Richard Dawkins has provideded the most convinging explanation for the “existence of God” but he does not seem aware of this. He reiterates the mantra of the non-existence of God but he omits that the statement “God does not exist” is an overgeneralization that contraddicts his own theoretical stances. In fact, Dawkins is the father of the field of Memetics, as it was first presented in his The Selfish Gene. Memetics assumes that memes are ‘ideational’ replicators analogous to genes.
A ‘meme’ is defined as a unit of cultural information that is transmitted between individuals through a process that can broadly be referred to as ‘imitation’ (Dawkins, 1976, p. 192). Furthermore, memetics maintains that “the theory of evolution by natural selection is neutral (…) regarding the differences between memes and genes; these are just different kinds of replicators evolving in different media at different rates” (Dennett, 1995, p. 345). As Dawkins put it:
… for an understanding of the evolution of modern man, we must begin by throwing out the gene as the sole basis of our ideas on evolution. I am an enthusiastic Darwinian, but I think Darwinism is too big of a theory to be confined to the narrow context of the gene. The gene will enter my thesis as an analogy, nothing more. What, after all, is so special about genes? The answer is that they are replicators … But do we have to go to distant worlds to find other kinds of replication and other, consequent, kinds of evolution? I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet. It is staring us in the face. It is still in its infancy, still drifting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate which leaves the old gene painting far behind (Dawkins, 1976, p. 206).
Now, if we assume that (1) memes exist as ‘ideational’ entities and that (2) ‘God’ fully qualifies as a meme, we have to admit that God exists at least as a concept, an idea that has emerged in the human mind over evolutionary (biological and cultural evolution) time. Thus, when Dawkins says “God does not exist” he means that God does not exist as an ‘external’ entity but nothing is said about the internal mentalistic existence which is rather confirmed by its own Memetic theoretical standards. By the same token of course, fairies, unicorns, centaurs, exist too, and Dawkins is right in pointing out that there is no difference between fairies and God in this respect! However, a memetic understanding of ‘God’ opens up a new teological universe of investigation where this concept is understood as a natural phenomenon.
In the next posts I will further explore how God, as a meme, can be fully interpreted in a naturalistic way.