There are a plethora of definitions for the meme, with most being variations of Dawkins original notion of a unit (whatever that means) of cultural transmission, where culture may be defined as the total pattern of behavior (and its products) of a population of agents, embodied in thought, behavior, and artifacts, dependent upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. None of extant definitions of a meme is sufficient to allow a meme to be clearly recognized, measured, or provide the basis for scientific research. And without the establishment of a scientific basis and the ability to explain, predict, and control phenomena, memetics will remain a functionally useless pseudo-science. A few of the many definitions extracted from the literature include:
(1885-1886) Toward an Outline
1. Nihilism stands at the door: whence comes this uncanniest of all guests? Point of departure: it is an error to consider “social distress” or “physiological degeneration” or, worse, corruption, as the cause of nihilism. Ours is the most decent and compassionate age. Distress, whether of the soul, body, or intellect, cannot of itself give birth to nihilism (i. e., the radical repudiation of value, meaning, and desirability) . Such distress always permits a variety of interpretations. Rather: it is in one particular interpretation, the Christian-moral one, that nihilism is rooted.
2. The end of Christianity–at the hands of its own morality (which cannot be replaced), which turns against the Christian God (the sense of truthfulness, developed highly by Christianity, is nauseated by the falseness and mendaciousness of all Christian interpretations of the world and of history; rebound from “God is truth” to the fanatical faith “All is false”; Buddhism of action).
3. Skepticism regarding morality is what is decisive. The end of the moral interpretation of the world, which no longer has any sanction after it has tried to escape into some beyond, leads to nihilism. “Everything lacks meaning” (the untenability of one interpretation of the world, upon which a tremendous amount of energy has been lavished, awakens the suspicion that all interpretations of the world are false) . Buddhistic tendency, yearning for Nothing. (Indian Buddhism is not the culmination of a thoroughly moralistic development; its nihilism is therefore full of morality that is not overcome: existence as punishment, existence construed as error, error thus as a punishment–a moral valuation.) Philosophical attempts to overcome the “moral God” (Hegel, pantheism) . Overcoming popular ideals: the sage; the saint; the poet. The antagonism of “true” and “beautiful” and “good”.
4. Against “meaninglessness ” on the one hand, against moral value judgments on the other: to what extent has all science and philosophy so far been influenced by moral judgments? and won’t this net us the hostility of science? Or an anti-scientific mentality? Critique of Spinozism. Residues of Christian value judgments are found everywhere in socialistic and positivistic systems. A critique of Christian morality is still lacking.
5. The nihilistic consequences of contemporary natural science (together with its attempts to escape into some beyond) . The industry of its pursuit eventually leads to self-disintegration, opposition, an antiscientific mentality. Since Copernicus man has been rolling from the center toward X.*
6. The nihilistic consequences of the ways of thinking in politics and economics, where all “principles” are practically histrionic: the air of mediocrity, wretchedness, dishonesty, etc. Nationalism. Anarchism, etc. Punishment. The redeeming class and human being are lacking–the justifiers.
7. The nihilistic consequences of historiography and of the “practical historians,” i. e., the romantics. The position of art: its position in the modern world absolutely lacking in originality. Its decline into gloom. Goethe’s allegedly Olympian stance.
8. Art and the preparation of nihilism: romanticism (the conclusion of Wagner’s Nibelungen).
The Manchu Annals introduce the history of the English opium war with a statement that, early in the summer of 1838, the Director of the Court of State Ceremonial, Hwang Tsioh-tsz,” represented in a Memorial to the Throne that the growing consumption of foreign opium was at the root of all China’s troubles. Silver,—and coined dollars proportionately, —was becoming scarce and relatively dear, the tael having advanced from 1,000 to 1,600 cash in price; the revenue was in confusion, peculation rife, and trade disorganized. Opium, he said, came from England ; but, though those foreigners were ready enough to weaken China and absorb her wealth by encouraging its use, so severely did they forbid smoking amongst themselves that offending ships were sunk by heavy guns.
They had possessed themselves of [Koh-liu-pa or] Java by this means, and had endeavoured to seduce Annam, which state, however, had firmly discouraged any relations with them. They were now ruining the bodies and the fortunes of the Chinese with their abominable poison ; and the memorialist proposed that the penalty of death should be decreed against all offenders. In consequence of this the Emperor at once remitted the matt’jr to the consideration of all the high provincial authorities. Without a single exception, those officers recommended the most stringent measures and he amongst them who wrote the most uncompromisingly was LiN TsBH-stJ, Viceroy of Hu Kwang, who was at once sent for to Peking, whence, after receiving the Emperor’s instructions, he was dispatched as Special Imperial Commissioner to Canton, armed with full Admiral’s powers in addition.
Nearly four-fifths of the whole emigration are, accordingly, to be regarded as belonging to the Celtic population of Ireland and of the Highlands and islands of Scotland. The London Economist says of this emigration:
“It is consequent on the breaking down of the system of society founded on small holdings and potato cultivation;” and adds: “The departure of the redundant part of the population of Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland is an indispensable preliminary to every kind of improvement. .The revenue of Ireland has not suffered in any degree from the famine of 1846-47, or from the emigration that has since taken place. On the contrary, her net revenue amounted in 1851 to £4,281,999, being about £184,000 greater than in 1843.”
Begin with pauperising the inhabitants of a country, and when there is no more profit to be ground out of them, when they have grown a burden to the revenue, drive them away, and sum up your Net Revenue! Such is the doctrine laid down by Ricardo, in his celebrated work, “The Principle of Political Economy.” The annual profits of a capitalist amounting to £2,000, what does it matter to him whether he employs 100 men or 1,000 men? “Is not,” says Ricardo, “the real income of a nation similar?” The net real income of a nation, rents and profits, remaining the same, it is no subject of consideration whether it is derived from ten millions of people or from twelve millions. Sismondi, in his “Nouveaux Principes d’Economie Politique,” answers that, according to this view of the matter, the English nation would not be interested at all in the disappearance of the whole population, the King (at that time it was no Queen, but a King) remaining alone in the midst of the island, supposing only that automatic machinery enabled him to procure the amount of net revenue now produced by a population of twenty millions. Indeed that grammatical entity, “the national wealth,” would in this case not be diminished.
But it is not only the pauperised inhabitants of Green Erin [Ireland] and of the Highlands of Scotland that are swept away by agricultural improvements, and by the “breaking down of the antiquated system of society.” It is not only the able-bodied agricultural labourers from England, Wales, and Lower Scotland, whose passages are paid by the Emigration Commissioners. The wheel of “improvement” is now seizing another class, the most stationary class in England. A startling emigration movement has sprung up among the smaller English farmers, especially those holding heavy clay soils, who, with bad prospects for the coming harvest, and in want of sufficient capital to make the great improvements on their farms which would enable them to pay their old rents, have no other alternative but to cross the sea in search of a new country and of new lands, I am not speaking now of the emigration caused by the gold mania, but only of the compulsory emigration produced by landlordism, concentration of farms, application of machinery to the soil, and introduction of the modern system of agriculture on a great scale.
In the ancient States, in Greece and Rome, compulsory emigration, assuming the shape of the periodical establishment of colonies, formed a regular link in the structure of society. The whole system of those States was founded on certain limits to the numbers of the population, which could not be surpassed without endangering the condition of antique civilisation itself. But why was it so? Because the application of science to material production was utterly unknown to them. To remain civilised they were forced to remain few. Otherwise they would have had to submit to the bodily drudgery which transformed the free citizen into a slave. The want of productive power made citizenship dependent on a certain proportion in numbers not to be disturbed. Forced emigration was the only remedy.
It was the same pressure of population on the powers of production. that drove the barbarians from the high plains of Asia to invade the Old World. The same cause acted there, although under a different form. To remain barbarians they were forced to remain few. They were pastoral, hunting, war-waging tribes, whose manners of production required a large space for every individual, as is now the case with the Indian tribes in North-America. By augmenting in numbers they curtailed each other’s field of production. Thus the surplus population was forced to undertake those great adventurous migratory movements which laid the foundation of the peoples of ancient and modern Europe.
But with modern compulsory emigration the case stands quite opposite. Here it is not the want of productive. power which creates a surplus population; it is the increase of productive power which demands a diminution of population, and drives away the surplus by famine or emigration. It is not population that presses on productive power; it is productive power that presses on population.
by Karl Marx
Born in Trier in the Rhineland in 1818, Karl Marx was the son of a Jewish lawyer recently converted to Christianity. As a student in Bonn and Berlin, Marx studied law and then philosophy. He joined with the Young Hegelians, the most radical of Hegel’s followers, in denying that Hegel’s philosophy could be reconciled with Christianity or the existing State. Forced out of university by his radicalism, he became a journalist and, soon after, a socialist. He left Prussia for Paris and then Brussels, where he stayed until 1848. In 1844 he began his collaboration with Friedrich Engels and developed a new theory of communism to be brought into being by a proletarian revolution. This theory was brilliantly outlined in The Communist Manifesto. Marx participated in the 1848 revolutions as a newspaper editor in Cologne. Exiled together with his family to London, he tried to make a living writing for the New York Tribune and other journals, but remained financially dependent on Engels. His researches in the British Museum were aimed at underpinning his conception of communism with a theory of history that demonstrated that capitalism was a transient economic form destined to break down and be superseded by a society without classes, private property or state authority. This study was never completed, but its first part, which was published as Capital in 1867, established him as the principal theorist of revolutionary socialism. He died in London in 1883.
A study of the development of modern feminism (feminism itself actually dates back to the Garden of Eden) impressed me with the fact that this massive revolution did not begin as a massive revolution. It started in the hearts of a relatively small handful of women with an agenda, women who were determined and intentional in their efforts; it started with a few seminal books and speeches; it spread throughout the living rooms of America (which is where women were at the time) until it became a groundswell; it spread by painting for women a picture (deceptive as it was) of their plight and creating a vision of how things could be different; it ignited indignation, longing, and hope in women’s hearts; it sparked a refusal to be content with the status quo.
As I pondered these things, I began to wonder what might happen in our day if even a small number of devoted, intentional women would begin to pray and believe God for a revolution of a different kind—a counterrevolution—within the evangelical world. What would happen if a “remnant” of women were willing to repent, to return to the authority of God’s Word, to embrace God’s priorities and purpose for their lives and homes, and to live out the beauty and the wonder of womanhood as God created it to be?