Mechanism for wars (was transmission)

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Thu 15 May 2003 - 03:44:01 GMT

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    At 05:43 PM 14/05/03 -0700, you wrote:
    >Keith wrote:


    >This is a great experiment.

    Glad you enjoyed it.

    >I used to umpire high-school baseball until I
    >got tired of being yelled at and hit by baseballs. The Official Baseball
    >Rules are sufficiently abstruse that, for example, nowhere does it say that
    >the rule entitling a batter to First Base when he is hit by a pitched ball
    >does not apply if the ball bounces off the catcher before it hits him. There
    >are rules that are simply not enforced, like the definition of the Strike
    >Zone as going up to the midpoint between the shoulder and belt, or a Strike
    >being called if the batter takes too much time before stepping into the box.
    >It would be fun to see what aspects of the game the book specified
    >sufficiently and which it did not.

    *Possibly* similar adjustments would be made and possibly not. I would not expect major league play in this situation. :-) And not being an avid player, I was not aware of how much of the baseball meme was passed along verbally or even non verbally.

    >It's another interesting aspect of memetics that most of the discussion on
    >this list comes from people saying things that go counter to the general
    >understanding of the field. Posts that concur with the mainstream generally
    >pass without comment.

    This point is common to most or perhaps all net discussions. Say something stupid and 40 people will jump on the thread. Make a really good informative posting and you may get no replies at all.

    Which is, I think, the reason net discussion often goes off the rails. People tend to feel rewarded by getting a lot of responses to their obviously silly postings. The only way to break the cycle is for a substantial majority of readers to ignore or twit file the miscreant(s).

    My recent arguments about natural selection for memetic mechanisms that lead humans to wars in tight economic times didn't generate much comment. QED it must be mainstream. :-)

    I have recently have realized that evolutionary psychology supports an argument humans are *selected* for 9/11 type suicides.

    We know that tribes go to war with each other when resources get tight. The bizarre aspect that has come up in recent discussion is how a
    (presumably) gene based psychological tendency was reinforced in both the winners *and the losers*!

    I.e., the genes were positively selected for going to war even if the person holding them was on the losing side

    How could genes do well even if a weak tribe attacked a strong one and was wiped out to the last *man*?

    Because the men's children and (related) women were usually incorporated into the winning tribe--which was better than starving.

    This is scary business. Much closer than I want to get to describing a suicide gene.

    The connection to memetics is that under early privation conditions memes that dehumanize other tribes do well spreading and motivating a tribe to make war against another tribe. There is probably suppression of rational thought involved in these mechanisms because (on average) your genes do better win *or lose* and rational thoughts would certainly get in the way of doing the right thing for your genes if "the right thing" meant almost certain death. (I.e., attacking a stronger tribe.)

    Please take a careful look at the logic here. I think it is airtight and the conclusion is just stunning.

    Fortunately we don't see this gene-selected psychological mechanism turned on in the western countries very often because (due to low birth rates) we don't see a lot of declining income per capita. But the Saudis have seen per capita income fall from 28k per person to 7k in the past generation. The rest of the Islamic world is not doing a much better.

    Keith Henson

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