Re: Replicator article

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Mon 17 May 2004 - 13:03:40 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Replicator article"

    It's not that I am saying it definitely isn't a thing (it'll be a long time before we can point at stuff and say there it is/isn't), I just can't distinguish between fully genetic, and behavioural (learned or learned-emergent) with an option on some midbrain stuff. For me, it's not about logical flaws (pity cos that's a lot simpler), it's about valid alternate explanations.

    I'd have to see mutants (with sequence, and experimental evidence showing altered proteins/RNA) to believe in a fully genetic version. Otherwise we're just swapping stories again (which, admittedly, is the main activity of most biologists so I shouldn't grumble).

    Cheers, Chris.

    Keith Henson wrote:

    > At 10:03 AM 17/05/04 +0100, you wrote:
    >>> Memes interacted with the human line, making those hominids who could
    >>> learn the memes more likely to reproduce and to obtain the high
    >>> energy foods needed to support the energy hungry hardware of a large
    >>> brain. A computer model going back to the origins of culture would
    >>> have to include two levels of evolution where both memes *and* genes
    >>> for better meme capacity would be influencing each others reproduction.
    >> Like this'un (fyi): The mimetic transition: a simulation study of the
    >> evolution of learning by imitation. Higgs PG. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol
    >> Sci. 2000 Jul 7; 267(1450): 1355-61
    > Yes. Thank you for this pointer.
    >>> As some of you are aware, my interest has largely switched from memes
    >>> to a larger problem; the brain's gene based switches that change
    >>> biases in human behavior, particularly in the propagation of memes.
    >>> There is an observed coupling between hard economic times and the
    >>> spread of xenophobic memes. The logic of how that mechanism came to
    >>> be selected and its current day application is profoundly
    >>> disturbing. There are days when I feel like someone who (by some
    >>> strange flash of insight) has discovered physics *after* seeing
    >>> people who are completely unaware fall off a cliff.
    >> I just don't get why this has to be genetically wired-in. I can see
    >> how some mid-brain fear centre might become overactive in hard times,
    >> but I don't see how this mechanism would stay selected-for when the
    >> pure-memetic version suffices to explain everything IMHO (when times
    >> are hard you're generally more tight-fisted, but tend to be less so
    >> with family, familiar people, and even your pets perhaps...).
    > Ever since the human line discovered the high tech life (chipped rocks,
    > later fire) they have over-populated and over-exploited their
    > environment with period of about a generation. At 2.5 million years
    > since chipped rock and 25 years a generation, this happened 100,000
    > times to our ancestors. Also, weather glitches would suddenly drops
    > the carrying capacity of the human ecologic niche on an irregular
    > basis. I am not talking about modern times--when this happened the
    > entire tribe would die of starvation unless they moved into new
    > territory (normally impossible) or attacked and took over the resources
    > of a nearby tribe.
    > We know that we have conditional psychological traits that switch on in
    > certain circumstances. Stockholm Syndrome or capture-bonding is one of
    > them. I recently recognized that the "trait to induce capture bonding"
    > (TTICB) is *another.* It is switched on by the mere presence of
    > captives. This is a tight and simple way to account for Zimbardo's
    > famous prison experiment results. and a lot
    > of current news stories. (Google TTICB.)
    > I claim that the response to "looming privation" of attacking neighbors
    > is genetically wired in rather than a meme. The spread of xenophobic
    > memes is part of the causal chain that leads a tribe to attack its
    > neighbor, but it is a conditional genetic mechanism like the Stockholm
    > Syndrome that turns up the "gain" on xenophobic memes.
    > Genes do what is good for them. (Over the long term surviving genes are
    > 100% rational--without, of course, being able to think at all.) In good
    > times it is not good for your genes to attack neighbors (not counting
    > raiding for wives). It is better for your genes to spend your time
    > hunting and raising children rather than fighting with dangerous
    > neighbors where you and the personal copy of your genes may both come to
    > an untimely end.
    > But it is a different matter when your tribe is facing starvation. Our
    > genes have seen this enough times to have evolved a conditional
    > strategy. Even the *worse* outcome of fighting with a neighboring
    > tribe, where every single male of your tribe is killed is usually better
    > for genes than starving. Reason (see bible accounts of the tribal era.)
    > is that the wining tribe normally takes the losers young women as
    > booty. They become wives of the winners and mothers of the next
    > generation. Rough on the loosing males, but note that the copies of
    > their genes in their female children march on, satisfying Hamilton's
    > inclusive fitness criteria that such a trait should evolve.
    > Hard economic times start up the ancient mechanisms to go to war with
    > neighbors we evolved when we lived in little hunter gatherer tribes.
    > The solution is lowering population growth, which requires empowering
    > women and providing access to birth control measures *and* takes upwards
    > of 20 years to take effect. Fundamentalist Islamics and the current
    > fundamentalist US administration agree on the undesireability of
    > empowered ("uppity") women and the full range of birth control methods.
    > I have said this a dozen different ways here and on other lists over the
    > past year, citing Easter Island and the evidence of what happened in the
    > American Southwest after 1250 CE as examples, and the confirming example
    > of the troubles fading out in Northern Ireland due to slowed population
    > growth and rising income per capita. Try "xenophobic memes" and related
    > terms in Google for more discussion.
    > If you can find a hole in the logic of this argument, please do. It
    > accounts for many known events of human history such as the Rwanda
    > genocide, and (roughly) predicts where we are going to have problems in
    > the future. Still, I find it profoundly disturbing and wish someone
    > could provide a convincing argument that it is not true.
    > Keith Henson
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

      Chris Taylor (
      HUPO PSI: GPS --
    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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