The Meme Machine

Front Cover
OUP Oxford, Mar 16, 2000 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 264 pages
115 Reviews
What is a meme? First coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, a meme is any idea, behavior, or skill that can be transferred from one person to another by imitation: stories, fashions, inventions, recipes, songs, ways of plowing a field or throwing a baseball or making a sculpture. The meme is also one of the most important--and controversial--concepts to emerge since The Origin of the Species appeared nearly 150 years ago.
In The Meme Machine Susan Blackmore boldly asserts: "Just as the design of our bodies can be understood only in terms of natural selection, so the design of our minds can be understood only in terms of memetic selection." Indeed, Blackmore shows that once our distant ancestors acquired the crucial ability to imitate, a second kind of natural selection began, a survival of the fittest amongst competing ideas and behaviors. Ideas and behaviors that proved most adaptive--making tools, for example, or using language--survived and flourished, replicating themselves in as many minds as possible. These memes then passed themselves on from generation to generation by helping to ensure that the genes of those who acquired them also survived and reproduced. Applying this theory to many aspects of human life, Blackmore offers brilliant explanations for why we live in cities, why we talk so much, why we can't stop thinking, why we behave altruistically, how we choose our mates, and much more.
With controversial implications for our religious beliefs, our free will, our very sense of "self," The Meme Machine offers a provocative theory everyone will soon be talking about.

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Review: The Meme Machine

User Review  - Goodreads

Well…I initially intended this review to be abundant, but more is less, less is more. The book is extremely unconvincing. I have found that the main arguments were supported by circular reasoning, or ... Read full review

Review: The Meme Machine

User Review  - Goodreads

This book was an astonishing surprise! I picked this up when I noticed that the definition I was using for the word "meme" differed from what folks on Facebook seemed to be using. I did some research ... Read full review

All 25 reviews »


1 Strange creatures
2 Universal Darwinism
3 The evolution of culture
4 Taking the memes eye view
5 Three problems with memes
6 The big brain
7 The origins of language
8 Memegene coevolution
12 A memetic theory of altruism
13 The altruism trick
14 Memes of the New Age
15 Religions as memeplexes
16 Into the Internet
17 The ultimate memeplex
18 Out of the meme race

9 The limits of sociobiology
10 An orgasm saved my life
11 Sex in the modern world

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About the author (2000)

Susan Blackmore is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology, University of the West of England. The author of Dying to Live: Science and the Near Death Experience, she resides in Bristol, UK.