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Evolution of the Pharyngula Mutating Genre Meme

October 14th, 2007 · Posted by Who Knows? · 7 Comments

Pharyngula started a particularly interesting mutating meme experiment, or possibly just a fun little game. I end the post with an attempt to draw some parallels with genetics, evolution and natural selection.

The Pharyngula Mutating Genre Meme

There is a set of questions below, all of the form , “The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is…”. Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

  1. You can leave them exactly as is.
  2. You can delete any one question.
  3. You can mutate either the genre, medium or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change “The best timetravel novel in SF/ Fantasy is…” to “The best timetravel novel in Westerns is…” , or ”The best timetravel movie in SF/Fantasy is…, or ”The best Romance novel in SF/Fantasy is…”
  4. You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form “The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is…”.

You must have at least one question in your set, or you’ve gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you’re not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the ‘parent’ blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.

Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember though: your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate, and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.


My gr-gr-gr-great-grandparent is Pharyngula.
My gr-gr-great-grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
My gr-great-grandparent is The Flying Trilobite.
My great-grandparent is Leslie’s Blog.
My grandparent is The Meming of Life.
My parent is The Friendly Humanist.


No need to copy this, included for reference, for examples of “historical” mutations:

Pharyngula says:

  • The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is…The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers.
  • The best romantic movie in historical fiction is… Cold Mountain.
  • The best sexy song in rock is… Gloria, by Patti Smith.

Metamagician and the Hellfire Club says:

  • The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is… Singing the Dogstar Blues, by Alison Goodman.
  • The best romantic movie in fictionalised biography is… Beyond Good and Evil.
  • The best sexy song in rock is… “You Can Leave Your Hat On”, by Joe Cocker.
  • The best cult novel in American fiction is… Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein.

The Flying Trilobite says:

  • The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is: Hyperion by Dan Simmons.
  • The best romantic movie in scientific dystopias is: Gattaca (1997)
  • The best sexy song in rock is: #1 Crush by Garbage from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet soundtrack
  • The best cult novel in Canadian fiction is: JPod by Douglas Coupland (2006)

Leslie’s Blog mutated it to:

  • The best timetravel television in SF/Fantasy is: Heroes
  • The best romantic movie in scientific dystopia is: THX 1138
  • The best sexy song in traditional is: “Chan Chan” by the Buena Vista Social Club

THE MEMING OF LIFE’s mutation:

  • The best romantic movie in scientific dystopia is: THX 1138
  • The best sexy song in traditional is: “Chan Chan” by the Buena Vista Social Club
  • The best satirical movie in comedy is: Life of Brian

The Friendly Humanist’s contribution:

  • The best romantic novel in scientific dystopia is: The Dispossesed
  • The best sexy attire in traditional is: the codpiece
  • The best satirical movie in comedy is: Life of Brian

ThinkTooMuch’s mutation:


I’m not sure which blogs might provide fertile ground, but I want to try breaking into a new “ecological niche” – I’m having a go at the South African blogosphere, and also extending an invitation to the Real Live Preacher. Why I’m not sure whether this will be fertile ground: how many of these would like to link back to a raving atheist like Pharyngula? 😉

Anyway, we’ll see if this gets anywhere… South Africans: Salige Rus, Pienk Zuit, Johan Swarts, TheKro’s Nest, Uno de Waal. I suspect Dave is too busy making a difference in the real world to take part in an internet meme game/experiment… What about cpbotha over in NL? He blogs relatively regularly and has a sense of humour…

I’m sure the Bad Astronomer would have received an invitation to this meme already. What about The Primate Diaries? Or do they keep their subject matter too serious for procrastination posts like these? 😉


Increasing your chromosome count (adding a question) gives you more genetic material to propagate, leading to greater influence on your descendants. However, greater chromosomal counts are also harder to mutate (as only two mutations are allowed), hence also harder to adapt and propagate… less viable. I suspect three chromosomes are likely the “sweet spot”.

The “answers” are an “expression” of the “genes”. The expressibility (the ability to answer) the genes provides the “natural selection” step, weeding out the bad mutations. Absolutely arbitrary mutations would not be viable, too hard to answer, and are weeded out immediately. The cost of reproduction is the time that needs to be spent to get this “meme complex” propagated. The mutations might make the questions more relevant to a new “ecosystem”, but it takes some time to adapt. For example, to break into a blogosphere niche that does not read or watch much sci-fi, would require the genes to mutate to more answerable questions. (Drama, horror or soap operas perhaps? <grin>) I wonder if we will observe anything drastic enough that we would be able to call “speciation”?

UPDATE: Hah! I was too slow. Or rather, too unknown, more likely. The Primate Diaries received the meme from A Blog Around the Clock, and I doubt there will be much promiscuity in this bunch. The Bad Astronomer, if he bites, will go with a more famous parent. My hopes for descendants then lies with the South African blogosphere. It’s a challenge surviving here, but if I succeed, there would likely not be much competition from other bloodlines. 😉

In a last ditch attempt, using tadpole tactics, I wonder if I could get some other blogs to bite: The Friendly Atheist has not yet chosen a parent, neither has Bad Science, but I would feel bad about stealing that one. What about Leaving Eden then? It would pleasantly surprise me if The Friendly Christian would take part. What about the denialism blog, or the Framing Science blog? I think some would say I’m in the “framing” camp. 😉 What about Happy New Atheist?

OK, now I’ve really spammed the blogosphere with tadpole tactics… if some of those blogs choose me as parent, I’d be sure to be getting a great opportunity to play “minister” to atheists finding my blog via this meme. 😀

Categories: Religion and Science · Website
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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Eric // Oct 14, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Nope. I’m always down for a useful experiment. I already got tagged earlier though. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

  • 2 Hugo // Oct 14, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    If anyone follows up on me, I suggest dropping the historical mutations. Give only your own… (together with the rules and your genealogy of course).

  • 3 Leslie’s Blog » Intermission // Oct 15, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    […] the Genre Mutating has introduced me to a half zillion new and brilliant blogs I want to explore.  Thinktoomuch  has a post that will keep me busy […]

  • 4 Russell Blackford // Oct 16, 2007 at 6:07 am

    Actually, if your great-grandparent is Leslie’s blog, your great-great-grandparant is The Flying Trilobite, your great-great-great-grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club (specifically this post: ) , while your great-great- great-great-grandparent is Pharyngula.

    I need to keep my all descendants in order here. 🙂

  • 5 Hugo // Oct 16, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Thanks Russell, fixed. Glad you pointed it out, as your blog also looks like one I’d love to follow!

  • 6 Hugo // Oct 17, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Oh, and for the record, if anyone reads this, but wasn’t tagged, you can still be a descendant! C’mon guys, I don’t want my memes to die out! 😉 Running into a mid-life crisis here!

  • 7 Mutants amongst us « Die Pienk Zuit // Oct 23, 2007 at 10:19 am

    […] by Pienk Zuit under Uncategorized   My mutation of the Pharyngula Mutating Genre Meme, with Hugo’s Think Too Much as […]

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