Definitions: The Evolution of Cultures – What is a Meme?

Memetic theory goes back 200 years. You could say that the idea that cultures are subject to the same fundamental process of selection as biological organisms, evolution, directly followed Darwins first publications on the subject.

The basic idea is simple. Same as organisms, cultures too have certain inherited traits that define what they are about and how they manage to adapt to a changing environment.

Followers of the theory call these traits memes. Yes that sounds like genes. That is not accidental. Evolution biologist Richard Dawkins, mostly known nowadays for his crusades against monotheistic religions, also not an accident, in 1976 defined Memes as information or ideas that shape the life of groups such as tribes, nations, hordes, artistic or political movements, religions, companies or even bird families, chimp populations, wolf packs.

And just like genetic information there are those that ate dominant and those that are recessive. In the present for example the ideas ‘where there are cities there is work’, or ‘having money means having a better life’ seem to be much stronger than the ideas that rural areas offer a lot of space and cheap housing as well as a life ‘closer to nature’. Or how about ‘driving a car or using other fossil-fueled transportation is faster and more comfortable’ vs. ‘walking is the most healthy and relaxed way to get from a to b’. There is a lot of criticism, especially coming from sociologists and theologists, claiming that memetic theories are not verifiable, but I aim to use this blog to differ and show, that, once you switch your frame of reference to that of a martian anthropologist, it will get hard to deny that the principles of evolution apply to cultures just as much as they do to organic organisms. In fact I aim to show that Evolution governs the spiritual, cultural, scientific and anorganic universe just as much as it does organic life.


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