If a meme is a conceptual unit that prevails under certain sensory conditions, why not call “Look, it’s raining” a meme? Granting, for the sake of argument, that it is, this is my fundamental objection to memetics: it brings nothing substantial to our intellectual toolkit. It’s like charging people a lot of money to change the air in their tires: it merely renames dependable old concepts, er, I mean, memes and tries to mount an entire new “field” based on that parlor trick. It’s typical of the ideological biologization of the world rampant today. Spread, infection, cloning, mutation, etc. Even if the realities described by memetics exist, I see no reason to invent new jargon to discuss them.
[UPDATE – Monday, 16 Sept. 2013
“It is not entirely clear how it is that positing unseen and undefined entities that infect human minds by unassessed processes involving the entities’ own quest for transmission and that cause people to do things that transcend their genetic imperatives is fundamentally different from medieval demonology or, in any case, qualifies as an empirically grounded explanation in terms of natural causes.”
— Jeffrey Schloss & Michael Murray, eds., The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Reflections on the Origin of Religion (Oxford 2009), 24.]