39 Jurimetrics 291 (1998-1999)
The Evolution of Legal Concepts: The Memetic Perspective

handle is hein.journals/juraba39 and id is 301 raw text is: THE EVOLUTION OF LEGAL CONCEPTS:
THE MEMETIC PERSPECTIVE
Michael S. Fried*
ABSTRACT: The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has observed that certain
verbally transmitted concepts possess all of the properties necessary for them to evolve
according to the principles of natural selection. This article discusses the application of
Dawkins' insight to the development of legal concepts over time. Incorporating this
memetic perspective into the substantial literature on common law legal evolution yields
some significant insights for that tradition. Conversely, many of the serious practical
difficulties inherent in developing a general science of memetics are eliminated or greatly
reduced if one restricts one's attention to the memes that occur in the legal system.
CITATION: Michael S. Fried, The Evolution of Legal Concepts: The Memetic
Perspective, 39 Jurimetrics J. 291-316 (1999).
Around the turn of the twentieth century, a group of biologists rediscovered
the principles of genetic inheritance published several decades earlier by a little-
known Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel.' Ironically, these pioneers of
genetics2 considered themselves staunch adversaries of Darwin's theory of
evolution by natural selection.' The biological community thus devolved into
*Michael S. Fried is an attorney with the Office of General Counsel of the Federal Trade
Commission. This article does not represent the views of the Commission or of any individual
Commissioner. The author would like to thank Brian H. Way, Christian G. Vergonis, Rende L. Fried,
and Lee Loevinger for their helpful comments on prior drafts, and particularly Owen D. Jones for his
generous advice and assistance.
1. See, e.g., Gina Kolata, A Star is Born: Even a Lab Mouse Needs an Agent, N.Y. TIMES, Jan.
26, 1997, at D5.
2. William Bateson, Hugo de Vries, and Wilhelm Hohannsen were among the leading
Mendelians ofthe time. ERNST MAYR, ONE LONGARGUMENT: CHARLES DARWIN AND THE GENESIS
OF MODERN EVOLUTIONARY THOUGHT 132 (1991).
3. See generally JOHN MAYNARD SMITH, EVOLUTION Now: A CENTURY AFTER DARWIN 3
(1982); MAYR, supra note 2, at 132.

SPRING 1999

ARTIC

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