RE: Dichotomisations (e.g. vertical/horizontal, Astrology et al)

Gatherer, D. (
Wed, 19 May 1999 09:00:46 +0200

Date: Wed, 19 May 1999 09:00:46 +0200
From: "Gatherer, D. (Derek)" <>
Subject: RE: Dichotomisations (e.g. vertical/horizontal, Astrology et al)
To: "''" <>


The point I was making
is that the astrological daters keep raising the subject of astrological
mating with potential partners, while non-astrological daters do not bring
up their views on the subject with each prospective date. Nevertheless, the
mathematics of proselytic transmission are such that the smaller a minority
you are in, the more frequently you encounter people to whom you could
possibly transmit your ideas (unless there is segregation). If you are in a
100 to 1 minority, then astrological daters only get the chance to convert
someone 1% of the time, while you get the chance to convert someone 99% of
the time. With rising prevalence.....


But why should prevalence rise under such circumstances? There would have
to be some form of cultural selection (in the Cavallian sense). The only
one that would seem to be feasible is that 'it works', ie. there would have
to be more reason to expect sexual success.

For instance, if one were to approach prospective partners by asking for
their opinion of the first half dozen games in the current Cricket World
Cup, it might not be surprising if no positive results were obtained.
However, note that the frequency of cricket-talking behaviour is very low,
say 1 in 1000 of the population (well alright 1 in 3 in Australia, but let's
ignore that for the present). A 'cricket-talker' gets a chance to convert
others to cricket-talker about 99.9% of the time. But cricket talking
doesn't spread. I see no reason to believe that
'astrological-sign-comparing' should spread simply because it is initially
at low prevalence.

Just as rare genetic alleles need selection pressure to act in their favour
in order to spread, so do rare allomemes (as Durham would say). Okay, so
some memes 'press buttons' - the selection pressure favouring them comes
from our innate evolutionary psychology - but I fail to see how astrolgical
sign comparison is necessarily a button pusher.


diminished non-host availability reduces
the meme's propagation, as do various other factors. It is nevertheless a
widespread meme for an age when science has progressed so far. I would say
that the meme owes much of its prevalence to its ability to harness mating
drives for its own transmission


Exactly, it must be a button pusher, but how? Incidentally, I have never
heard anybody ask anybody else for their astrological sign at a party or any
other prospective partner-eyeing-up event. I am fairly sure (although I
definitely don't want to do the research) that to ask such a thing round
here would produce howls of derision, or at best some raised eyebrows and
mutterings about 60s revivalism. Cricket might even win out over astrology.

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