Memes and genesEdit
In his book The Selfish Gene (1976), the ethologist Richard Dawkins invented the term meme to describe a unit of human cultural evolution analogous to the gene, arguing that replication also happens in culture, albeit in a different sense. In his book, Dawkins contended that the meme is a unit of information residing in the brain and is the mutating replicator in human cultural evolution. It is a pattern that can influence its surroundings and can propagate.
Physical nature of the memeEdit
Biologists such as E. O. Wilson have noted that when a cultural element such as a belief passes from one person to another, there must be specific neural networks present in those persons which hold the content of the meme. In genetics, DNA molecules carrying genes are passed from generation to generation. In memetics, neuronal networks that are shaped by learning and memory storage carry the memes that are passed from person to person.
Selection of memesEdit
Several biologists such as Gerald Edelman have proposed theories of brain function that are "evolutionary" in the sense that they postulate selective processes at work in the brain by which some memories are more likely than others to survive. During biological evolution there is selection for genes that confer better survival of organisms. During memetic evolution there is selection for memes that are easy to represent in the neuronal netowrks of human brains and which are easy to propagate from one brain to another. Certain memes may also confer a survival advantages for some humans or human social groups.