In response to Kelly again:
I had not considered the social implications of accepting the concept of memes wholesale; the original proposition by Dawkins was simply to state that genetics is a special case of the more general concept of information propogation through a selection process; as shorthand, he called the general abstract unit of information a "meme." In his model, each meme-based system would have its own special bounds. In the case of genetics, it's the mode of encoding (genetics) and the mode of filtering (natural selection). In the case of concepts, its the mode of encoding (words, logic, and mathematics) and the mode of filtering (the biases and logic abilities of the different minds).
In this sense, I agree with Dawkins; genetics is merely a special case of information propogation.
I had not considered what the close ties to genetics would do in the minds of people not already familiar with the dual concepts of genetics and information theory. Not long ago (only about 7 years ago) I read an editorial in Newsweek that suggested we prod the "upper-middle-class and rich people" into having more children, and entice the "lower class (that is, people on welfare)" (these were the words of the author-- sorry, I don't recall the date of the issue nor the name of the author) to have fewer children. His reasoning was that, since the rich were obviously more successful, they were genetically superior.
The idea of "social memetics," or even worse, "memetic engineering," is repugnant. We don't understand the flow of ideas in any real way; we can model it statistically, but that is about it. Mostly, we don't uderstand the millieu of the mind, which handles encoding, filtering, and propogation of ideas-- the entire life-cycle. And since minds generally don't work in isolation, we don't understand propogation of ideas beyond a statistical level.
Really, we don't even understand how ideas are generated in the first place.
I guess this is all just a rambling attempt to explain that I agree with Kelly that memes are not a precise way to describe the creation, propogation, and selection of ideas or information, and that to take action based on this meme hypothesis is dangerous.
Is this a catch-22? The meme concept is a great shorthand for thinking about the flow of ideas (as long as you realize that it is not derived from genetics; rather, genetics is derived from it); but to understand it, do you need to understand the more-rigorous idea of information theory? In which case, you don't need the meme shorthand.
Sorry about these incoherent thoughts. But an idea is only as good as the use to which it is put; and if the expression of an idea (the phenotype, as it were) is wrong, then the memotype (sorry, couldn't resist) is innapropriate. Not "wrong," necessarily, just as a good genotype can lead to an innapropriate phenotype.
Oh, well. It seems silly to talk about the meme concept in terms of memes. Plus, the idea of memes is rather like Freud's writings-- impossible to disprove, and therefore it really has no place in science or logic.
(NOTE: I'm not saying some truths don't transcend logic. I'm just saying they have no place in science.)
Natural selection is not about survival of the fittest. It's about survival of the most appropriate.