Dan Dennett: On The Prevalence & Power Of Ideas (Memes) genre: Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation

In the following video, Dan Dennett discusses the power of ideas (memes) to hijack evolutionary rules and therefore the individual. When this happens, depending upon the idea, society and the individual can become the virtual victim of a parasite that promotes actions that are actually contrary to our genetic fitness. While the concept seems complex on its surface, Dennett does an excellent job of communicating the premise that ideas (memes) can be toxic and detrimental.

Dennett offers some examples to demonstrate this phenomenon. He actually uses the term infectious repetititis to describe the process by which ideas can become dangerous (viral if you will). Knowing as much, he moves forward to suggest that the antidote to toxic memes is a commitment to knowledge and rational thought designed to explore the factual merits of an idea...absent a preconceived bias (morally neutral). Hence, it becomes the responsibility of society to propagate good ideas and extinguish (refute) those that aren't.

I find the topic fascinating. Dennett, an adept communicator, is actually little more than a student of human nature who is committed to the expanded application of the scientific method. In other words, passion has its place...but it ought to be tested prior to its widespread distribution.

I've included a second video which I believe offers additional insight into the replication of ideas and the impact they can have on societies. The video basically traces the influences of the various religions, over time, and how their spread impacted the individual and the society. In the ebb and flow of these religions, people were persecuted and killed, customs were extinguished, and dissent by the individual was frequently prohibited. I think this second video does an excellent job of exemplifying and amplifying Dennett's observations and the concerns he brings forward.

Dan Dennett On The Power Of Ideas (Memes)

The Spread Of Religion

Tagged as: Dan Dennett, Evolution, Genetics, Human Nature, Intransigence, Islam, Memes, Religion, Science, Scientific Method

Daniel DiRito | July 17, 2008 | 9:10 AM
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Ideas (memes) can be both beneficial and toxic. In the following video, Dan Dennett explains this concept and the threat it can pose to the individual and society. The second video provides a tangible example of Dennett’s concerns as it tracks the ebb ... [Read More]

Tracked on July 17, 2008 10:38 AM


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