Dawkins (2006) himself, in a speech on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the publication of The Selfish Gene described his motivation for postulating memes: he portrayed the idea not so much as an attempt at creating an account for cultural complexity, but rather as seeking something with which the selfish-genetic mechanism would still work with unreliable replicators:
“ Next question might be, does the information have to be molecular at all? Memes. This is not something that I’ve ever wanted to push as a theory of human culture, but I originally proposed it as a kind of… almost an anti-gene, to make the point that Darwinism requires accurate replicators with phenotypic power, but they don’t necessarily have to be genes. What if they were computer viruses? They hadn’t been invented when I wrote The Selfish Gene so I went straight for memes, units of cultural inheritance.”
“ Consider the idea of God. We do not know how it arose in the meme pool. Probably it originated many times by independent ‘mutation’. In any case, it is very old indeed. How does it replicate itself? By the spoken and written word aided by great music and great art.”
“ Why does it have such high survival value? Remember that ‘survival value’ here does not mean value for a gene in a gene pool, but value for a meme in a meme pool. The question really means: What is it about the idea of a god that gives it its stability and penetrance in the cultural environment? The survival value of the god meme…results from its great psychological appeal.”
Regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages over other memes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith-based belief over evidence from everyday experience or reason inoculate themselves against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas.