memetic fitness and suicide

Paul Marsden (
Thu, 22 Jul 1999 11:13:22 +0200

From: "Paul Marsden" <>
To: "memetics" <>
Subject: memetic fitness and suicide
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 11:13:22 +0200

Thanks for the comments on evolutionary fitness

One more related question. Natural selection is a tautology if fitness is
an absolute frequency measure - survival of fittest (which is a lousy
description, because it is neither about survival or fitness in any commonly
understood manner), becomes survival of the survivors.

So surely evolutionary (memetic) fitness must be a relative concept (tied
to a particular ecological niche/context), and critically a *propensity* to
contribute to future generations, not an absolute measure of contribution.

To translate this into a concrete memetic example - why does suicide qua
acquired (social learned rather than inherited -which it may also be)
behavioural strategy persist? Because, of course it is, evolutionarily fit.
Please can we have a stab at unpacking this and provide a proto-memetic
explanation for suicide.

Paul Marsden
Graduate Research Centre in the Social Sciences
University of Sussex
ICQ 35642304
Tel (44) (0) 958 733 414

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