Re: Memes and population size was: Memetic trapping and wars.

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue 08 Jul 2003 - 00:06:29 GMT

  • Next message: Richard Brodie: "RE: Silent memes"

    At 06:00 PM 07/07/03 -0400, Scott wrote:

    >>From: Keith Henson <>


    >>It is an interesting point that a particular set of technology memes may
    >>(very likely does) require a population larger than some critical number.
    >And in smaller populations genetic drift becomes important.


    "According [to] Flood, "No other surviving human society has ever been isolated so long or so completely as were Tasmanian Aborigines over the last 8000 years." (p. 173) During this period of isolation, the Tasmanians developed several physical traits which were unique. They had the widest nasal index of any people ever recorded. Their heads were shorter and broader than those of their ancestors, the Australians."

    >Due to sampling errors allelic frequencies may fluctuate wildly and either
    >go to fixation or loss from a population, regardless of selection value.

    Re fixation, they are the only known exception for people living at such a high latitude. They never lightened their skin, staying as dark as the Australian Aborigines. Perhaps it takes a higher level of clothing technology before you get selection for lighter skin from rickets, or lighter skin mutations just didn't happen, or they were getting enough vitamin D from their diet.

    >There could be instances, like with Tasmanians, of a cultural drift, where
    >important technologies that aid survival of individuals of a population
    >are lost from cultural memory (ie- forgotten). It would have been
    >advantageous for individuals to have some memory of these practices, but
    >if nobody that can pass the technologies to future population members
    >survives, then these traditions vanish.

    Good point.

    In fact, there is a *dynamic* process here. Cultural elements are lost at a certain rate and created at a certain rate. It makes sense that the rate of creation would be so many per million people per unit of time. If the people communicate these memes, useful (or at least fashionable) cultural elements accumulate if the group is large. Memes are lost from generation to generation if the group is smaller than the size where new meme creation does not keep up with the rate at which cultural elements are being lost.

    >This cultural drift or loss of a tradition from cultural memory may stand,
    >if true, as an argument against Sheldrake's theory of morphic resonance,
    >if I can be forgiven for pointing this out. Using the 100th monkey
    >argument as an adjunct to Sheldrake's hypothesis, one would think that the
    >presence of these technologies in the past of the Tasmanians, plus the
    >presence on the Australian mainland would influence the Tasmanian cultural
    >memory in such a way as to faciltate the continued survival of these
    >important technologies.

    Without any kind of proposed transmission method, "morphic resonance" is just silly--no matter how many fuzzy headed people believe in it.

    >Thus, cultural drift stands as an argument both against paanadaptionist
    >arguments that important technlologies should remain in practice because
    >of either their adaptive signficance to a human population or due their
    >own ideational puppetmastery selfishness (selfish genes should likewise
    >remain yet could theoretically drift to extinction) and against the notion
    >of morphic resonance.

    You can similarly use the split brain patients as an argument against telepathy. Clever experiments by Gazzaniga and others show that one half of a split brain literally does not know what is going on in the other half. (If distance were any factor, you can't get closer than inside the same skull!)

    Keith Henson

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