Homosexuality taboo-gene interaction hypothesis, etc.

From: Aaron Lynch (aaron@mcs.net)
Date: Sun Jun 10 2001 - 17:53:42 BST

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    Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 11:53:42 -0500
    To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
    From: Aaron Lynch <aaron@mcs.net>
    Subject: Homosexuality taboo-gene interaction hypothesis, etc.
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    I was recently asked to comment on a paper that appears to address one of
    the many hypotheses I advanced in my 1996 book Thought Contagion: How
    Belief Spreads Through Society (Basic Books). This was the hypothesis about
    propagating homosexuality taboos causing increases in
    homosexuality-inclining genotype frequencies, and of the increasing gene
    frequencies subsequently favoring the spread of ideas that reverse the taboos.

    My present communication will not comment on the paper for which I was
    asked to comment, nor make a new attempt at discourse with its author.
    Rather, I will point out just a few basic facts about my hypothesis.

    1. The hypothesis was advanced in the 1996 book Thought Contagion, and was
    only lightly summarised in my contribution to Journal of Artifical
    Societies and Social Simulation, volume 2.

    2. There is no discussion in any of my work about these taboos having an
    inverse proportionality to frequencies of homosexuality. Nor did I intend
    any implicit suggestion to that effect. (To the contrary, if tendencies
    toward homosexuality were uniformly zero in 100% of the population, I would
    not even expect the taboos to evolve in the first place.)

    None of this is to say that the 1996 book was offered as the ultimate or
    perfect work in evolutionary cultural replicator theory. In particular, the
    book misattributes the theoretical paradigm of evolutionary cultural
    replicator theory to Richard Dawkins's 1976 book The Selfish Gene (Oxford
    University Press). The Selfish Gene actually cites the work of F.T. Cloak
    modest 1975 paper "Is a Cultural Ethology Possible?," [Human Ecology 3(3):
    p. 161-181], but that paper in turn cites Cloak's much more elaborated 1973
    paper "Elementary self-replicating instructions and their works: Toward a
    radical reconstruction of general anthropology through a general theory of
    natural selection" presented at the Ninth International Congress of
    Anthropological and Ethnological Studies. I have had a copy of that paper
    since 1979, but had forgotten its publication preceded the publication of
    Dawkins's 1976 book by 3 years. A scanned copy of the paper is now online
    at http://www.thoughtcontagion.com/cloak1973.htm. Cloak had also done
    extensive empirical work on cultural evolution, such as the field work that
    led to his 1966 dissertation "A Natural Order of Cultural Adoption and Loss
    in Trinidad," done at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. As
    evolutionists, we often ask people to accept that complex life forms are
    descended from simpler ones, and that complex cultures are descended from
    simpler ones, rather than being divinely created or intentionally handed
    down to earth from the heavens. In the case of evolutionary cultural
    replicator theory itself, it turns out that the theoretical paradigm had
    what some would consider "humble" origins, as distinct from being handed
    down from the heights of the academic prestige system. In any case, the
    1973 Cloak paper receives proper credit in a recent book contribution,
    "Evolutionary Contagion in Mental Software" in Robert J. Sternberg and
    James C. Kaufman (eds.) The Evolution of Intelligence (Lawrence Erlbaum
    Associates), due out this month. Some further comments on the early history
    of Cloak's work and the word "meme" are in the first two sections and first
    two footnotes of "Units, Events, and Dynamics in the Evolutionary
    Epidemiology of Ideas" at http://www.thoughtcontagion.com/UED.htm.

    --Aaron Lynch

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit

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