Re: Memetic Parasitism & Flintstones

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri 29 Jul 2005 - 14:32:35 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Memetic Parasitism & Flintstones"

    At 05:07 AM 29/07/05 -0700, Scott wrote:
    >--- Alan Patrick <> wrote:


    > > A thought......the US was initially settled by
    > > (European) people much more
    > > "infected" by religiosity memes....(whether they
    > > were more susceptible to
    > > infection, or just plain infected is another
    > > debate).

    As a result of experience, much of it extremely bitter, I think a high fraction of susceptibility to the cult end of the spectrum is genetic. This might have effects making the US memetic substrate different from Europe, though the effect is diluted to different extents in US regions because so much of the later immigration was for economic rather than religious reasons.

    A better case can be made for the Mormons being sorted out genetically as susceptible. If so that would be demonstrated by the descendents of Mormon converts being more likely to be sucked into other cults than the general population, and indeed people of Mormon background do seem to be over represented in extreme cults, both derived from Mormonism and remotely related ones such as scientology. (A well designed study would be extremely interesting.)

    A point can also be made that relatively small differences result in big differences where memes are concerned.

    A population that amplifies a meme's presence by +1% a month compounded goes to saturation (starting from 1%) in a little over a year. A meme will die out in a population that amplifies a meme at any negative number per unit time.

    So small differences in populations can have big effects (like wars) where memes are concerned.


    >Actually EP'ers tend to think that most of our evolved
    >traits were set in stone (another pun) back in the EEA
    >so much of our innate psychology is shared across

    That's true. Two eyes, ten fingers, walking upright and many other characteristics are common across all peoples. Considering only psychological traits, people seek status world wide. They pair bond. All peoples (as far as I know) are subject to capture-bonding. People usually treat relatives better than strangers.

    But while most of our psychological traits emerged when our ancestors lived in hunter gatherer bands, that does not preclude selection in the post agriculture era. Open ended acquisitiveness isn't particularly selected in hunter gatherer nomads. It is strongly selected in northern farmers. The ones who were not satisfied and worked hardest to fill their barn with hay and lay in a lot of firewood are the ones who (along with their families) didn't starve or freeze in a particularly long cold winter.

    Even a few thousand years of strong selection pressure will change average genetics for such psychological traits in a group. And northern farmers were under such survival pressures for long enough for such psychological adaptions to become relatively common.

    >Our diversification would emerge in this
    >context. The problem is whether particular EP'ers
    >think of this cultural diversification as an
    >uninteresting thin veneer (strong EP) or as a thick,
    >rich and interesting complex of phenomena (weak EP). I
    >tend toward the latter. I'm working on Keith to
    >convert him to Gouldism ;-)

    I can't see how the thinness or thickness of the cultural layer has a lot of effect on the EP layer. The chemistry layer under biology is not affected by the biology layer at all. You can make a case that really old cultural elements like the use of fire might have shaped human psychological traits. Consider the interest human children have in fire
    (they will play with fires for hours) and contrast that to a lack of interest or fear other young apes have.

    Incidentally, I like reading Gould's books, but he was every bit as biased as the people he attacked.

    Keith Henson

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