I have my own thoughts, here.
It seems to me that the meme theory, as well as the gene theory, are not exactly what many purport them to be.
The theories purport that there are actual entities, that are in a struggle with one another.
I feel that such is mostly wrong, but attractive for those people who are inclined to think in those terms (of entities in competition with one another).
To me, both theories are useful in that they form a mental-construct, or “block of understanding”, that is useful for us to talk about.
It is perhaps similar to trying to understand the world about us, as represented by a forest, made up of trees, made up of woody-material. The “meme / gene” block may be like looking at the trees, instead of the smaller or larger “divisions of understanding”.
If we break down the structure even further (beyond genes and memes), we can get lost in the myriad details that chemistry (and thought-elements) present(s) to us. (We don’t see either tree or forest, but only examine bits of cellulose and such.)
Going in the other direction, if we look only at the much larger picture (the forest), we miss out on some of the understanding that can come from looking at a forest as made up of trees.
I argue that our collective understanding is improved by some of us looking at only the specific “levels” of understanding, while some of us (the “generalists”) try to look at all of the levels at the same time (as best as we can – a shifting gestalt).
Looking at memes (as a paradigm) can give us a fresh perspective for looking at the process of culture.
But its implications may be less than what many would hope.
For both memes and genes, we can argue that some persist because they are “useful” (they work to keep the process going); some are “weeded out” because they are deleterious (stop the process of replication); some persist because they are more trivial, and do not have much of any particular effect (under a given set of circumstances). It might even be argued that some (generally) “good” elements were lost, because they happened to have ocurred in untoward circumstances, and some “bad” elements persisted (at least for a time), because they happened to have occured in circumstances that were improbably propitious. We cannot come to a strict tautological conclusion of what is “good” and “bad”, but are left to consider a more complicated world to try and understand.
We can be sorely tempted to try and interpret more to our observations than are there, but we could be fooling ourselves.
We will never know what precisely a singular “truth” is, but we can work to seek the best understanding that is possible, while being aware of our desire for self-deception.
We will probably be “doing our best”, by working together, with open and inquiring minds (and let the cowchips fall where they May).