Re: Aunger's ecological relationships

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sun 24 Apr 2005 - 20:41:45 GMT

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    --- Scott Chase <> wrote:
    > On page 61 Aunger strains the definition of
    > parasitism
    > when he says that "some parasites don't inflict
    > penalties on their hosts." If so, this would cease
    > being a parasitic relationship wouldn't it?
    Adding to this wouldn't we do well to consider the neglected possibility of the commensal relationship
    (ie- when one benefits and the other has no significant cost nor benefit as a result)? Why couldn't the relation between memes and humans be looked at as a form of commensalism (0,+ or +,0)
    [Smith's _Elements of Ecology_ 3rd ed, p. 217]? Memes could benefit from living in our brain much like commensal species such as gopher frogs and indigo snakes benefit from living in gopher tortoise burrows
    [Myers and Ewel, _Ecosystems of Florida_, 1990, p. 187]. The gopher tortoise could care less, unless in the rare instance that the snake or frog wrecks the burrow by inviting all its friends over to a massive keg party ;-)

    If memes are commensals living in the burrows furnished by our brains, they would be neutral with regard to us. They merely slither around like the indigo snake changing our neural states in the process or hop out of the burrow entrance like the gopher frog and go on about their daily business. This is another possible symbiotic type "living together" relation in addition to mutualism and parasitism.

    Or maybe we benefit from memes but our relation to them is neutral from their "POV".

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