Re: Replicator article

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue 18 May 2004 - 00:36:57 GMT

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    At 07:47 PM 17/05/04 -0400, Scott wrote:
    >Keith Henson wrote:


    >Scott's response:


    >TTIBC just doesn't roll off the tongue very well.

    Agreed. Open to name suggestions.

    >Keith continues:


    >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.
    >Scott's response:
    >Did you intend that as a pun? You might want to reword this last part

    ROTF! Didn't intend it as a pun till you pointed it out.

    >Keith continues:
    >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.
    >Scott's response:
    >Did the US go to war with either Canada or Mexico during the Great
    >Depression in the 30's or during any of our lesser economic downturns,
    >such as during recessions?

    Origin of the trait from when our ancestors lived in little tribes means that it is a really hard to see exactly what activated the mechanisms in the modern world. One thing probably does work, being attacked generally switches a population (originally a small tribe) into war mode.

    >We went to war in Vietnam over ideological
    >reasons (ie- anti-communist fervor in the post-HUAC, post-Korean war,
    >post "loss" of China to Mao, post-McCarthy time frame).

    While that's true, generally the fighting was started by communist forces. Communist countries in those days were usually in an economic pinch of one kind or another. But as I say, you can't use modern history to explain genetic origins of traits. Want a fun one? Consider the economics that was behind the US Civil war.

    >Economic reasons may result in war, but I'm not sure xenophobia always
    >plays a role. Oil prices and control of oil fields played a role in
    >Husayn's invasion of Kuwait, but since Iraq claimed sovereignity over
    >Kuwait as a province, it would be more of a land grab than a deep seated
    >hatred of Kuwaitis as Kuwaitis. In the minds of Iraqis at the time,
    >wouldn't the term "Kuwaiti" be an artificial construct imposed on
    >inhabitants of a perceived region of Iraq? Even if the US had some
    >economic problems at the time, Iraq was hardly our neighbor, unless we
    >scale this up to the "global village".

    The trick was that the US supported the war as a response to an attack, not on us but on a village we were allied with. And the legal theory of control over lands is not as important as perception.

    >The VeitMinh despised foreign control over Vietnam by France before and
    >after WWII. Privation as an oppressed colonized people and xenophobia
    >against French probably did play a major role in Vietnamese nationalist
    >and communist insurgency against France, but how does this translate to
    >their long and bloody struggle against the United States? The US backed
    >a non-communist Vietnamese regime in the south, but wasn't a long
    >standing colonial power in the area of Indochina. The Vietcong and North
    >Vietnam fought against both the US backed South Vietnamese regime and
    >the US, but did they have a sense of looming privation relative to
    >either of these entities? I accept that there was a strong xenophobia
    >against the US, but was this because of a simplistic activation of a
    >xenophobia module due to looming privation or because the VietMinh felt
    >betrayed by the US backing of France and just wanted to rid their
    >country of any invader no matter the name. Maybe the reasons are less a
    >matter of a prewiring of VietMinh minds than the complex interplay of
    >various historical contingencies.

    Once a people starts fighting after being attacked, they can steered into fighting others without too much effort. Witness the US citizens supporting a war against Iraq when the only thing common about Irag and Bin Laden's bunch was that they spoke the same language.

    >When North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, what were the causal
    >factors? Was it looming privation or xenophobia? The two portions of the
    >peninsula did have ideological different backers as the communist Soviet
    >Union under Stalin backed North Korea post WWII, where the capitalist US
    >backed South Korea. Even if privation came into play, was the south any
    >better off? If xenophobia were at play it certainly wouldn't be Korean
    >hatred of fellow Korean so soon after the post WWII partition. Maybe it
    >was to rid the peninsula of the vestiges of US influence in the South,
    >yet the North was accepting of Soviet and ChiCom aid. The Chinese played
    >a major role in diriving the US out of the North. Whatever animosity the
    >North Koreans would have for foreign invaders of the peninsula was
    >squashed by the aid that an Asian foreign player could provide.

    The expectation would be that the side having the most economic problems is the more likely one to start a war.

    >Is there looming privation at play between China and Taiwan? These two
    >places, emerging from the battle between Mao's Communists and Chiang
    >Kaishek's Nationialists decades ago enjoy some prosperity, at least in
    >certain circles of each country, but they are poised at the brink of war
    >over the tension between Taiwanese independence from the mainland and
    >China's "One China" principle. Xenophobia could hardly play a role if
    >these two square off in a confrontation.

    Because there is growing income per capita on both sides, I think it is unlikely either one will start a war over meme issues. Now, if mainland had a depression, the odds of war would go way up.

    >Keith continues:
    >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.
    >Scott's response:
    >I agree with you here on the comparison of the two fundamentalisms with
    >respect to women's rights, but this demonstrates how an extremist
    >mindset takes control of a population's collective weltanschauung and
    >thus how ideas can become causally efficacious. How genetically
    >influenced are religious beliefs? Is there a religiosity module?

    I have proposed a religious meme receptor site in human mental space. You can read about it in my older papers. Pascal Boyer has a better handle on this aspect of human psychology than I do. The influence of genes on religious beliefs is either because the mental traits that result in religions were selected or because those traits are side effects of some genetically shaped feature that *was* selected. I favor the psychological traits that lead to religions being side effects of something else. My main reason is that what we call religions today seem to have originated with the rise of states, and that's way to recent for the trait to have evolved.

    >Keith continues:
    >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.
    >Scott's response:
    >There's a difference between presenting the logic of an argument for
    >something that should exist given certain circumstances and actually
    >demonstrating that it does exist in the real world.

    Right, but if you can show the logic of an argument calling for the existence of something is flawed, chances go down considerable as to it existing in the real world.

    Keith Henson

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