Yesterday’s hilarious strip at Tom the Dancing Bug deals with two topics dear to my heart: evolution and LOLcats (be sure to click on the link to give the artist “click credit” and to see it in full size). Note the nod to Dawkins running down the right side of the strip.
Now I’m not a big fan of memes, as I don’t think they’ve helped us explain anything about cultural evolution (see my review in Nature). Unlike adaptations caused by genes, there’s no mechanistic explanation for how a meme spreads. Presumably it has some neurological/psychological/sociological feature that explains its appeal to humans, but that’s completely outside the theory, which is basically the statement that “a cultural unit replicates because it has features that make it replicate in the brain.” Because of that, the cartoonist’s puzzlement about how the memetic mutation that caused Breadcats “has any adaptive advantage whatsoever” is misguided. In memetics, no such explanation is required beyond “it sticks in the brain and thus ensures its own spread”.
Nevertheless, I love the name of the new species of LOLcat: Felis virtualis.