RE: Group Selection

Aaron Lynch (
Thu, 18 Feb 1999 10:59:39 -0600

Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 10:59:39 -0600
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: Group Selection
In-Reply-To: <>

At 09:40 AM 2/18/99 -0600, Aaron Lynch wrote:
>At 09:23 AM 2/18/99 +0100, Gatherer, D. (Derek) wrote:
>> Aaron wrote:
>> 'Chapter 1 of
>>> _Hutterite Society_ (Hostetler, 1974) clearly documents that the idea
>>> of
>>> communal living, sharing of goods, and detachment from family ties
>>> were
>>> founding principles of the first Hutterite colonies. Moreover, those
>>> early
>>> colonies were formed evangelically from populations that would not
>>> have had
>>> any special level of inbreeding. Clearly, the communalism preceded any
>>> genetic homogenization that emerged as a result of the isolation that
>>> set
>>> in later in reaction to persecution. Therefore, a special level of
>>> genetic
>>> homogeneity is not a reasonable hypothesis in explaining the
>>> communalism.
>> Yes, I think it is an important point that communalism preceded
>>genetic homogenization. I'd therefore agree with you (wow!) that this
>>has to be memetic. However, we also have to ask the question - how was
>>it maintained? The Hutterites made a success of communal living,
>>whereas more recent attempts (Hippie communes etc.) and older attempts
>>(English communal religious sects of the 18th and 19th centuries)
>>were/are usually abject failures. A memetic effect sets the ball
>>rolling, but it may be necessary to invoke a genetic explanation of how
>>it rolled uphill (so to speak). So yes, I share your skepticism towards
>>sociobiology (I know by now you are probably asking, who is this person
>>and what has he done with Derek...), but I think that where odd genetic
>>effects like inbreeding are involved we may need it for a full
>> Derek
>Hi Derek.
>I finally set off that love fest meme with an embedded subliminal text
>message. Looks like it's working!
>Still, I am not convinced that a genetic effect is necessary to explain how
>Hutterites persisted. We should expect a vast difference between a band of
>several hundred that hit upon a memetic formula for 10 children per couple
>versus a band of several hundred that hits upon a formula for just a few
>children per couple. With similar dropout rates, the former movement can
>grow rapidly while the latter gradually goes extinct. Hutterite communalism
>is different from other varieties in that there is virtually no extra child
>raising effort or expense resulting from having a new child. (Lynch, 1996)
>This and other memetic factors (e.g., birth control taboos) are sufficient
>to explain the high birth rate, and that in turn makes the difference
>between a movement that fizzles versus one that persists and grows. As this
>is sufficient, it may not be *necessary* to invoke a genetic mechanism to
>explain the growth of the Hutterites.
>That said, I agree with you that odd genetic effects probably play at least
>*some* role. The modern Hutterite dropout rate is under 10 % (Hostetler,
>1974). This may result in part from the effects of inbreeding on cognitive
>functioning: a lower level of cognitive functioning may make it harder for
>one to pick up the skills needed to function in the complex mainstream
>cultures of modern North America. I would add, however, that isolation in a
>slower, simpler culture should also contribute to less cognitive
>development in Hutterite children, again favoring low dropout rates.
>Anyway, good to see us finding areas of agreement.
>Peace and love... :-)


Genetic selection may also play a part in the Hutterites. In North America,
those who drop out may tend to be those who have the greatest ability to
learn English as a second language and to absorb a more complex culture.
This could genetically contribute to a downward trend in the cognitive
abilities of those who remain. Yet those whose child raising memes cause
mild cognitive impairment may also show a lower offspring dropout rate,
favoring a memetic component to cognitive limitation as well. Serious
retardation to the point of not even being able to learn Hutterite culture
may limit the downward trend both memetically and genetically, as lack of
productivity can limit the fertility rate in an agrarian community. On the
other hand, serious mental retardation may become a dropout mechanism if it
stops one from even learning Hutterite culture.
--Aaron Lynch

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