Re: The /doggie/ "meme"

Ton Maas (
Sat, 19 Jul 1997 07:39:57 +0200

Message-Id: <v03102805aff5fe3f83b4@[]>
In-Reply-To: <>
Date: Sat, 19 Jul 1997 07:39:57 +0200
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: The /doggie/ "meme"

>Ton Maas,
>You seem to think you are correcting some falacies of which I am guilty.
>Yet I don't see much difference between the end of my statement as you
>quoted it and your correction.
>>>then I don't think that it is culture which is encoded. All that's
>>>encoded is the capacity for culture, which is, admittedly, merely a
>>>verbal formula. But....
>>Therefore, nothing even remotely like "culture"
>>can be encoded in DNA. We can only say that "culture" is facilitated by
>>certain human potentials resulting from both embryology and genetics.

Dear Bill,

I hope you didn't take my comments too personal. After all, this is a
public debate and my only aim is to help and further the conversation. And
you are right: it wasn't your conclusion I was arguing with, but the way
you were reaching it. With me that's a matter of principle, coming from the
same source I quoted in my previous posting. Here's what inspired me to my
quest a long time ago (the final lines of Gregory Bateson's book "Steps to
an Ecology of Mind"):

Is it important that the right things be done for the right reasons? Is it
necessary that those who revise and carry out plans should understand the
ecological insights which guided the planners? Or should the original
planners put into the very fabric of their plan collateral incentives which
will seduce those who come later to carry out the plan for reasons quite
different from those which inspired the plan?
This is an ancient problem in ethics and one which (for example) besets
every psychiatrist. Should he be satisfied if his patient makes a
readjustment to conventional life for neurotic and inappropriate reasons?
The question is not only ethical in the conventional sense, it is also an
ecological question. The means by which one man influences another are a
part of the ecology of ideas in their relationship, and a part of the
larger ecological system within which that relationship exists.
The hardest saying in the Bible is that of St. Paul, addressing the
Galatians: "God is not mocked," and this saying applies to the relationship
between man and his ecology. It is of no use to plead that a particular sin
of pollution or exploitation was only a little one or that it was
unintentional or that it was committed with the best intentions. Or that
"If I didn't, somebody else would have." The processes of ecology are not
One the other hand, surely the mountain lion when he kills the deer is not
acting to protect the grass from overgrazing.
In fact, the problem of how to transmit our ecological reasoning to those
whom we wish to influence in what seems to us to be an ecologically "good"
direction" is itself an ecological problem. We are not outside the ecology
for which we plan - we are always and inevitably a part of it.
Herein lies the charm and the terror of ecology - that the ideas of this
science are irreversibly becoming part of our own ecosocial system.
We live then in a world different from that of the mountain lion - he is
neither bothered nor blessed by having ideas about ecology. We are.
I believe that these ideas are not evil and that our greatest (ecological)
need is the propagation of these ideas as they develop - and as they are
developed by the (ecological) process of their propagation.
If this estimate is correct, then the ecological ideas implicit in our
plans are more important then the plans themselves, and it would be foolish
to sacrifice these ideas on the altar of pragmatism. It will not in the
long run pay to "sell" the plans by superficial ad hominem arguments which
will conceal or contradict the deeper insight.



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