The Catastrophic AGW Memeplex; a cultural creature

The hypothesis for a single, simple, scientific explanation underlying the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW

Guest essay by Andy West

Whatever is happening in the great outdoors regarding actual climate, inside, truly inside, in the minds of men that is, overwhelming evidence indicates that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is a self-sustaining narrative that is living off our mental capacity, either in symbiosis or as an outright cultural parasite; a narrative that is very distanced from physical real-world events. The social phenomenon of CAGW possesses all the characteristics of a grand memetic alliance, like numerous similar structures before it stretching back beyond the reach of historic records, and no doubt many more cultural creatures that have yet to birth.

Having painted a picture of CAGW from a memetic perspective in fiction last December, see the post:

I realized that many people instinctively sense the memetic characteristics of CAGW, and typically express this in blogs or articles as relatively casual comments that cite memes or religion. Yet these folks appear to have no real knowledge of how truly meaningful and fundamental their observations are. Hence I have provided a comprehensive essay which attempts to fill in this knowledge gap, and indeed proposes that the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW is dominated by memetic action, i.e. CAGW is a memeplex.

Note: a ‘meme’ is a minimal cultural entity that is subject to selective pressures during replication between human minds, its main medium. A meme can be thought of as the cultural equivalent to a gene in biology; examples are a speech, a piece of writing (‘narratives’), a tune or a fashion. A memeplex is a co-adapted group of memes that replicate together and reinforce each other’s survival; cultural or political doctrines and systems, for instance a religion, are major alliances of self-replicating and co-evolving memes. Memetics101: memeplexes do not only find shelter in the mind of a new host, but they will change the perceptions and life of their new host.

Because the memetic explanation for CAGW rests upon social and evolutionary fundamentals (e.g. the differential selection of self-replicating narratives, narrative alliances, the penetration of memes into the psyche causing secondary phenomena like motivated reasoning, noble cause corruption and confirmation bias etc.) it is not dependent upon politics or philosophies of any stripe, which tend to strongly color most ‘explanations’ and typically rob them of objectivity. Critically, a memetic explanation also does not depend on anything happening in the climate (for better or for worse). CO2 worry acted as a catalyst only; sufficient real-world uncertainties at the outset (and indeed still) provided the degree of freedom that let a particular ‘ability’ of memeplexes take hold. That ability is to manipulate perceptions (e.g. of real-world uncertainty itself), values, and even morals, which means among other things that once birthed the CAGW memeplex rapidly insulated itself from actual climate events.

Homo Sapiens Sapiens has likely co-evolved with memeplexes essentially forever (Blackmore), therefore they are a fundamental part of us, and indeed no characteristic of CAGW appears to be in the slightest bit new, quite the contrary. Underlining this ancient origin, one class of memeplexes folks are familiar with is: ‘all religions’. Yet these fuzzy structures are by no means limited to religion; science has triggered memetic themes before and extreme politics frequently does so, and there have even been historic memeplexes centered on climate. This does not mean CAGW is precisely like a religion, but being similarly powered by self-replicating narratives creates the comparable characteristics that many have commented upon.

Using a great deal of circumstantial evidence from the climate blogosphere and support from various knowledge domains: neuroscience, (economic) game theory, law, corporate behavior, philosophy, biological evolution and of course memetics etc. the essay maps the primary characteristics of CAGW onto the expected behavior for a major memeplex, finding conformance. Along the way, contemporary and historic memeplexes (mainly religious) are explored as comparisons. The essay is long, book-sized, because the subject matter is large. I guess an essay describing all of climate science would be very long, so one exploring the entire memetic characteristics of CAGW plus I hope enough context for readers to make sense of that, is similarly so.

The context is extremely broad, ranging from why pyramid building evolved in Egypt to a passionate cry against kings, priests, and tyranny in a radical women’s journal of the early nineteenth century. From the impact of memeplexes on the modern judicial system courtesy of Duke Law, to the ancient purpose of story-telling and contemporary attempts to subvert this, along with a plot analysis of the film Avatar. From the long and curious tale of an incarnation of ‘the past is always better’ meme currently rampant on the internet, to the evolutionary selection of fuzzy populations in biology and the frankenplex multi-element cultural creature that is CAGW. From the conflict related death-rates in primitive tribes versus modern states, to analysis of corporate social responsibilities after the Enron and banking sector crises.

From memetic chain letters that stretch back to the hieroglyphs (Letters from Heaven), to the analysis of social cross-coalitions via game theory within the perspective of economics. From the concept of ‘the Social Mind’ courtesy of neuro-scientist Michael Gazzaniga, to pressure upon religions by aggressive atheism as promoted by Richard Dawkins. From modification of theistic memes in the Old to the New Testament, to notions of Gaia and telegraph wires and wing-nuts. Plus memetic sex, witchcraft, cults, Cathars, concepts of salvation, Communism, hi-jacking altruism, Lynsenkoism, lichen, psychologizers, National Socialism, de-darwinisation, that ugly term ‘denier’, and much more.

The reason for this huge breadth and depth is that memeplexes are deeply integrated into both our psyche and our societies; this level of vision and historical context is necessary to uncover the entities, to identify their actions with as much distancing from what remains of ‘ourselves’ as can be achieved.

In counter-weight to this very broad context the essay is richly laced throughout with quotes from many of the main players and commenters in the climate blogosphere (plus from newspapers and other publications too), much of which will be pretty familiar to followers of the climate debate. These quotes cover luke-warmers, skeptics and Consensus folks, plus politicians, philosophers, psychologists and others as regards their views on CAGW, yet all are chosen and brought together for their focus on the memetic aspects of the phenomenon. There are also plenty of deeper topics specific to the sociological aspects of CAGW that most denizens of the climate blogosphere will recognize and can get their teeth into, some contentious. For instance a look at Richard Dawkins’ immersion within a rampant memeplex (while this would seem to be both controversial and ironic, when one realizes that we’re all immersed to some extent in several memeplexes, irony tends to morph to introspection). A brief view of a different Stephan Lewandowski paper (i.e. NOT either of the ‘conspiracy ideation’ ones) in which he highlights the very type of inbuilt cultural bias that has then led him blindly to produce those very challenged and troubled works!

An exposé of memetically induced cultural bias in a recent paper on ‘Professionals’ Discursive Construction of Climate Change’, that in my opinion undermines the objectivity of the work and robs the conclusions of any real meaning. A very interesting take on Mike Hulme’s stance as revealed by the memetic perspective. A glimpse of the ‘shall-we shan’t-we dance’ tentative cross-coalition between the Christian and CAGW memeplexes. The constant references to grandchildren within CAGW advocacy texts. Both the laudable and the lurking memetic content in philosopher Pascal Bruckner’s essay ‘Against Environmental Panic’. Numerous views of sociological comment by atmospheric scientist Judith Curry or at her blog Climate Etc from a memetic perspective. Plus a delve into one of pointman’s very interesting climate related essays, strong language and classic climate quotes explained via memetics, and more…

While CAGW skeptics might at first blush celebrate the possibility of a single, non-climate related, non-partisan, science-based theory that explains the whole complex range of CAGW’s social characteristics, acceptance of this theory also requires acceptance of a couple of pretty uncomfortable truths, and the ditching of at least one touchstone used by many (but by no means all) climate change skeptics. These issues are all expounded in the essay, but I summarize here:

  • Acceptance of the memeplex explanation requires us to rethink what ‘self’ means, and how our opinions, perceptions, and even morals are formed and maintained, with an implication that our ‘self’ is much more about the societal groups we’re immersed in than about what’s intrinsically inside our heads. The fact that we don’t really ‘own’ ourselves, is challenging.
  • Acceptance of the memeplex explanation requires a rejection of the ‘scam’ or ‘hoax’ theory as a root cause of the CAGW phenomenon, and as a primary motivator for the vast majority of CAGW ‘adherents’. (Note this does not rule out the fact that scams / hoaxes and other negative social phenomena may be attached to the memeplex as secondary structures – this is in fact common for major memeplexes). The essay spends quite some length saying why this is so.
  • Whatever downsides are observed to stem from the social phenomenon of CAGW, memeplexes in general often contribute major net advantages to their host societies, sometimes very major. The balance between positive and negative aspects of a major memeplex are not easy to determine except long in retrospect and with access to the ‘big picture’ (all attributes and all impacts across all of society). Hence we cannot yet know the balance of this equation for CAGW. The positive aspects are not typically intuitive.
  • As already mentioned, the memetic explanation is virtually independent of actual climate events. Hence dangerous climate scenarios are not ruled out. It simply means that no scenarios are ruled out, from the very dangerous to the utterly benign, and it is very much in the memeplex’s interests to keep the situation that way. Memeplexes wallow in uncertainty and confusion.

Many commenters in the climate blogosphere have written to the effect that: ‘it isn’t and never was about the science’. I happen to agree, very little of the CAGW phenomenon is about the science. The memetic perspective reveals why this is; not in terms of political or financial motivations but in the objective terms of the underlying social mechanisms, which are independent of (and enable) all such motivations.

Despite the essay’s length, I hope you will take the journey to acquiring a memetic perspective. There is a very distilled summary of each section of the essay below this text, and below that the list of references, in which a few regular contributors might find their names. Please note that the work is not a ‘paper’, containing no proofs or supporting mathematics, excepting a couple of references to Game Theory and the Price Equation. And merely for convenience, I have written as though the memeplex hypothesis is true, i.e. that CAGW is a memeplex and that this characteristic dominates the social effects. It is just extremely cumbersome throughout hundreds of references to make them all conditional – so I haven’t. Yet by no means does that mean the hypothesis is true, or at least wholly true in the sense that the memetic effects are dominant. Readers must form their own opinions regarding that, no doubt which opinions will be colored by the memeplexes they’re already immersed in J. I think most folks will find it an interesting and enjoyable ride though. The essay is here: (Note: this Post text doubles as the essay Foreword, so you can skip that J).

Andy West.

P.S. while I intend to issue further Revs of the essay with some extensions plus feedback / corrections applied, in practice this may only happen on a very long timescale, or possibly not at all as my time is extremely pressured. Please keep an eye on for any up-Revs or additional information. Note: the novella Truth from the WUWT post above is now available (free) at Smashwords here: or within the anthology ‘Engines of Life’ also at Smashwords here:, or at Amazon here.

Summary of Content for Essay ‘The Memeplex of CAGW’ : (find the essay here)


Essentially a repeat of the above pointer-post text.

1) Introduction. (~900 words)

The short introduction punts out to the Internet and Appendices regarding background material on memes and the definition of a memeplex, plus other terms / concepts in memetics. It then moves on to an initial look at the very many comparisons in blogs and articles of CAGW with religion, which arise because both are memetically driven.

2) Religious memeplexes. (~1200 words)

Religions are a class of memeplexes that have long been studied by memeticists. A list of 12 characteristics of religions is briefly examined regarding commonality with CAGW. To understand the similarities and differences, we have to know more about what a memeplex is and what it does. The section provides tasters regarding explanation at the widest scope, before moving on to the rest of the essay for detail.

3) Collective-personal duality. (~3500 words)

This section and the following two provide a first-pass characterization of memeplexes. The most perplexing area is covered first, that of a memeplex as an ‘entity’ and its constraints upon the free will and action of its adherents.

Introduces the collective-personal duality model and a symbiotic relationship with interlocking collective and personal elements. Uses this to enlighten regarding both the religious list above and CAGW, especially on self-identification with the memeplex, and cites circumstantial evidence including the actions of Peter Gleick and Michael Tobis. Looks at the fractious peace between the Christian and CAGW memeplexes. Backs the collective-personal duality model via the concept of The Social Mind from neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga (see refs).

4) What memeplexes are not. (~2800 words)

This section explains why CAGW (and any memeplex) is not a conspiracy or a delusion, which notions are themselves are memetic replicators. The section draws on evidence from other memeplexes both religious and secular, plus statements from David Holland, Richard Lindzen, and from the climate blogosphere, plus the anomalous position of Richard Dawkins wrt CAGW and his aggression towards religions. Section quote: The very act of separating out religious memeplexes for special treatment betrays the principle of objectivity. This gets way too close to ‘I favor my memeplexes and not yours’, which while no doubt completely inadvertent, also amounts to calling out your [memetic] bias, but hiding my [memetic] bias.

5) What memeplexes might be. (~2600 words)

An examination of the link between (religious) memeplexes and the catalyzing of civilization, plus the spawning of major construction projects within cultures driven by a major memeplex. Evidence from ancient Egypt and Sumeria. Memeplexes as emergent (naturally selected) and hugely (net) beneficial phenomena promoting co-operation. Despite sometimes severe downsides, are memeplexes the conveyor belts of civilization? This has huge implications for a dominant modern memeplex like CAGW.

6) Memetic-north. (~1500 words)

A useful model to visualize how memeplexes perform an alignment of societies, and “…alignment will tend to converge onto certain ‘attractors’. Or in other words a memetic-north can’t be arbitrary, it must fulfill certain psychologically attractive criteria.

7) Salvation substitutes within CAGW. (~3700 words)

Religious memeplexes almost always feature a salvation schema (e.g. the pious go to heaven), highly useful for attracting and keeping adherents and thereby sustaining the memeplex. Secular memeplexes, especially those that are spawned by science, may not have a sufficient degree of freedom to blatantly offer salvation for adherents, yet typically they have one or more substitute schemas, which offer the nearest alternatives to direct salvation that each memeplex is able to sustain. This section examines two salvation substitutes within CAGW, one weak and one strong, using quotes from many scientists writers and politicians (see refs below for all these) within the social domain of climate change, which is practically filled to bursting with memes propagating these substitutes.

8) A memetic explanation of CAGW uncertainty issues. (~2200 words)

The apparent paradox of strong consensus against a backdrop of multiple major uncertainties (both real and imagined), is a classic fingerprint of a memeplex, and results from the entity’s engineering of society. But how and why does a memeplex ‘engineer society’? As to the ‘why’, those social narratives that create conditions more beneficial to their own survival will prosper more, and rampant uncertainty forms an ideal medium in which a memeplex most easily achieves maximal replication within daunted and confused minds. This section goes on to explain the ‘how’, which involves the great weight of memetically created orthodoxy keeping the ‘uncertainty monster’ trapped out of sight beneath, resulting not only in little work on real uncertainties but a tacit acceptance (orthodoxy prevents scientists from saying “we don’t know”) of all sorts of highly unlikely disaster scenarios loosely underwritten by ‘the science is settled’. Many of these scenarios are vague and conflicted, with disputed timeframes, and some require major spending. So from a policy and planning point-of-view this amounts to a nightmare level of fantasy uncertainty with a consequent flood of public insecurity, a mud-wallow that the memeplex must just love, and actively attempts to maintain. Martin Brumby (quoted) commenting at Bishop Hill is one of many skeptics who has perceived this switcheroo of uncertainties.

9) ‘Differential belief’ and self-awareness. (~4600 words)

Memes lodge in the psyche as a permanent phenomenon, retransmitting by pushing hot buttons in our minds. They also restrict an individual’s world-view and make taboo certain types of argumentation / development, plus block normal negotiations, eventually causing ‘encapsulation’ (Valenčík and Budinský, see refs), and a differential belief system (a super-set term covering a range of phenomena such as motivated reasoning). Examples of differential belief and comment upon it are legion in the social sphere of climate change, and many such are quoted (see refs). It is even noted from within the climate community (Professor Hans von Storch is quoted, and he also acknowledges memetic content via the invocation of religious metaphors). Differential belief can miscue skeptics into the false explanation of a scam or hoax, itself a memetic form; this is briefly explained. The surprising fact that people can be fully aware of the holistic cultural nature of CAGW and yet simultaneously still fully immersed in it and exhibiting differential belief, is examined, with Mike Hulme as the main example looked at in detail. The section finishes with a warning that differential belief cannot be spotted without relevant context, and this is a major problem for those who don’t possess the context.

10) Trusting ‘The System’. (~600 words)

This section is largely a placeholder to be expanded later. It does have a little starting material with short quotes by James Annan, Judith Curry, ‘pokerguy’ and ‘sunshinehours1’.

11) Personal Responsibility. (~4500 words)

This section deals with the issue of what level of personal responsibility and potential punishment is applicable to those who have engaged in dubious behavior in the name of CAGW, getting there via the broader topic of ‘The Law as a defense against invasive memes’, and also covering Corporate behavior in the name of CAGW or other environmental concerns.

Part 1 draws heavily on a Duke Law paper: The Implications of Memetics for the Cultural Defense by Neal A. Gordon, and concludes that the law must be used to help determine memetic fitness, i.e. to encourage the cultural traits we want and discourage those we don’t want. Gordon recommends we deal firmly with the wrong-doing influenced, albeit the emphasis should be on deterrence and rehabilitation rather than retribution, else the power of the law is undermined. So the ‘culture’ of CAGW is not an excuse for arbitrary breaking of the law, and folks attempting this must be responsible for their actions. However, to correctly defend regarding the memeplex of CAGW one must regard this entity as an invasive memetic culture in the first place, and not just a ‘science subject’ or an environmental program. Right now the public, or the law, or governments either come to that, do not recognize CAGW as a ‘culture’ in and of itself. This is despite some of the immersed themselves (e.g. Mike Hulme) heavily advertise the holistic cultural aspects. Hence the law is blind to any potential threat, and longer term once a memeplex takes hold it can in any case cause the law to change in its favor (examples are given).

Part 2 draws on the paper The Psychology of Corporate Dishonesty by Kath Hall of the Australian National University, plus a view from the inside of climate science by Lennar Bentsen (see refs). Given that the memetic cultural drive and aligned personal motives behind CAGW are more ‘idealistic’ and as strong or stronger than the profit motive, the conclusion is that similar techniques used to combat corporate dishonesty in say, our banks, need to be implemented within organizations working on Climate Change issues. Otherwise, negative cultural evolution in such organizations will spiral out of control and cause dramatic failures of responsibility.

12) The ultimate ménage. (~4000 words)

The intelligent and accidental modification of memes, a look at some ancient baseline memes: the past is always better (with ancient and modern examples), we are special and our times are special. The modification of theistic memes in the Christian canon. A brief comparison of memes with primeval genes. ‘Silent acknowledgements’ of memetic action by modern participants in the debate about CAGW (economist Rupert Darwall and psychologist Daniel Kahneman).

13)They and Us and Arguments against Memetic Tyranny. (~3500 words)

Although skeptics do not belong to a uniting major memeplex, many of their arguments also have memetic content, some which is very obvious and avoidable (liberal conspiracy, it’s all about tax, they’re all lying, etc), but some of which is more subtle. Philosopher Pascal Bruckner’s short essay at The Chronicle of Higher Education is examined in detail for memetic content, finding the classic memetic device of the ‘mysterious they’ (who are likely us in fact), as is evidence of common memes such as our times are special and we are special. Despite the presence of such memetic forms, a useful cry against the tyranny of a major memeplex (CAGW / Ecologism) is made, and it is noted that there is commonality of such cries against other memeplexes down the ages. An example from 1832 in which the Editress of The Isis rails against the religious memeplex of the era is given. However, a common problem with such apparently reasoned protests is that the authors are generally semi-immersed themselves, resulting in an attack on the agents of the memeplex (e.g. depending on the memeplex: priests, judges, politicians, NGOs, media, consensus police, liberal elite or just the ‘mysterious they’ – which means ‘fill in your own imagined baddies’), and not the (unrecognized) process, which is the ultimate ‘enemy’. Professor Curry’s similar rail against memetic tyranny (with the same issue), is noted (see refs).

14) Defense mechanisms in memeplexes. (~7400 words)

Starting with a list of standard defense systems (or ‘vaccimes’) for memeplexes, i.e. conservatism, orthodoxy, radicalism, ‘new age’ etc. it is shown that most of this list is deployed by the CAGW memeplex, but that different defenses are deployed by different component parts of the memeplex, yet at the same time a common core narrative ties the entire memetic creature together, the whole evolving together in a manner similar to complex colony creatures (loose biological parallels are drawn). Some length is spent explaining which organizations (IPCC, NGOs, academia etc) deploy which components, the tension between the different defense messages and the common-core messaging, and comparisons are drawn with religious bodies historically deploying similar defenses and subject to the same tensioning (e.g. the Jesuits). Along the way it is noted that flat facts and therefore ‘true’ science harms the replicative ability of memeplexes, yet co-opted or ‘immersed’ science may assist. Support is drawn from quotes by Rupert Darwall, David Deming and others (see refs). A defense scenario involving the CAGW memeplex versus Christopher Monckton is explored, as is the memetic power of the ‘denier’ word, the inadvisability of the skeptics’ ‘scam’ tactic, and the fact that the whole cultural landscape is shifted for the heavily ‘immersed’. Further support and synergy is noted within Craig Loehle’s article on WUWT about Categorical Thinking in the climate debate. It is noted that the root motivation within CAGW belongs to the memeplex and not to any of its adherents. However, it is an emergent agenda resulting from selection and so not agential. In exploring the ‘straw-man delusion’ defense, the skeptics who unwittingly play to this defense, and positions outside of the memeplex, there is consolidation and more detail on earlier material, plus various further quotes (see refs).

15) Macro Social Leverage. (~2700 words)

Inhomogeneities in society and the evolution of social cross-coalitions allows a few memeplexes to spread rapidly and achieve global dominance. Discussion of this draws upon an article from the domain of economic game theory: Redistribution Systems, Cross-Coalitions among them and Complexes of Memes Securing their Robustness, by Radim Valenčík and Petr Budinský. The article also emphasizes the penetration of memes into the psyche, which is consistent with an ultimate root for noble cause corruption, confirmation bias, and motivated reasoning; the last of these is briefly examined. The historic persistence of memetic systems that deploy consensus cultures and amplify the perception of social problems, is noted, as is the convergence of parts of the climate blogosphere and academia on memetic issues, which despite misunderstanding and blindness in cases, is I think progress.

Their quote below written by the above authors before Climategate, and from a field of study not directly related to climate science (i.e. economic theory, specifically redistribution systems analyzed via game theory), characterizes with uncanny accuracy what was and still is going on regarding CAGW, which is essentially a social and memetically driven cross-coalition (a memeplex).

The typical signs of memes active during the formation of cross-coalitions are: the formation of a picture of the enemy, non-critical adoration of some authority, tendency towards solutions based on strength, the consideration of some statements as all-explaining or indisputable, the granting of a right to something for only a few chosen ones, a catastrophic vision of the world, expectation of brighter tomorrows [Andy West: conditional on catastrophe avoidance!], relativization of morality as well as rationality, use of double standards, creation of a feeling of being threatened by something, etc.

16) Material alignment. (~2000 words)

The taxation demand of memeplexes is briefly explored: ‘The demand that the host contribute time, energy, or money to the meme complex and its organization. These resources are needed by the organization for the purpose of competition against rival meme complexes.’ Material alignment (financial / infra-structure) to CAGW or indeed to memeplexes in general, is not about group conspiracy to extort or the rampant self-interest of individuals.

17) Summary and Recommendations. (~7800 words)

In addition to briefly summarizing the material thus far, this section adds topics I couldn’t fit elsewhere, including: The ‘sense of urgency’ memeplexes promote to maximize their replication. Psychologists who seem to have been completely co-opted by the type of invasive (memetic) culture that they themselves warn about, i.e. CAGW, with a paper by Stephan Lewandowsky cited as a specific example (NOT the ‘conspiracy ideation’ ones). The memetic entity of ‘belief in witches’, which caused the death of 35,000 innocent citizens and was leveraged to exterminate ~1 million Cathars. Modern quotes comparing belief in CAGW to belief in witchcraft and magic (see refs). The line between a ‘responsible’ wrong-doer and a gullible victim re the memetically influenced. The sweeping aside of law and a brief comparison with similar effects in the grand-memetic-alliance of fascism, anti-Semitism and eugenics in the 1930s.

Amid modest recommendations to tame an out-of-control memetic entity are ‘counter-narratives’: It is perhaps unfortunate, but we need a wolfhound to defend ourselves from the wolf.

18) Postscript: The Big Picture. (~9000 words)

Memetic characterization of CAGW in an essay by regular commenter ‘pointman’ (see refs); Rousseau, Avatar, the false back-to-nature meme and narrative breakouts, all revealing the age and psychic penetration of memeplexes. The endless war of narratives: Memeplexes as an expression of the communal ego, ‘heroes’ and the ancient story-telling defense against rampant memeplexes. Memetic commonality in historic climate scares and CAGW. Speculation on the future of memeplexes in the context of social de-darwinisation. Memetic hi-jacking of major attempts to ‘consciously’ steer society. Left-right political oscillation as an evolved control-mechanism for less conscious steering that utilizes memes. CAGW as a fully recorded modern memeplex, and a call for memeticists to take up the challenge of analysis.

Appendix 1) Definitions of a memeplex.

From multiple sources. Memeplex structure and a link to a compact reference site regarding memes and memetics.

Appendix 2) Critique of memetics.

Short, but for balance links to some critique from a reference source, and leads into the following Appendix as partial offset to that critique and a wider evolutionary context.

Appendix 3) The evolutionary process in genetic and memetic domains.

This Appendix and the following one provide a modern perspective on biological evolution (i.e. in the genetic domain) that demonstrates support and overlap with similar principles in cultural evolution (i.e. in the memetic domain). Until the sheer scope of biological evolution is appreciated, along with its fuzzy boundaries and plethora of overlapping simultaneous processes, parallels between the two domains (and therefore support for cultural evolution / memetics) are not generally appreciated either. Support for group and multi-level evolution, essentially required for the theory of memeplexes.

Appendix 4) Background on the ‘Editress’ of The Isis.

Section quote: In her fight for women’s rights and place of women, Sharples took on memetic giants (‘superstition’ and ‘the church-state monopoly’), yet at the same time fought from within the boundaries of the Christian memeplex (radical Christianity). When memeplexes are very dominant, as CAGW is within the environmental domain, it is extremely hard to see out of them, and those completely outside (in the case of CAGW, skeptics) often have no power-base from which to fight. Hence the ‘enlightened immersed’ from within the memeplex often carry the main fight.

Appendix 5) Religious characteristics list reframed as memeplex benefits.

The list from Section 2 reframed as benefits to the memeplex, plus mapped to the structure list in Appendix 1.

Appendix 6) Tables of theistic meme selection, Old to New Testament.

Concerning the virgin birth and Joseph as the father of Jesus. Short backup to section 12.

Appendix 7) Pre-disposition to religion.

Short backup to sections 5 & 6 via an Oxford University media release (see refs). Pre-disposition to religion implies pre-disposition to generic memeplexes, including those like CAGW.

Appendix 8) A detailed example of ‘The Past is Always Better’ meme.

The novella ‘Meme’ is fiction, but explores in intricate detail the workings of a real and specific branch of ‘the past is always better’ meme that is currently rampant on the Internet. The story is highly informative about how such apparently simple structures can be so powerful, can fool us so easily, and have such a long history and such complex effects that in fact challenge our understanding of evolution in this domain (and the fiction format makes it enjoyable too J). A grasp of memetic action at this level is extremely helpful to understanding the incredible power of a major memetic alliance like CAGW. Pay and free links to the novella are provided. At the time I wrote the story (2006), there were about 25,000 hits on Google for the featured meme; there are now 427,000.

Appendix 9) Videos of Immersion.

Immersion in the CAGW memeplex, that is. Curious and interesting, but with a health warning.

Appendix 10) An example of memetically induced cultural bias in academia.

And pretty fatal bias at that. An examination of the paper Science or Science Fiction? Professionals’ Discursive Construction of Climate Change by Lianne M. Lefsrud and Renate E. Meyer. Section quote: So, by isolating a narrow (climate-change ‘resistive’) sector completely from the context of the wider narrative competition, the authors have thus succeeded in changing a relatively firm metric that surely we all knew about anyhow (i.e. older males dominate org leaderships), and one that is neutral wrt climate narratives, into a storyline that is not neutral wrt climate narratives, and is deployed within their CAGW supportive frame to try and morally undermine those who are leaders in the petro-chemical sector (so the implied storyline is: ‘those bad old dudes are harming the climate for self-interest; dudettes and younger dudes are way cooler than those stuffy old types anyway’). This storyline is a recurrent meme within the CAGW memeplex, and indeed within other memeplexes that foster radicalism and seek a change to the current regime, sometimes attempting to frame that regime in terms of an ‘Ancien Régime’.

Appendix 11) Andy West on the web.

Including my home site:

and Amazon US page:

and Greyhart Press publication Engines of Life at Smashwords , and at Amazon for Kindle (an anthology containing the skeptical cli-fi / sci-fi novelette Truth, and the novella Meme).

Essay References

Section 1: Memes at, Memetics 101, UK MP Peter Lilley at The Huffington Post, and commenters John Bell and ‘Justice4Rinka’ (the latter citing Michael Crichton), both at Bishop Hill. Section2: Cultural Selection by Agner Fog. Section 3: commenter ‘BetaPlug’ at Watts Up With That, Resisting the Green Dragon, Paul Krugman at the New York Times, Katherine Hayhoe at the blog, Michael Tobis at planet3 blog, MP Peter Lilley in a letter to Prof. Kevin Anderson at Bishop Hill, and psychologist Michael S. Gazzaniger’s book Who’s in Charge. Section 4: David Holland at the Times Higher Educational Supplement, commenter ‘karmatic’ at The Huffington Post, professor Richard Lindzen at the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Michael Tobis at Planet3blog, commenter ‘lolwot’ at Climate Etc. and then The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Section 5: A Short History of War by Richard A. Gabriel and ‎Karen S. Metz, Peter Turchin, Vice President of the Evolution Institute. Section 6: Cultural Selection by Agner Fog, Daily Express, WUWT, Forbes, Discover. Section 7: Blurb on James Hansen’s book at Amazon, Professor Micha Tomkiewicz and ‘Eli Rabett’ at the former’s blog Climate Change Fork, Amy Huva at the Vancouver Observer, from a letter sent by Dr Willis to journalist James Delingpole and published in the latter’s Daily Telegraph blog, Bob Inglis via an adaptation of his words by the blog Boomerang Warrior, Greg Laden at Before It’s News and Anthony Watts in answer to Greg at Watts Up With That. Section 8: Judith Curry’s testimony to Congress 26th April 13, Tommy Wills of Swansea University, via Climategate email 1682, and Martin Brumby at Bishop Hill commenting on the Royal Academy of Engineering’s report Generating the Future. Section 9: R. Valenčík and P. Budinský paper on Redistribution Systems, Cross-Coalitions & Meme Complexes Securing Robustness, Cultural Selection by Agner Fog, commenter John Shade at Bishop Hill, the Greenfyre blog regarding a Michael Tobis post, Professor Hans von Storch and cultural scientist Werner Krauss regarding their book launch (via Bishop Hill), Stephen Schneider and Mike Hulme. Section 10: James Annan, plus Judith Curry, ‘pokerguy’ and ‘sunshinehours1’ on Marcott and Shakun. Section 11: The Implications of Memetics for the Cultural Defense by Neal A. Gordon, via Duke Law Library, The Psychology of Corporate Dishonesty by Kath Hall of the Australian National University, Bishop Hill regarding questions about statistical significance raised in the UK parliament, and an essay by Lennart Bengtsson in Die Klimazwiebel. Section 12: Anonymous writer, Kish, 3500BC, Paradox verses by Bob Moorehouse, Donna Laframboise, Bill McKibben and Van Jones via nofrakkingconsensus, Mutation, Selection, And Vertical Transmission Of Theistic Memes In Religious Canons by John D. Gottsch and published in The Journal of Memetics, Daniel W. Van Arsdale on chain letters, Rupert Darwall, Daniel Kahneman. Section 13: Pascal Bruckner’s essay at The Chronicle of Higher Education, from Bishop Hill regarding Pascal Bruckner’s book The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings, and the Editress of The Isis, Number 19 Volume 1, Saturday 16th June 1832. Section 14: Rupert Darwall (from his speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation), Tony Press (University of Tasmania) and Joanne Nova regarding Christopher Monckton’s antipodean tour, Bishop Hill (aka Andrew Mountford) regarding sociologists Dunlap and Jacques, Piers Corbyn of Weather Action at the Daily Telegraph blog, Craig Loehle’s article at Watts Up With That entitled Categorical Thinking in the Climate Debate. Section 15: R. Valenčík and P. Budinský paper on Redistribution Systems, Cross-Coalitions & Meme Complexes Securing Robustness. Section 16: Paul Driessen’s essay at Watts Up With That entitled: Our real manmade climate-crisis, US Secretary of State John Kerry. Section 17: Piers Corbyn and commenter ‘rw’ at the Daily Telegraph blog, Brumberg and Brumberg’s essay on The Paradox of Consensus at Watts Up With That, commenters ‘dbstealey’, ‘jbird’, and John West at Watts Up With That, Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. regarding errors in Marcott et al, Donna Laframboise regarding the ‘urgency’ pushed by Greenpeace, the Biased BBC blog, Tim Black at Spiked Online regarding the non-scientific origins of CAGW, and reference to the controversy about and papers by psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky. Section 18: An essay by ‘pointman’ entitled Some thoughts about policy for the aftermath of the climate wars, at his blog, ‘Agouts’ and Mike Jackson at Bishop Hill , The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker, plus Darwin and International Relations by Bradley A. Thyer. Appendix 1: the lexicon and definition of memes from an ex-page at the reduced site Appendix 2: Critique of memetics at Appendix 3: Introduction to Evolutionary Biology by Chris Colby at the TalkOrigins Archive, Stephen Jay Gould, wiki on Group Selection, Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection by Peter Godfrey-Smith,, Cultural selection, by Agner Fog, Susan Blackmore. Appendix 4: PhD thesis: ‘POETESSES AND POLITICIANS: GENDER, KNOWLEDGE AND POWER IN RADICAL CULTURE, 1830-1870’ by Helen Rogers. Appendix 6: Tables from Mutation, Selection, And Vertical Transmission Of Theistic Memes In Religious Canons by John D. Gottsch. Appendix 7: An Oxford University media release: Humans ‘predisposed’ to believe in gods and the afterlife. 13 May 11. Appendix 8:‘Meme’ by Andy West in Engines of Life from Greyhart Press and originally published at Bewildering Stories. Appendix 9: Video links from Bishop Hill and Watts Up With That. Appendix 10: Science or Science Fiction? Professionals’ Discursive Construction of Climate Change by Lianne M. Lefsrud and Renate E. Meyer, and from Stephen Mosher at Climate Etc. Appendix 11: Andy West links including home site:


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We have met the memeplex, and it is us(we).


I look forward to reading this in depth. It is a very promising way to look the AGW social madness.


That Australian report is behind a pay wall. The first paragraph is very interesting.

Paul Coppin

Minor nit: species’ scientific names when written are style written with the genus capitalized but all specific and sub-specific taxonomies written without capitals, and where available, the whole name is italicized. This is good practice for non-scientific authors to learn – it lends a degree of credence to your writing. To wit: Homo sapiens sapiens.


“The memetic perspective reveals why this is; not in terms of political or financial motivations but in the objective terms of the underlying social mechanisms, which are independent of (and enable) all such motivations.”
Oh, no – not the “grand memetic alliance” defense:
“But, but, … I couldn’t help myself. I was trapped in a grand memetic alliance.”
I can see Michael Mann all over this.

Paul Coppin

Lots of great things can come from this. “Memetic Alliance Disorder”, or MAD. The Synod of The Grand Memetic Alliance who will dispense things like awards such as the Order of the Grand Memetic Alliance, in which one becomes a Loyal Fellow of the Grand Mimetic Alliance, or the Memetic Alliance Saviour of the World Fellowship, or the annually awarded Mimetic Alliance Peace Prize, awarded to the Fellow who has commanded the greatest grant funding in a year to further the work of the Grand Mimetic Alliance. Wow, out of breath from the possibilities and run-on sentences!

Theo Goodwin

“Acceptance of the memeplex explanation requires us to rethink what ‘self’ means, and how our opinions, perceptions, and even morals are formed and maintained, with an implication that our ‘self’ is much more about the societal groups we’re immersed in than about what’s intrinsically inside our heads. The fact that we don’t really ‘own’ ourselves, is challenging.”
Andy West’s frankness is rare. Early in his introduction, he tells us that he buys into the Marxist position that an individual’s “self” meme is caused by the societal groups that we’re immersed in and not so much by what is intrinsically inside our heads. Fortunately for science, the great contributors to science have tended to stand apart from their “societal groups.” For example, Newton had others read his papers at the Royal Society and kept his invention of calculus secret for ten years. After becoming president of the Royal Society, he ruled with an iron hand. Countless “memes” suffered an early death at Newton’s hands.
The “meme” meme is very old. If you read the important philosophers in the Western tradition, you will find all of them talking about “concepts” until the creation of modern logic by Russell and Whitehead around 1900. Descartes often asks if a particular thing is conceivable? Inigo Montoya, anyone?
Thomas Kuhn’s work is based entirely on a belief in “concepts” and the power of concepts to control, at least partially, those who “have” them. At the end of this road lies Marx and social determinism of thought.
There might be a place for a sociological approach to Alarmism but Andy West is attempting to carry out that project using a theory about human thought that takes us away from science and modern logic.

Anthony / Mods, many thanks for posting this.
Andy West


Why does it seem to me this needs an elevator speech?

JohnWho says:
November 2, 2013 at 7:13 am
Unfortunately, some folks in history already have used that defence.

Theo Goodwin says:
November 2, 2013 at 7:38 am
Hi Theo. You seem to have me completely backwards. I am extremely far indeed from Marxism and not particularly close to socialism even. And I am trying to take the explanation away from vague politics and philsophiocal argument, and towards a science (cultural evolution and memetics) that has decades of development and understanding behind it, and is built on mathematical models and evolutionary fundamentals. I came from a degree in Physics and many years in computer engineering; my view is that if you don’t understamd something, you can’t fix it. The aim here is to understand it, using the most relevant science tool we have, which is currently memetics.

Jeremy Das

In what sense is a description in terms of memes explanatory or scientific?

Paul Coppin

@Theo Goodwin
“There might be a place for a sociological approach to Alarmism but Andy West is attempting to carry out that project using a theory about human thought that takes us away from science and modern logic.”
Jokes and humour aside, “a theory about human thought that takes us away from science and modern logic” doesn’t seem as far-fetched (to me) in the 21st century as may be believed. Witness CAGW and the rise of influence of a certain archaic religion. I’m not at all sure that the degree of entrenchment of science and modern logic is as secure as we’d like to believe, in the present. 10 years ago, I would not have thought that “modern man” would have fallen so far off rational thought as he appears to have.

Matt Skaggs

Wow Theo. McCarthy much? “Social determinism of thought?” Lewandowsky has a survey he wants you to fill out.

Paul Vaughan

Andy West wrote: “Memeplexes wallow in uncertainty and confusion.”
We’re naturally suspicious of agents pushing uncertainty narratives far beyond the hard constraints of clear observation.

Theo Goodwin

andywest2012 says:
November 2, 2013 at 8:00 am
So, why did you not introduce the “meme theory,” or whatever you want to call it, by presenting the well confirmed hypotheses about memes? Are you going to introduce them? I bet not.
“Memes,” however understood, are nothing but concepts. The history of concepts is well known to anyone who has cared to study it. Concepts give us disasters such as “postmodern science.”

Theo Goodwin

Matt Skaggs says:
November 2, 2013 at 8:10 am
“Wow Theo. McCarthy much? “Social determinism of thought?” Lewandowsky has a survey he wants you to fill out.”
“Ad Hominem” much? Obviously, yes.

Theo Goodwin says:
November 2, 2013 at 8:24 am
The essay contains references from various scientific fields, including memetics, see the essay itself, or at least get a feel from the block of references at the end of this post (although the web ones are not clickable in this block.) I go wherever the science takes me; while it displays explanatory power I don’t much care who produced it or whatever consiracy theory may or may not be attached to it. If it seems not to display explanatory power (on the relevant topic), I look for some science that will help better. If you don’t want to trawl through the whole essay, please read the mini-digest in the second half of this post. Do you think it sheds light on CAGW? If you don’t think so, I for one would be more than happy for you to say so on the merits (or otherwise) of the text. By the way, I’ve enjoyed your many comments here over the years.

Theo Goodwin

Paul Coppin says:
November 2, 2013 at 8:10 am
“I’m not at all sure that the degree of entrenchment of science and modern logic is as secure as we’d like to believe, in the present. 10 years ago, I would not have thought that “modern man” would have fallen so far off rational thought as he appears to have.”
I do not expect people to stand at attention and salute when I refer to science and modern logic. At this time in history, science and logic are struggling to preserve their integrity. These periods have occurred before and will occur again. Lysenko was a great challenge to science and logic. At this time, government policies that reward pseudosciences such as Climate Alarmism are the main threats to the integrity of science. So there is hope for science. If we reach a point where there is no hope for science then I can spend most of my time at the beach.

Theo Goodwin

andywest2012 says:
November 2, 2013 at 8:34 am
I am winning my bet.

Ben U.

The idea of a memeplex is new to me but, on the assumption that it stands up to analysis, it makes sense that a memeplex, dependent on uncertainties, would benefit society by “promoting cooperation” and community, and that religion would be a big part of it. We’re talking about values, and community depends on distinctively shared values. The point is, that values can get pretty precise, but one tends to see them as involving subjectivity, uncertain factuality, and so on. Values are general likings, or standards of liking, standards capable of considerable logical structure. But for all that logic, one still, for example, naturally states likings in interrogative and semi-interrogative forms: “Isn’t it great?!”, “How sweet it is!” etc. (This tendency is not confined to English.) Hence, some of the uncertainties on which some memeplexes depend seem unlikely to be eliminated in the foreseeable future. The uncertainties of what really is good are due not only to questions de gustibus (“of tastes”) but also to questions of unintended consequences, conflicts of values, etc. – hence the evolution of logical structure in values. These considerations about uncertainty support the claim of a beneficial role for memeplexes, including religions, especially ones that learn to avoid blinding people to establishable facts and becoming the kinds of things that Charles Mackay called extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds.

Dodgy Geezer

Ummm… It’s a long essay, and I think that Charles Mackay says the same thing in a much more entertaining fashion…
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds


Ha…a ‘Memes’ to an end.
Thanks for the interesting articles and comments

Bryan A

John Who
Instead of Memetic wouldn’t that be Mikemanntic


Back when T-Rex walked the earth and I was in college, we used to refer to “the power of ideas”. There is wonderful, encyclopaedic work about this: “The Making of the Modern Mind”, which catalogs the development of many of the “mental furniture” that most of us take for granted.
Ideas do have a power not unlike living organisms, but I think this best left as an analogy.
Terminology aside, what is obvious is that bad ideas can have just as much influence as good ideas, and that the only way to limit the spread of bad ideas is to diligently train young minds with good ideas, and to keep doing it until they can confidently recognize a bad idea and be completely immune to it.


memes- we are trapped in endless circles of confirmation bias of our own making? There is no way out? Truth is relative to our perspective and belief? No. As best we can tell it has not warmed for 17 years. CAGW is falsified. We can reason and know facts and assert the truth.
No memes required.

JIMMY says:
November 2, 2013 at 8:56 am
Indeed fact short circuits memes and the development of memeplexes. But how do you transmit them against a far larger traffic from a dominant memeplex, which will also counter with evolution. For instance against your 17 years not warming, is not now the maintstream response ‘the deep oceans’.


Meme rhymes with theme. It’s all just the man as villian thing started by Felix Salten when he wrote Bambi. Pop culture that enthralls a bourgeois consumer society which turns away from its barnyards so it can peer at an imaginary place called Nature and thereby arriving at a self hating place.

I’d like to suggest the existence of memes that are alternatives to CAGW including lukewarmism. CAGW and the other memes share the properties of: a) making arguments that are isolated from actual events and b) being propagated through applications of the equivocation fallacy.

Jim S

Many of us who draw parallels between religion and CAGW would also include Memes in to the comparison. Popper rejected Marxism because it’s Historical Determinism could explain “everything”. So to does religion and CAGW. How many times have we been told that CAGW causes droughts & floods, snow & lack of snow, a greater number of hurricanes of lesser intensity & fewer hurricanes of greater intensity, etc. etc.
Be wary of any any idea (in this case memes) which claims to explain everything and therefore cannot be falsified. Theo has it right. Memes are concepts. However granting them the power of self-perpetuation is rather fuzzy and non-scientific thinking. How would you disprove this hypothesis?

Interesting read. I wonder about other explantions of the same mechanism (ie groupthink and moral panic), but not refered to here. (where alarmists are the moral enterpreneurs and ‘deniers’ the folk devils)

stan stendera

This is going to take me days, maybe weeks , to digest. Thanks for publishing the essay and perplexing me.


No falsification needed:
Maybe it disproves itself.
Thanks again for the interesting articles and comments.

Curious George

This is a way too mathematical for me.

Dodgy Geezer

@HankHenry says:
November 2, 2013 at 9:08 am
….. It’s all just the man as villian thing started by Felix Salten when he wrote Bambi. ..
Err…I think you will find that the Romantic Poets got there first. They were talking about “dark satanic mills” around 1800…


This post is a summary?! Dude, brevity is a virtue.

Memes are powerful roadblocks to perceiving reality. As Robert Bolton wrote ““A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.”
When I was researching the bogus claims that the Emperor Penguins would soon go extinct due to global warming, the temperature data from the British Arctic Survey showed there was absolutely no warming at the Dumont D’urville station (or DuDu as the locals call it) adjacent to the penguin colony. This is the same colony featured in the delightful documentary “March of the Penguins”. The penguin colony had been disturbed by researchers flipper banding penguins in the dead of winter during the 1970s. That caused many penguins to abandon the colony. That decline was then recently hijacked by CO2 alarmists to suggest imminent extinction. A penguin expert who I highly admire, fell victim to the warming meme. He published on his website lessons for teachers and students about how warming was killing penguins. He had a graph with a rising arrow depicting ever warming temperatures superimposed on the declining Emperor penguin population.
I asked him how he could justify that false graph and sent him the real data for DuDu where there had not been any increase in temperatures during any season for the past 50 years, and superimposed his “rising temperature arrow” on top of the real data as illustrated in the link below. He apologized and immediately removed the false warming graphs, saying he thought warming was happening at the time. He was another scientist who fell victim of the prevailing bias meme. Normally he does impeccable research, and absolutely believe he had no intent to deceive other.
As Mark Twain wrote, ““In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second hand from others.”
The same holds true for scientists.
A more blatant example of how a meme undermines science is the case of the chemists who claimed to have developed cold fusion. They gave a presentation to a group of physicists before they published their findings. The physicists pointed out that their energy peaks were in the wrong place and therefore the observed heat was not from nuclear fusion. Pons and Fleischmann argued it was a careless mistake when they hurriedly put together their presentation. When their cold fusion paper was published, the energy peak was now in the correct position to validate fusion. But MIT skeptics revealed they had falsified the data. Pons and Fleischmann could not possibly have thought they could have fooled the world, because if cold fusion was to have any value, their methods would need to be thoroughly replicated. Pons and Fleischmann simply believed they had discovered cold fusion and they would be proven correct in the future, so they altered their data to fit their beliefs and cold fusion became one of science’s greatest fiascos.
The whole history of fusion is littered with false claims and I recommend reading Seife’s book “Sun in a Bottle: The strange history of fusion and the science of wishful thinking.” If physicists in highly controlled laboratory settings where experiments are easily replicated can be so easily fooled, imagine how easy it is for climate scientists. Their hypotheses require a century before it can be verified, and the chimeric global average obscures the various local climate dynamics. The meme is kept alive due to false fears. Instead of the “science of wishful thinking”, climate scientists rely on the age old apocalyptic vision used by cult leaders for millennia.


Even the intro was a bit lengthy for me, however I think this approach is essential. It has to be understood as a sociological phenomenon, there is no longer any point in arguing/discussing the science.
AGW is not a science based movement (despite its constant pretence and appeal to authority), it’s a belief based cultural phenomenon.
My background is science not sociology, so my stomach for this sort of thing is limited.
However, I congratulate Andy on this mammoth work which probably is the way to understanding CAGW.

Jim S says:
November 2, 2013 at 9:13 am
“Many of us who draw parallels between religion and CAGW…”
Yes, because you see the memes within CAGW which are similar to religious memes. Whole bunch of the essay looks into this comparison.
“Memes are concepts. However granting them the power of self-perpetuation is rather fuzzy …”
Religious memeplexes have lasted thousands of years…
“How would you disprove this hypothesis?”
I guess if we all fry after all, it wasn’t a memeplex 😉


Meme scheme, This appeal of this CAGW thing ties into that age old game called “sacrifice.” Control of one’s emotions by self medicating one’s angst through self denial. It’s the hope that by denying oneself the creature comforts of modern life, an imaginary deity called Nature will be appeased and ones confusion will lessen. CAGW is indeed a meme if the word meme implies a notion not completely thought through. Beyond that the “catastrophic” in CAGW compliments patterns of human behavior and thought that are just too ancient not to have a emotional and thereby biological basis. When one thinks of doom just remember that the word didn’t come from nowhere. Others have imagined it in contexts so different it makes me laugh. For example look to the so called “burning embers” diagram of the IPCC third assessment report. All this is not to say that the environment doesn’t need safeguards. It’s just that the safeguards will come as engineered solutions and equitable compromises. It’s up to our own enlightened selves to save ourselves from the fiery furnace.

Robin Hewitt

Pretending to understand that might be akin to congratulating the emperor on his new suit 🙂


Andy West;
If you want an interesting read to augment your already excellent research, I recommend business to business sales books such as Changing the Game by Larry Wilson. I’m not sure if it is even in print anymore, there are probably all sorts of derivative works likely on the shelves though.
Large business organizations and entire industries develop and maintain their own memes. Business to business sales frequently involves breaking through those memes, and in many cases, the cultural memes are so dominant that no business case, no matter how compelling, can prevail.
As an example, the quartz watch movement was developed in Switzerland which, in that period of time, was totally dominant in the watch industry. Every watch company in the country rejected the quartz movement because it just wasn’t the way watches were made. The technology was eventually sold to Seiko, and the Swiss watch industry mostly went bankrupt.
Similarly, Addressograph-Memograph once dominated the calculator market with their mechanical adding machines. All they had to do to maintain their near monopoly was to bring out electronic versions when that technology became available. But that wasn’t how calculators were made in their minds, so TI and HP blew them out of existence. The executive of 3M consigned the yellow sticky to the dust bin because they could see no practical use for it. Only a revolt by their own executive assistants who had been part of the test group saved the product. Detroit for decades equated high quality cars with size. It never occurred to them that anyone would want a high quality small car until Toyota, Datsun and others had grabbed half their market share. No one was ever gong to need more than 640 kb of ram (Microsoft), no one was ever going to want a computer on their desk top (Digital Equipment) and the world wide market for commercial mainframes was less than 10 per year (IBM).
In hindsight, these memes seem obviously ridiculous, but the fact is that entire companies and industries have repeatedly succumbed to their own cultural memes. I think we’ll one day look at CAGW as being just as absurd as the notion that quartz watch movements would never catch on… but an entire CAGW industry has been built around just such an absurd meme, and it will stubbornly fight to preserve itself until outside forces push it to financial extinction. The outside forces in this case will be the continued rise of 2nd and 3rd world economies that force the 1st world to abandon their idiotic climate policies in order to remain competitive and keep their economies vibrant. It is happening in Europe already as countries like Spain abandon their massive subsidy regimes, not because they have ceased to believe in the CAGW meme, but because they are faced with bankruptcy if they don’t. Bankruptcy is also a meme, and tomorrow’s bankruptcy trumps next decade’s global warming.
The science at end of day will have nothing to do with the death of CAGW. Only economics can kill it. Hopefully not in the same way that it killed the Swiss watch industry or Addressograph-Memograph.

Margaret Smith

I believe that Richard Dawkins invented the term ‘meme’ (to rhyme with gene) in one of his interesting books, and discussed how they started and spread.
It’s amazing how the term has caught on – there must have been a need for such a concept.


Thank you, Andy. This angle is the most interesting to me and your bizarre introduction to a 100+ page essay had me chuckle. I’ll take a look at it later.


Thanks Dodgy. “Started” was the wrong word. It probably even need rephrasing. I had to do a little work with Google to figure out who was ultimately responsible for Bambi and got lax. The post I did after that needs even more editing.


Well all this memplex talk seems to try to explain the CO2AGW hysteria as an emergent self-amplifying neo-pagan religious phenomenon.
I disagree entirely; it is a POLITICAL religion, i.e. it is fabricated from start to finish, using controlled opposition (NGO’s, see Maurice Strong, Stockholm 1972 conference on the environment), controlled media, and the strategy switch by the UN from using force (Katanga 1961, 100,000 dead) to using deception (Limits To Growth , Club Of Rome, Maurice Strong) is well documented; censorship in the media is also well documented. (BBC futerra Richard Black)
Financing of the NGO’s by the EU commission is well documented.

john robertson

Thanks , I will have to read that again and digest.
1st take, you can’t fix stupid and none are so blind as those who will not see.
Belief clouds our vision, the scientific method being a tool man invented to cut the fog of memes.


If CO2AGW is such an infectious meme, why is it that I can’t be infected and that even in arch-warmist Germany none of my acquaintances (who are politically apathetic) and only a minority of colleagues TRY to infect me (which they never manage because they just don’t have the scientific arguments to make a remotely convincing case).
In practice, all the warmist propaganda that keeps the apathetic Germans in lockstep rains down from above; politicians, media, all the time, nearly all parties (and most definitely ALL parties that are allowed into the Bundestag).
See GLOBE international to find out WHY ALL Western parties are warmist (yes, even the GOP-RINO’s , not so much the Tea Partiers of course).


“The hypothesis for a single, simple, scientific explanation underlying the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW”
Uh yeh, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it failed at simple. And I disagree that there’s anything complex about basic features of social interaction.
Short version: People believe stuff. Lots of stuff people pick up, and repeat, they don’t believe. People tend to believe things they don’t know, told to them by others they trust. People tend trust people in authority; even when the authority wears funny clothes, say stupid things, or has no clothes at all. If you aren’t someone wearing no clothes, you have to pretend — for graces — that your neighbor’s aren’t naked. They sincerely believe it, and humiliation is more a cause of murder than anger ever has been. In the best you aren’t invited to tea parties and are deprived of scones since you didn’t voice agreement with people that are absolutely quite certain about their eschatlogical beat poetry and the proper moral place of man.
And no matter what you say, they will trot out an idol, nugget of iconography, or relic to prove the thing. It used to be that such things were human remains and bits of wood. But after the iconoclasty of Islam, everything tends to geometric. Little lines that ‘go up’.