Re[5]: Memetic Parasitism

From: Robin Faichney (
Date: Mon 25 Jul 2005 - 16:25:03 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re[5]: Memetic Parasitism"

    Monday, July 25, 2005, 3:11:32 PM, Keith wrote:

    > At 09:34 AM 25/07/05 +0100, Robin wrote:
    >>I didn't say the problem is behaving in ways that aren't determined by
    >>evolution. I said it's NOT behaving in ways that ARE inherited
    >>tendencies. Big difference. In a previous message you mentioned
    >>motivation. We have needs and are motivated to fulfil them. One
    >>result among others of failing to fulfil our needs is chronic anxiety.
    >>Here's a neat formulation: failing to do what we THINK is right (or
    >>doing what we think is wrong) causes guilt, while failing to do what
    >>we FEEL is right (or doing what we feel is wrong) causes anxiety. Our
    >>feelings about our actions are, at base, inherited behavioural
    >>tendencies, though of course they're much modified by upbringing and

    > Can you put in some concrete examples? I am just not very good at
    > following arguments this abstract.

    Sexual frustration notoriously causes people to be chronically uptight. So there's no selection for nervous tension, but it's nevertheless a product of evolution. Some people, of course, believe that (some) sexual activity is wrong, so they feel guilty after engaging in it. I used the extremely broad conceptualisation of feelings being due to nature and thoughts due to nurture, which you might like to disregard.

    >> >>Guilt is perhaps more difficult, as it might have an adaptive
    >> >>social function in hierarchical groups.
    >> > There certainly are hierarchical groups, but that's not the way evolution
    >> > of humans came about. The critical thing with the evolution of humans (and
    >> > for that matter chimps) is kin groups.
    >>I understand a little about kin selection, but I don't see how that
    >>excludes hierarchy in humans.

    > It doesn't.

    >>And if you're saying that there is no
    >>human tendency towards hierarchy, with dominance and submission in
    >>relationships... well, I'd be astounded. Just look at any cult.

    > You hardly need to tell *me* about cults. :-) But the point is that human
    > genes were selected in an environment where the others around you were
    > mostly relatives. You need to consider this in the context of
    > understanding the genetic driven motivation of hunters and warriors. The
    > risks they took were to a large extent for the benefit of *copies* of their
    > genes in other tribe members.

    Are you saying there's no hierarchy in families?

    >>I agree with some of this, but it's too easy to say "these people have
    >>mental problems". What's much more challenging is to ask (a) what makes
    >>cults and religions attractive to such people,

    > The same reason addictive drugs are attractive to some people.

    See below.

    >>and (b) whether, in
    >>some cases, such people might be genuinely helped and even cured by
    >>"religious experiences".

    > "Genuinely helped," as much as any junkie is helped by another shot or a
    > psychoanalytic patient is helped by "analysis."

    This is beginning to look a bit like prejudice.

    > I don't think you would be asking these sorts of questions if you had read
    > the paper you can find through Google:

    (By the way, you mention status in the abstract. Status is all about social hierarchy.)

    I have no problem with attention-reward being a significant factor in cults, but I see no reason to believe there are no other significant factors with regard either to cults in particular or religions in general. In fact I'd go so far as to say it's obvious that there are many other factors affecting "religious behaviour". And I'd assert that genuine relief from neurotic symptoms is one of them. In no way does this conflict with your analysis unless you're insisting that your truth is The Only Truth.

    Best regards,
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