Re: Study shows brain can learn without really trying

From: Ray Recchia (
Date: Tue Nov 20 2001 - 00:46:10 GMT

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    Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2001 19:46:10 -0500
    From: Ray Recchia <>
    Subject: Re: Study shows brain can learn without really trying
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    Chris Taylor wrote:

    >And at the risk off nicking your ball and running far too far with it; I
    >have no problem with the idea that 'lower' animals can have classically
    >evolved, hard-wired 'memes' (but then I abuse that term horribly because
    > can't think of a more appropriate one). ICU is the term for going
    >'Squawk!' when you see a predator (not to alert mates - that would be
    >true altruism, of which there is none in the world - it's to let the
    >*predator* know that *you've* seen it [I see you] so please attack
    >someone else - entirely selfish, like flocking, but I digress) - that is
    >a complex behavioural response to a very complex stimulus - what is the
    >difference whether this is hard wired or learned (apart from timescale
    >and some minor system details)?

    I think we can agree that not all communication is memetic whether done by animals or humans.  Yawns are contagious, but no one would argue that they are memetic even if done by humans with our allegedly superior self-reflective capacity.  As I mentioned in my review of 'The Imitation Factor' way back in June I believe that for something to be considered memetic it must have the capacity to pass between generations.  Animal warning cries or other communication intended to transmit temporary emotional states are not memetic because they lack this capacity and would therefore be unable to evolve. 

    Some of the guppy imitation in 'The Imitation Factor' truly had the capacity to pass between generations.  Female guppies that instinctively might prefer brightly colored males would develop a general preference for more drab males if repeatedly exposed to other females choosing drab males.  By choosing drab males themselves these females could then cause their preference to be picked up by the next generation.

    As to another point I hope I am misinterpreting you when you talk about 'true altruism'.  I believe it is commonly accepted that altruism can evolve when it enhances kin selection.

    Ray Recchia
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