1 minute of googling shows that in the 70's and 80's he supported labor, and more recently Liberal Democrats.
posted by barkingpumpkin at 7:47 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember Hamster Dance and Mahir!

Dancing baby.
posted by Leon at 7:52 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah - If this is somehow proof of the far right extremism, you maybe need to close all tabs except the ones marked Pareidolia, and then you need to go outside.

It's his initials and some laurel leaves. Not a secret message to Hitler's ghost.
posted by zoo at 7:57 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


While I agree with a lot of what Dawkins has to say, and think he is intelligent and a great writer, I find his idea of memes sits slightly oddly with his being such an impassioned proponent of atheism. Surely if ideas are memes it doesn't necessarily matter which ones are factually correct - just how effective they are in reproducing. His insisting that the belief in an omnipotent creator is irrational doesn't affect religions' ability to propagate, and form important cultural entities as part of the "meme pool".
posted by iotic at 8:00 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not to derail here, but 1 minute of googling shows that in the 70's and 80's he supported labor, and more recently Liberal Democrats.

QED
posted by No Robots at 8:04 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Surely if ideas are memes it doesn't necessarily matter which ones are factually correct - just how effective they are in reproducing.

I think it's meant to be descriptive, not prescriptive. You are still allowed your own criteria for which ones you let into your head.
posted by RobotHero at 9:33 AM on June 25, 2013


And yeah, this felt to me a lot like someone trying to be "hip with the youth" and falling short.

He's imitating the superficial level of what these things look like but if you just start with a video with music with all your pre-chosen quotes, you're bypassing the normal process by which these things come to exist. And that process was what made them "memes" not how many flashing colours they have.

Except, he's also imitating the flashing colours because he saw it on other videos, so I don't know any more.
posted by RobotHero at 9:51 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


God is a master of reverse psychology
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:54 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are still allowed your own criteria for which ones you let into your head.

But Dawkins really does seem to think everyone should be an atheist. That's pretty prescriptive.
posted by iotic at 10:02 AM on June 25, 2013


Can we stop with the silly derails? Please?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:03 AM on June 25, 2013


Iotic, the thing I think you're missing is that he's equating memes to genes, and the main thrust of his book "The Selfish Gene" is that the proper way to think about evolution is as if genes are totally self-interested, and not interested in the success of their host. Memes are the same - being successful reproducers in their ecosystem (human culture) doesn't necessarily correlate with being good for humans. They're selfish. So I don't see any clash between what he thinks are good ideas and what ideas are good at reproducing.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:17 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


But Dawkins really does seem to think everyone should be an atheist. That's pretty prescriptive.

I was talking specifically about the meme idea. Does every word out of Dawkin's mouth have to be descriptive for the meme idea to be descriptive? Karl Marx wrote about capitalism.
posted by RobotHero at 10:22 AM on June 25, 2013


"Memes are the same - being successful reproducers in their ecosystem (human culture) doesn't necessarily correlate with being good for humans."

This is the whole problem I have with Dawkins' ideas about memes. I think he misses the point about the function that memes serve for the 'vehicles' that propagate them. He avoids any talk about how they are good for humans...that they are resources in human interaction and tools for building social capital. Humans (until this video somewhat) don't even factor into the equation for him. The micro and the macro are entirely disconnected. I find that reflected in his quote about how he's much more interested in spreading memes than in spreading genes. Both of which are fun (to spread) in their own ways. At the very least, it makes the quote doubly funny for me. Like who is interested in spreading genes for the sake of DNA transmission? Forest for the genetic trees, man.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:25 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can we stop with the silly derails?

Talking about the man and the ideas in the video, with reference to other of his views, is a derail?

I think some people's idea of a derail is what I'd call a decent conversation.
posted by iotic at 10:45 AM on June 25, 2013


I think we owe Jesus the honour of separating his genuinely original and radical ethics from the supernatural nonsense which he inevitably espoused as a man of his time. And perhaps the oxymoronic impact of 'Atheists for Jesus' might be just what is needed to kick start the meme of super niceness in a post-Christian society. If we play our cards right - could we lead society away from the nether regions of its Darwinian origins into kinder and more compassionate uplands of post-singularity enlightenment?--"Atheists for Jesus" / Richard Dawkins
posted by No Robots at 11:03 AM on June 25, 2013


When one of the creatives says "Let's cut out just your head, and then we'll animate it moving around", you would hope somebody else in the room knows what a cult looks like and steps on the brakes.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:49 AM on June 25, 2013


I didn't realise this when I watched it a couple of days ago, but of course the point of this video is to be utterly ridiculous, stupid, bizarre, and even downright embarrassing, in order that people spread it around. If you've seen it linked elsewhere, has it been described as "An interesting and worthwhile short talk by Richard Dawkins, followed by an animation"? No, it's probably been more like "WTF is this? Check out this weird Dawkins video!"

And that's the point. As a meme, this video spreads around from viewer to viewer because of qualities separate from its inherent quality or usefulness. That's the core idea of the theory of memes. Just like the tautology that "the most spreadable genes spread best", likewise "the most spreadable memes spread best". But the 'spreadability' of a meme needn't be primarily a matter of its inherent value to culture, society, or the particular individuals it spreads between. Spreadable memes are also catchy tunes, funny jokes, dumb catchphrases, traditions.

That's not to say, of course, that quality and spreadability are completely independent or opposed. Some memes spread well specifically because they're useful: hand-washing, mathematical theorems, mnemonics, "those spotted mushrooms are poisonous". But the fact that memes can be spreadable without being useful -- or even while being harmful, in the case of tulip mania, or (as Dawkins would argue) organised religions -- that's the aspect that meme theory draws attention to and aims to explain.

The present video is specifically designed to be spreadable, by being eye-catching, weird, amusing, cringe-inducing, all independent of whether it has any content that's interesting, correct, useful, or otherwise worthwhile. In that sense, it's a very well-engineered meme. At the same time, by tacking on the short lecture at the beginning, it carries an informative payload (at least, to those viewers who don't just skip to the flashy light show) that spreads the conceptual content of meme theory.

When I first watched it I thought it was just embarrassingly awful -- Dawkins trying to seem cool or wacky, or having a mid-life crisis, as commenters above have suggested. On further thought it's still somewhat embarrassing -- deliberately so -- but I'm fairly impressed with how clever it is as well.
posted by logopetria at 9:14 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


A couple of other points:

1. Andrew Brown (linked by glasseyes) seems to be quite comprehensively missing the point. The fact that most successful memes aren't deliberately engineered to spread is irrelevant to the theory itself (unless Brown think Dawkins' theory was formulated in order to explain lolcats and "All your base"). And he says the "meme concept" is 'fatuous' because it considers the spreading of ideas "without reference to meaning" or to "what makes these things worth communicating". As best I can make out, he's complaining that the concept "meme" picks out a collection of things that (indiscriminately) includes both useful meaningful ideas and silly pointless ones. If that's meant as a complaint against the theory it seems to be utterly and spectacularly failing to understand the point; it's just as wrongheaded as complaining that "according to Mr Darwin's theory, the useless tapeworm is no less favoured by Nature than the noble lion". If there's a valid complaint in Brown's article, could someone point it out?

2. zoo: just to be clear, you're aware that the captions at that link are reversed (in the never-fails-to-be-hilarious Private Eye "Lookalikes" style)? The Richard Dawkins Foundation logo is the blue-and-gold "rd", and it's the Golden Dawn logo that has the laurel leaves.
posted by logopetria at 9:53 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seeing as everything that comes out of his mouth about muslims sounds exactly like relatives of mine and people in my town that think republicans are "too liberal", i'd believe it. Plus his basically telling a woman who was sexually assaulted at an atheist convention to basically suck it up, and be glad she at least wasn't living in a third world country, yeah, good luck with any "clear cut libel". He's no different than the far right, and probably does have many links to it.
posted by usagizero at 2:33 PM on June 25


What... staggeringly hysterical garbage. And the fact that you'd believe it is not evidence that it is true. This person outright accused Dawkins of links with far-right groups, and that extended piece of lies, half-truths, near-libels and out-of-context quote mining that purportedly back up that absurd allegation showed not one example of such a link. Dawkins slams Islam, just as he slams Christianity and all religion. He does so for very good reasons. Slamming a religion is not racism no matter how many Orwellian liars desperately like to pretend it is. It is a slamming of ideas, of cultural practices, of behaviour. All of which are perfectly valid and justifiable activities, and things that plenty of lefties do too.

And your interpretation of the "Dear Muslima" post is just arrant bloody nonsense. It was a shot of sarcasm across the bows of a group of people who have repeatedly made it more than clear that they are acting hypocritically and with no reasonable sense of perspective. We really, really don't need to re-hash the "elevatorgate" thing out again but those of us who were sort-of there when it all went down are simply not going to let people like you continue to shamelessly misrepresent the whole picture in the nasty and dishonest way you do here.

He's no different than (sic) the far right? Really? Get a fucking grip.
posted by Decani at 6:25 AM on June 27, 2013


Slamming a religion is not racism no matter how many Orwellian liars desperately like to pretend it is. It is a slamming of ideas, of cultural practices, of behaviour. All of which are perfectly valid and justifiable activities, and things that plenty of lefties do too.

It just happens to have 100% overlap with the way the BNP/EDL talk about Muslims, but all of that is 100% justifiable and Not Racist.
posted by Artw at 7:00 AM on June 27, 2013


It was a shot of sarcasm across the bows of a group of people who have repeatedly made it more than clear that they are acting hypocritically and with no reasonable sense of perspective.

Women?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:32 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Older readers will remember Downfall videos and even lolcats."

I remember Hamster Dance and Mahir!

All your base are belo-

Slumps over. Silence.

Dancing baby.


Kilroy was here.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:23 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


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