Re: virus: Re: Rationalism

Janet Taylor (
Fri, 3 Nov 1995 10:17:19 -0600

>I can't speak for Dawkins, but this question isn't as tough as it seems.
> The unit of evolution is not the individual, its the genes. An alcoholic
>can pass on their genes quite well. My mother did. In fact, I've know
>alcoholics who were (sadly) very successful at reproduction. The drug can
>damage/destroy an individual all it wants, if the individual successfully
>passes on its genes, the genes have accomplished their "goal".

Let's evaluate this theory if children were allowed to drink/do drugs.
They would and do drink/take drugs to excess if adults did not control
their behavior through physical force or memetic transfer of
"drinking/drugs are bad". It just isn't easily explained from a gene
perspective. Our genes should want us to drink only to the point that we
procreate, but some drugs, like cocaine, actual inhibit the ability to
procreate. What if we gave cocaine to children? They would become
addicted and be unable to procreate and potentially die before puberty.
But that doesn't explain why everyone would want so much to do them in the
first place.

>While I tend to agree with this theory, I'm not so sure it applies to the
>case of the alcoholic. By making genes, not the individual, the unit of
>evolution, we can answer these "damage to the individual" types of questions
>by simply ignoring them.

But referring to my previous paragraph, if damage to the individual
inhibits procreation of the gene, then why doesn't drug
addiction/alcoholism eventually become extinct? And is it really just a
mutation in the first place? Since if everyone did crack cocaine (I'm glad
to say I don't know this from personal experience), everyone would become

>This one I have to flatly disagree with. Altruisum includes acts such as
>self-sacrifice for the good of the group. This is (was) really a tough nut
>to crack. How do you explain the voluntary destruction of an individual in
>terms of Evolution? It was cases like this that lead to the creation of
>Group Theory of Evolution and answers like the one given above about "more
>joy". A concept that has proven to be simpler and more fit is, again,
>genes. By performing the altruistic act, the individual actually increases
>the likelyhood of its genes reproducing! How? Through relatives. This
>explains Mothers sacrificing themselves for their childern, for example.
> This line of though is well worked out. A clear explaination of it, with
>many examples, can be found it the book "The Moral Animal".

What about gang/mob psychology? How do we explain in genetic terms
sacrifices made in interracial gangs? Is everything that cannot not be
explained, genetically, given a backup memetic explanation. If so, have
you not come to a similar argument that religion makes--"here's the
rationalization; if it doesn't fit, use this all-purpose explanation that
fits every other situation which explains everything in a circular
fashion..." This sounds like free will in Christianity (that explains away
all that icky bad stuff) or karma in Buddhism (because we deserve it).

And perhaps most importantly, is this group stating that there is no
meaning to life other than the meaning of gene-creation? This amorphous
soup where we all began--where did it come from? What's on the flip side
of the universe? I ask these questions because I wonder about them myself
daily. I ask myself daily because gene creation just isn't enough to
warrant getting out of bed each morning...

A wacky woman in KC,