In that talk, the topic of memes occupied a large proportion of the time, and I commented that I was surprised about that. I had thought that Richard has distanced himself from the idea since inventing it in 1976, but I couldn't remember why I had that impression. Now I have found the reason why I thought that.
|Dawkins and Dennett spent a lot of time discussing memetics|
In a document The misunderstanding of memes: Biography of an unscientific object 1976–1999, by Jeremy Trevelyan Burman of York University I found a passage saying:
Dawkins’ intent - contrary to the popular understanding - was never to inaugurate the new science of memetics. That was accidental. He explained this in an essay published in Time Magazine in 1999:
I am occasionally accused of having backtracked on memes, of having lost heart, pulled in my horns, had second thoughts. The truth is that my first thoughts were more modest than some memeticists might wish. For me the original mission was negative. The word was introduced at the end of a book that otherwise must have seemed entirely devoted to extolling the 'selfish' gene as the be-all and end-all of evolution, the fundamental unit of selection. There was a risk that my readers would misunderstand the message as being necessarily about DNA molecules. . . . This was where the meme came in.
clarify a larger argument.
Whether this is a true account or not (and the evidence of my eyes and ears suggests that it is not quite as clear-cut as it is described - or at least it is rather out-of-date), at least my curiosity is now satisfied.
I wasn't imagining it!