Emotion connected memes was Orthologs

From: Keith Henson (hkhenson@rogers.com)
Date: Tue 09 May 2006 - 19:51:31 GMT

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    In correspondence with Eugene V Kooin, the author of the comment here:

    > My main point, however, is a tribute to meme selection: the fittest will
    > survive!

    He commented:


    >. . . it is hard for me to understand how many people, including
    >biologists, can have such a negative attitude (sometimes, almost
    >violently expressed) to this entire conceptual development. I suppose
    >this in itself is a peculiar phenomenon to be understood from the point
    >of view of evolutionary psychology . . .

    Let's try. Examples first.

    I remember with near horror a time when a very senior scientist (not in geology) went off on a disjointed emotional rant that was scary to behold. (He was shaking with rage.) I was reading *his* copy of
    _Scientific American_ at his house and made some innocent comment about an article on plate tectonics.

    A story illustrating this effect to a T was posted here by Aaron Lynch back in 2004 and expanded on the Extropian mailing list. (That was where the Libertarians freaked out for over a decade about the whole meme concept seemingly because of an article I wrote for _Reason_.)

    The K/T extinction event meme is another one that inspired high emotion against it for over a decade. Even 25 years after the 200-mile wide crater was found there are "partisans" who still reject the meme. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicxulub_Crater Drew Westen imaged the effects in brains for political "partisans" but I would bet long odds that the same brain regions were/are active in challenged K/T rejecters.

    Usually the memes that get tied up with so much emotion are religious or political. Whatever the source, it is clear that a wide variety of memes can obtain this kind of binding to emotional areas of the brain. Are there features of plate tectonics, the "memes about memes" and the K/T event that group them with political or religious memes? What other memes classes have this binding?

    In some cases, and memetics is one of them, the reaction is almost allergic. People often don't have an expressible meme in competition to the challenge meme; they just emotionally and sometimes violently reject the meme. (That does not mean they don't have a meme or set of memes in competition, just that they can't express them.)

    This business of emotional freak-outs over memes is so widespread among humans that it must be a species typical psychological trait--though people vary in how much they have it.

    Evolutionary psychology makes the claim that--without exception--every human psychological trait either evolved (example capture-bonding) or is a side effect (drug addiction) of some trait that *did* contribute to reproductive success back in the EEA (Stone Age.)

    I have been baffled over this for two decades, I still am, but perhaps the above framing of the problem might give someone an idea about how to solve it.

    The "rules" of the EP game is that you need to show how the "feature" would have directly improved reproductive success in the EEA for those who had it, *or* how the psychological trait is a side effect of some trait that did improve reproductive success. (Extra points if you can suggest ways to test it.)

    Dawkins makes the case that being gullible may be a feature of children. You can see why believing adults would contribute to reproductive success (those eaten by bears didn't leave descendents).

    The possibility exists that some memes get trapped in the partial freezing of the brain's ability to learn language that happens around puberty. (That might have something to do with the 13 year-old boys who read Rand.) Or perhaps there is a later freezing in of memes. In that case, we should be able to detect an age cutoff in those who opposed plate tectonics or the K/T extinction.

    Perhaps it is some side effect of the drive for status to have strong emotional attachments to memes? (None of these feel right in EP terms.)

    (Added the next day)

    Or perhaps these emotional bindings to scientific memes (plus religious and political memes) are a side effect of emotional bindings to xenophobic memes.

    I recently made the case that the trait to pass around xenophobic memes and go non-rational is an evolved species typical behavior of humans facing bad times. http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2006/4/17/194059/296

    It may be active in some people at some level even under low stress conditions. Low level activation of the psychological traits behind capture-bonding (Stockholm Syndrome) seems to account for the rewards people get from BDSM sex practices.

    Wars and captures were *major* selection factors in the EEA. It should not be a surprise if many of our deepest psychological traits were shaped by such selection.


    Keith Henson

    PS. The theory leads to the prediction that *this* theory will be met with violent rejection by some. :-)

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