Re: Absolutist memes

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Thu 28 Oct 2004 - 02:00:45 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Absolutist memes"

    --- John Wilkins <> wrote:

    > On 27/10/2004, at 7:52 PM, Paul wrote:
    > > -----Original Message-----
    > > From:
    > [] On
    > > Behalf
    > > Of Keith Henson
    > > Sent: 27 October 2004 02:57
    > > To:
    > > Subject: Re: 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.
    > >
    > > Very interesting theory, one that make sense
    > giving your explanation.
    > > How fundamental are evolutionary psychology
    > principles? I'm not being
    > > sarcastic, I just don't know that much about EP
    > and from that I didn't
    > > think memetics and EP could co-exist, i.e., where
    > compatible theories.
    > >
    > I don't see why - for if memes and evolutionary
    > psych are incompatible,
    > so too are memes and *any* psychology. The etiology
    > of a trait is in no
    > way relevant to its compatibility with memes - only
    > the plasticity of
    > that trait WRT memes.
    I'm not sure about compatibility, but maybe there's something to be said for relevance between EP and memetics.

    If memes are sui generis floaters like the socifacts or collective representations of Durkheim, psychology per se is not relevant, including evolutionary psychology. If the phenomena addressed by memetics can be dealt with by cultural anthropology and/or social psychology without input from EP, then we need not worry about the EEA. If the mental bases for memes are an exaptive byproduct or nonaptive spandrel, then EP may be of minimal or negligible importance, depending on how one parses historic origin and current utility with regard to said mental bases (mentifacts).

    If memetics is addressed at a sociobiological level along the lines of culturgens or in a coevolutionary view then EP may be relevant if it overlaps sufficiently with the turf of sociobiology. If one views "culture" (I'm using scare quotes for effect) as irrelevant post-modern fluff or a mere thin veneer atop the more important genetically based fundamentals of human behavior, then memetics is not relevant.

    If ideas are not self-reproducing particulate entities subject to variation, selection and-or drift, then memetics is not relevant. It's possible neither EP nor memetics are all that important to understanding human behavior.

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