Re: sex and the single meme

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sun Jan 27 2002 - 17:45:30 GMT

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    Subject: Re: sex and the single meme
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    At 10:44 PM 26/01/02 +0100, you wrote:
    >On 26 Jan 2002, at 13:43, Keith Henson wrote:
    > > That's too wide a net to cast. A gene that benefits the entire species
    > > does not have any feedback to spread. The math for it to spread means it
    > > must save more copies of itself than are lost.
    >Well it's quite complex indeed. It's just a thought anyway, cause i
    >can't explain myself how suicide memes come about cause i don't
    >really believe in the memes-hijack-us thought.

    It is actually remarkable simple. As Hamilton said one time, he should be
    willing to die if it would save more than 2 brothers or more than 8
    cousins. If you understand that a brother carries half your genes and a
    cousin one eighth of your genes it is obvious math to see that genes
    favoring this level of sacrifice would be favored over the long term.

    > > You are getting close to the models constructed by the late William
    > > Hamilton (Dawkins cites him a lot.)
    >Hm, never heard of him. Going to do some readup.

    I would say so. Try here for a


    Obituary from the Daily Telegraph

    Evolutionary biologist who explained how selfish genes could produce altruism

    PROFESSOR WILLIAM HAMILTON, who has died aged 63, was the most influential
    evolutionary biologist of his generation.

    Bill Hamilton's paper on "the genetical evolution of social behavior"
    (1964) became the most cited paper in all science. He was responsible
    almost single-handedly for a revolution in the study of animal behavior. He
    remained in frontline research until his death, caused by an infection
    caught while on a research expedition in the Congo.


    My most memorable conversation with Bill was at Oxford in 1990. We were
    talking about the evolution of parasite virulence, and I asked him if he
    new of a convincing example of evolution to intermediate levels of
    virulence other than the few so often described in the literature. He
    didn't think long and replied: "Religion."

    (I published about the evolution of parasitic cults to symbiotic religions
    in 1987, but I would guess Hamilton came up with this independently. He
    was one smart guy.)

    I don't have a copy at hand, but I think Hamilton's insightful comments on
    the concept of memes is right there in Dawkin's chapter in Selfish Gene.

    > > Since we are not all that good at determining exactly who we
    > > are related too, ...
    >This is actually not really required. If one defends a culture which
    >includes memes which select for certain genes and these genes
    >are also part of the defending individual then the job is done.

    I have heard argument that Jewish culture is a 5000 year memetic selector
    for higher intelligence. But the mechanism is not one of defending
    relatives, but that of defining the more intelligent men to be more
    desirable mates.

    Keith Henson

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