MEME: Predecessor of Idea

Alan Barksdale (
Wed, 1 Apr 98 20:02:10 CST

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), best known as the author of _Erewhon_ and _The_
_Way_of_All_Flesh_, also wrote

"...[M]en and women exist only as the organs and tools of the ideas
that dominate them; it is the fad that is alone living."

_The_Notebooks_of_Samuel_Butler_, ed. Henry Festing Jones, (London:
Hogarth Press), 1st pub. 1912, new ed. 1985, p. 232.

What's the earliest mention of an idea similar to Dawkins's meme?

Btw, in the essay, "Darwin Among the Machines" (1863), which he incorporated
into _Erewhon_ (1872), Butler attempts to apply evolutionary theory to the
development of machines. Note that the "Butlerian Revolution" in Frank
Herbert's _Dune_ alludes to _Erewhon_; upon noticing that machines evolve
faster than do humans, the Erewhonians prohibited their further improvement to
prevent their supplanting people. The Erewhonians were insightful, for their
highest technological developments go scarcely beyond those of mid-nineteenth
century England.
Alan F. Barksdale

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