Re: sexual selection and memes

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Mon Jun 18 2001 - 15:28:35 BST

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    From: Chris Taylor <>
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    > Essentially it's rejecting alternative, unique processes to cultural
    > evolution, saying it's perfectly explainable in conventional Darwinian
    > terms, but in terms of sexual selection rather than in terms of survival.
    > Any views on this?

    Yep. I'd say forget about genetics when discussing culture because (a)
    the rather disparate time scales just don't work at all, and (b)
    anything which was transmitted genetically can be transmitted much more
    efficiently in culture, so genetic drift would 'rot away' any genetic
    component. Thirdly, I'd also say that the unit of selection is *not the
    individual* but the meme - otherwise we would be saying something a bit
    like "one field is 'favoured' over another, by selection, because of the
    species which grow in it". Conventional Darwinian evolution is
    occurring, but not in the host. What that author has asserted amounts to
    the worst kind of group selectionist argument.

    Sexual selection is applied like ketchup to any old idea to make it
    palatable; I think its employment says rather more about the worldview
    of the author than anything. Biology is a minefield, and storytelling
    should be avoided (because, frankly, you can make any old shit up and
    find examples to back you).

    Blokes do more stuff because they are (currently) the dominant gender
    and therefore are more likely to have the self-confidence to assert
    stuff. They tend to do this after they have grown up a bit, but before
    they are distracted by the tedium of later adult life (when they tend to
    rely on postdocs to do the stuff, while they wonder how the hell they
    ended up as a manager, or run out of new ideas because they have
    rehashed their life experience too much, without enough novel input).
    Does this strike you as more parsimonious than an explanation invoking
    all sorts of unproven stuff about massively epigenetic 'behaviour'

     Chris Taylor ( »people»chris

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