The Great Debate in association with the RSA present
The Great Debate: Genes, Memes, Minds
a FREE discussion to be held
30 November 2004
The Grainger Suite, Life Conference Centre,
Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne
Susan Blackmore, author Consciousness: An Introduction, The Meme Machine
Kenan Malik, author What Is It to Be Human?, Man, Beast and Zombie
Raymond Tallis, author The Hand: A Philosophical Enquiry into Human Being, In Defence of Realism, The Enemies of Hope: A Critique of Contemporary Pessimism
Chair: Caspar Hewett
What can evolutionary theory tell us about the human mind?
One of the great triumphs of the late twentieth century was the application of Darwinian theory to animal behaviour. This led to many attempts to apply the same methods to human beings and to explain the human mind in evolutionary terms. Thus we see the rise of the now common phrase ‘the gene for . . .’ in describing human behaviour. One theory, Evolutionary Psychology, attempts to explain the mind in terms of evolved predispositions to behave in certain ways.
The theory of the meme rejects the notion that genes are sufficient to explain cultural evolution - especially in the light of the pace of cultural change. A meme is a unit of cultural transmission or imitation. Like the gene, which is a self-replicating molecule, the meme is a replicator - when a meme is imitated it has replicated itself. Meme theorists argue that human beings are determined largely by social factors, not just by genetic code and that there is another unit of selection at work - the meme. What both these approaches have in common is the idea that the notion of natural selection, can lead to an understanding of the human mind.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches? Why are some theorists ambivalent about the explanatory value of genes and memes when it comes to the mind? Is there something fundamental that an evolutionary approach cannot provide?
Come along, hear the discussion and have your say.
Advance booking is necessary
To reserve seats book online www.theRSA.org/events
International Centre for Life
Newcastle upon Tyne
to return to Genes, Memes, Minds Event page