Doug, thank you! Glad to be here.
First, it is very hard to distinguish one thought from another. Second, it is very hard to distinguish when a thought has remained the same versus when it has changed to a different thought. (None of these are controversial when it comes to DNA, of course).
Is it also not hard to distinguish how one particular gene effects the body? Scientists can pinpoint a certain gene, but they have no idea what its total effects are. And remember, a thought alone is not a meme. So I believe you have a misinterpretation of what a meme is, and I mean no disrespect by that.
When we say “memes evolve” are we really saying anything different than “people change their minds”?
That is not what is meant by “memes evolve.” It has to do with copying fidelity, or errors or deviations in the meme as it replicates. Don’t look at the meme as something internal in someone’s mind.
When we say “memes multiply” are we really saying anything different from “people adopt new ideas”?
Well, it’s not just new ideas. It’s new behaviors, and more importantly, new “mimicked” behaviors and ideas. If I just have an idea that pops in my head it is not necessarily a meme, even if I am influenced by another person.
The biggest problem skeptics and critics have with memes is that they don’t fully understand what they are or how they work. And it is a very difficult concept to fully grasp. I like to think of memes as mind viruses. But there is a lot more to it than that.