RE: draft abstract Sex, Drugs and Cults

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri Feb 15 2002 - 23:34:28 GMT

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    Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2002 18:34:28 -0500
    From: Keith Henson <>
    Subject: RE: draft abstract Sex, Drugs and Cults
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    At 11:23 AM 15/02/02 -0800, you wrote:
    >Keith wrote:
    ><<A whole class of memes
    >(cults, religions) have no obvious replication drivers.>>
    >I'm glad to see you're nearing completion of your paper. Some feedback: I
    >don't think a cult or a religion is usefully considered just one meme
    >(Dawkins and Brodie called them mind viruses), but even waving hands over
    >the definitional morass, isn't evangelism an "obvious replication driver"?

    For the meme yes. But here is the context this was extracted from:

             In the aggregate, memes constitute human culture. Most of them
    are of the rock-chipping/shoemaking/vehicle-avoiding kind--they provide
    clear benefits to those who host them, i.e., learn behaviors or
    information. They are passed from generation to generation because of the
    benefits (ultimately to the genes of their hosts) they provide.

             But a whole class of memes have no obvious replication
    drivers. Memes of this class, which includes religions, cults and social
    movements such as nazism and communism, have induced humans to some of the
    most spectacular events in history, including mass suicides, wars,
    migrations, crusades, and other forms of large-scale social unrest. These
    memes often induce humans to activities that seriously damage or destroy
    their potential for reproductive success. The classic example is the
    nearly extinct Shakers--whose meme set completely forbids sex. A more
    recent example is the gonad-clipping Heaven's Gate cult. While inducing
    such behavior makes sense from the meme's viewpoint (diverting host time
    and energy toward propagating the meme and away from bearing and caring for
    children) it makes no sense when considered from the gene's viewpoint for a
    susceptibility to this class of sometimes-fatal memes to have evolved.

    Why are (at least some) humans highly susceptible?

    ><<People may become irresponsible on
    >either cults or drugs resulting in severe damage to reproductive
    >Education has also been shown to be correlated with low reproductive rates.

    That's true, and the correlation may be causal, but it could also be that
    education is causally linked to wealth. Of course, the really interesting
    thing is why people of high wealth don't spend it all on having a dozen
    children. At one time they did, and in some cultures, particularly Islamic
    they still do.


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