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About the author and blog

Dale's mug

DALE MCGOWAN left a career as a college professor in 2006 to pursue writing full-time. He edited and co-authored Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers, the first comprehensive resources for nonreligious parents. He writes the secular parenting blog The Meming of Life, teaches nonreligious parenting seminars across the United States, and serves as executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief, a 501(c)(3) humanist charitable and educational foundation. In September 2008 he was named Harvard Humanist of the Year by the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University.

Dale met Becca (now a second grade teacher) in 1984 when they were both members of the University of California Band in Berkeley, CA. They live near Atlanta with their three kids.

Q: Why THE MEMING OF LIFE?

A: I like wordplay, especially couched meanings and multiple entendres. The title of my novel Calling Bernadette’s Bluff was a triple entendre. If you must know how so, read the book.

As for the blog:

A meme is an idea, habit, or other “unit of culture” that is spread from mind to mind just as genes are spread from body to body. This exquisitely useful term was coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene:

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 panting far behind.

The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun which conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmisision, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene.’ I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory,’ or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream.’

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperm or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.”

The title “THE MEMING OF LIFE” captures the memetic nature of blogging and the search for meaning while paying tribute to both Richard Dawkins and Monty Python.

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