Re: memetics-digest V1 #1215

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Sat 23 Nov 2002 - 03:00:02 GMT

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "Re: Usanian definition"

    When talking about average life expectancy, I was including pre-agricultural mankind when as many as 50% of children died in the first year of their lives. An average takes in all of the children born and not just those who made it past the first year of life.

    I was just reading a book by Johnathan Spence in which the Emperor of China laments the fact that "the emperor's own family line seems somehow marked for doom; of the nine sons and four daughters born to him by various consorts up to the end of 1728, all the girls and six of the boys have died from illness." "He has been convinced for years that people want to kill him, and he has ordered the killing of many in return, including three of his own brothers."

    And this was a family with access to the best doctors in the country at the time. So even though many people lived into their fifties and sixties, the normal rigors of life took a great many more from wars, disease, family squables, accidents, etc.

    I agree that copying the survivors was a valid and useful strategy in centuries past. The rise of technology has made rapid changes in our lives and longevity and a thousand years ago it was centuries and milliniums between paradigm changing advances. I'm sure this has a great deal to do with the staying power of religious memes. In fact, it has a great deal to do with be conflict between cultures. Books about philosophy hark back at least 2,500 years in both Europe/America and China/Korea/Japan. Even in post-communist China Confucius is making a comeback after having been banned during the Cultural Revolution.


    >Hi Grant,
    > > Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2002 19:10:19 -0800
    > > From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    > > Subject: Re: Islam and Europe
    > >
    > > One of the religious memes we always have to cope with is the idea that
    > > people were smarter in to old days. The older an idea is, the more it
    > > reflects the TRUTH. Most religious practices are attempts at preserving
    > > past and continuing customs and memes that represent "great" ideas
    > > down from the founders of the religion. Over time, variations on these
    > > ideas accumulate into a body of work by people who have tried to
    > > the "meaning" of the past. In essence, it is a way of worshiping the
    > > What was adopted in the past is better than what we are doing now.
    > > believe this in spite of the fact that we've gone from a stage in which
    > > average life expectantcy was 18 to one where it is almost 80.
    >From my understanding, life expectancy in pre industrial societies was not
    >that bad if you made it through some of the childhood rigours. Ie there
    >might have been an initially higher loss in childbirth etc due to lack of
    >medical intervention, but after that there was not that much difference.
    >other point is that an average life expectancy of 18 doesn't seem like one
    >that could reproduce successfully.
    >For most of our history as tool users, we have been fairly static in techno
    >terms. It is only "lately" that we have expanded our technology etc.
    >So a memetic survival strategy for most of our history is one of copy the
    >survivors. It is only the rapid change over the last few millennia that has
    >changed things and made the wisdom of our forbears less useful?

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