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Memetics is the study of information and culture based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution. Proponents of memetics, as evolutionary culture, describe it as an approach of cultural information transfer. Those arguing for the Darwinian theoretical account tend to begin with theoretical analogies from existing biological evolutionary models. Memetics describes how ideas or cultural information can propagate, but doesn't necessarily imply a meme's concept is factual.
Critics contend the theory is "untested, unsupported or incorrect". It has failed to become a mainstream approach to cultural evolution as the research community has favored models that exclude the concept of a cultural replicator (called "meme"), opting mostly for gene–culture co-evolution, called dual inheritance theory, instead. Less critical arguments suggest memetics is still valid, but analytically holds a smaller academic space in cultural evolutionary theory.
The term meme was coined in Richard Dawkins's 1976 book The Selfish Gene, but Dawkins later distanced himself from the resulting field of study. Analogous to a gene, the meme was conceived as a "unit of culture" (an idea, belief, pattern of behavior, etc.) which is "hosted" in the minds of one or more individuals, and which can reproduce itself in the sense of jumping from the mind of one person to the mind of another. Thus what would otherwise be regarded as one individual influencing another to adopt a belief is seen as an idea-replicator reproducing itself in a new host. As with genetics, particularly under a Dawkinsian interpretation, a meme's success may be due to its contribution to the effectiveness of its host. However, reduction of a meme to an immaterial idea was contested during memetics' early theoretical developments. Daniel Dennett went as far as to say "a meme's existence depends on a physical embodiment," rather than the other way around. Nevertheless, contemporary memetics tends to refer to these early memetic arguments as reducible to "mentalism".