Re: The Status of Memetics as a Science

From: Trupeljak Ozren (
Date: Mon Apr 30 2001 - 21:51:34 BST

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "RE: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics"

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    From: Trupeljak Ozren <>
    Subject: Re: The Status of Memetics as a Science
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    --- Scott Chase <> wrote:
    > An interesting point to consider would be that if we could be considered
    > dominant, where does that leave those species which benefit from our
    > existence (mostly at our expense)? Where you find human homes and other
    > buildings you might find rats, cockroaches, houseflies and fruitflies to
    > name a few. Have we come close to winning the battle against them? Some of
    > them are vectors for those pesky little microbes which try to dominate us.
    > When all is said and done we all wind up as worm food anyway. Maybe the
    > decomposers are at the top of the ladder? Sorry for the grim reflection...

    First, just the fact that we have so many species depending on us for their
    survival, signifies that we are a major force in the ecosystem. Specialy when
    one considers how inimical our style of life *is* to anyone else! Second, I
    don't think that bacteria are trying to "dominate" us. They merely use us for
    their own survival. The most successful ones are those that don't kill the
    host; and those that learned to live symbioticaly with us.

    > Go outside at night and serve as a walking buffet for a cloud of hungry
    > mosquitos and tell them how dominant you are. Hopefully they don't have
    > microbial hitch hikers aboard.

    How many lakes and rivers have been swamped with poison in our efforts to kill
    of the mosqitoes? It seems that we have the capability to kill them off, but
    the cost is, again, too much. And can you truly say that just because they can
    bite us and escape unpunished (most of the time) they are a serious threat to
    our dominance?!
    > I haven't witnessed a locust swarm but I bet that plague is a sight to
    > behold. Where bacteria evolve antibiotic resisance, isn't there a parallel
    > where insects evolve pesticide resistance? Does this problem impact humans?
    > With our great ability to alter the environment, what collateral damage has
    > been sustained due to DDT and other pest control measures? We think we're
    > intelligent when we introduce exotic species as a pest control measure. How
    > did the cane toad problem arise in Australia? Oops.

    Again, just by doing that we show exactly how much power we *do* have to alter
    the environment. We are like little children, playing around and learning
    through bruises. The only problem is, we have the capability to destroy the
    playground completely.

    > Other exotic species are "dominating" various locales thanks to our
    > "intelligence" and "foresight", our aesthetic judgement of them, or just as
    > a stroke of luck by riding aboard one of our ships.
    How exactly are they dominating *us*?

    --- Scott Chase <> wrote:

    > If evolutionary ethics means looking at the evolution of ethics, casuistry,
    > and morality that wouldn't be too big a deal. OTOH if evolutionary ethics
    > means defining morality in terms derived from evolutionary biology, there
    > may be serious problems. Analyzing "the good" in terms of something else,
    > such as what one finds revealed in nature is wrought with difficulties. If
    > one perceives the natural state as "red in tooth and claw" or "dog eat dog"
    > and takes this descriptive "is" and carries over the hump as a presrciption
    > for morality or an "ought", that may a very flawed undertaking. I think this
    > is akin to the "naturalistic fallacy" of G.E. Moore, but his precise
    > arguments are far better than I could muster and are found in his _Principia
    > Ethica_. Others here could probably muster better than I.
     I was refering to ethics derived from some of the principles of evolution (in
    a biological sense); but not a direct copying of the laws of jungle (might be
    a very good idea, though, if we did not have such high tech toys to worry
    about). Since I am no philosopher, nor do I believe I have particularly high
    set of morals, I will not even attempt to try developing the thought…to me, it
    just seemed a good idea to copy the stuff that obviously works, and modify it
    according to the specific needs of the local culture.

    It seems to me that many people equate the dominance of a species with the
    dominance of the individual of that species, in respect to all other forms of
    life. This is obviously not what I have been claiming to be the truth. And all
    of that springs from my idea that maybe the fantastic success of our way of
    life (civilization, that is), might be because of the unique meme-gene
    interaction that we are capable of. In fact, I would even go as far as to claim
    that our civilization, as such, is not designed to be the best way of life for
    us humans at all, but it seems to be the best way for the memes themselves to
    propagate, diversify, and develop new eco-systems; look at Internet, for
    example. Individual human beings, by some measurements, work harder, and are
    unhappier, then individuals living in “primitive” tribal societies seemed to.
    As a species, we have spent most of our life in tribal communities, and all of
    this civilization stuff is very recent; one could argue that it all started
    with invention of exclusive agriculture and need for precise transfer of
    knowledge that it entailed. The invention of writing was the most important
    step in that process, but not for us; we have lived for hundreds of thousands
    of years just fine without it; but for the longevity of memes. Such a small
    change in the rate of memetic drift (and arguably, speed of replication) caused
    such huge consequences!
    Anyway, just some more fuel for fire…;)


    There are very few man - and they are exceptions - who are able to think and feel beyond the present moment.

    Carl von Clausewitz

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