Re: Absolutist memes

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 27 Oct 2004 - 01:57:00 GMT

  • Next message: Paul: "RE: Absolutist memes"

    At 12:07 PM 26/10/04 -0700, Ted wrote:
    >According to Israeli journalist Uri Avnery, Jewish fanaticism has reached
    >such a fever pitch that the country is now obsessed with the possibility of
    >civil war. The fanatical Jews, no different in principle from fanatical
    >Christians or Muslims, want to abolish democratic institutions and turn
    >Israel into a fundamentalist state. The fanaticism is most prevalent among
    >Israelis who have illegally settled on Palestinian land.
    >Avnery asserts that most settlers did not begin as fanatics but only
    >developed an absolutist stance as a result of their situation. Only a
    >minority of settlers, the "hard core," began as fanatics and remain to this
    >day totally open about their beliefs. The implication, from a memetics
    >point of view, is that absolutist memes are more powerful than rationalist

    I make the case that which class of memes dominates is dependent on the situation. A stressed population facing a bleak future is going to have a high gain setting for infecting those not caught up with xenophobic or in this case "absolutist" memes. Rationalist memes will prevail in situations of lower stress/worry. This selective meme mechanism has the function of synchronizing a tribe's warriors to the ultimate effort to do or die in an attack on a neighboring tribe. (Irrespective of which side won, the hunter gatherer population was thinned out.)

    >Even when the number of individuals harboring absolutist memes is
    >tiny, at first, compared to the number who harbor rationalist memes, over
    >time the group as a whole is liable to fall under the spell of the
    >absolutist memes.

    The opposite can occur as we have seen in Northern Ireland (though the reverse situation does not get as much press). In that case, a switch to a much lower birth rate a generation ago let economic growth exceed population growth. Rational memes slowly prevailed and support for the IRA faded out. My claim here is that the psychological switch into and out of war mode evolved in the stone age to be dependent on the difficulty of getting game and berries. Today the mode trigger maps (roughly) into income per capita.

    Because of the high birth rate in the Palestinian population (and Islamic populations in general), there is no resolution in sight. The most likely
    (grim) outcome is a spasm similar to what happened in Rwanda.

    This is my sad prediction based on fundamental evolutionary psychology principles.

    Keith Henson

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