From: Keo Ormsby (email@example.com)
Date: Fri 29 Oct 2004 - 20:04:02 GMT
> At 12:07 PM 26/10/04 -0700, Ted wrote:
> >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
> >day totally open about their beliefs. The implication, from a memetics
> >point of view, is that absolutist memes are more powerful than
> 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
> 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
> gatherer population was thinned out.)
> Keith Henson
I completely agree that it is the situation or context that determines if an
absolutist or rationalistic meme will prevail. Even in the original piece,
Averny says that "As Karl Marx observed, people's consciousness is
determined by their situation". However, the interpretation that absolutist
memes appear in stressed/worried populations as an inherited mechanism in
order to enhance the chances of its survival against attack, is, in my view,
standing too heavily on the assumption that a meme's frequency in a
population is a function of the ability of that meme to increase the
survival of the population. This is a debatable position (and has been
debated on this list).
An alternate interpretation is to use the meme ecology by itself, and
analyze the strategies that absolutist and rationalist memes are using. Both
memes have to have some component that make them "appealing" to the
established meme ecology. If not, neither would be there in the first place.
One could speculate that they both offer to "solve" the settlement problem.
A rationalistic meme is probably more apt to "fit in" the established meme
ecology, by trying to be compelling (or whatever rationalistic memes use).
The absolutist meme tries to barge in the ecology, by threatening (i.e.
activating fear memes) by saying that not replicating it leads to disaster.
The result is that rationalistic memes tend to adapt themselves (replicate
with more variation over time) to the prevailing ecology, but absolutist
tend to replicate in an "all or nothing" manner (less variation). If fear
memes are scarce in a given ecology, the rationalistic memes will be more
likely to flourish, and if fear memes are active (more influential on the
overall ecology), absolutist memes can flourish.
The point I want to make, is that this interpretation does not say anything
about whether a population with absolutist memes will have a better survival
rate than another with rationalistic memes, or vice versa. It might, but it
would be a side effect. Perhaps one can suppose that fear memes in general
populate a special ancestral (i.e. genetic) place in our psychology, that
make them important for biological survival. That would account for Keith's
keen observation that absolutist memes appear in stressed/worried
populations, but I do not think it is necessary to assign a biologically
relevant selective pressure, or a specialized inherited psychological
process to each and every kind of meme (absolutist, rationalistic,
religious, etc.) It sounds a little phrenological to me.
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