Re: virus: The seven deadly memes?

Fri, 28 Jun 1996 17:56:53 -0600

>I was thinking about evolutionary psychology and about the "seven deadly
>sins" and I began to notice an interesting correspondence between the
>deadly sins and the basic instincts we get from evolution:
>pride = us-vs.-them instinct, also maintain status in hierarchy
>idleness = conserving energy
>gluttony = drive to eat, gone wild in this time of abundance
>lechery = maximize mating opportunities
>avarice = drive to grow in power so as to have more reproductive options
>envy = look for opportunities to rise in the hierarchy so as to have
>more reproductive options
>wrath = "tit for tat" strategy, most effective simple prisoner's dilemma

Sure. The most advantageous thing to do (from the perspective of your
genes) is to discourage everyone else from employing successful survival
strategies while you employ them as much as you can without drawing
attention to yourself. Catholic popes who lived debacherous lives
propagated successfully, while those lower in the church heirarchy actually
adhered to abstemious behavioral guidlines to which the pope paid lip
service. Those poor saps' genes failed to propagate themselves.

Machiavelli didn't take a gene's-eye-view, but he pin-pointed the practical
value of this sort of duplicity way back in the 16th century. Wish I had
my copy of "The Prince" on hand.

Notice that there aren't many religious injunctions against banging your
head against walls or acts of self-sacrifice or altruism. Heck, if you sit
on a pole or stand on your head for 20 years (never seriously competing for
mates or resourses) they're likey to make you a saint. Nobody much wants
to do that stuff, and if they do, "more power to 'em!" Or more to the
point, more power (resources and propagation opportunity) for me.

Richard's analogy falter's just slightly with "Wrath." 'Tit for tat' is an
effective survival strategy, but 'tit for two tats' is even more effective.
As the environment gets progressively noisier , i.e. as the possibility
for mistaking someone's intentions increases, charitable survival
strategies become increasingly effective. If someone seems to be double
crossing you or free-loading, it makes sense to give them another chance.
If you've mistaken their intentions, then you may end up squandering your
resources competing with someone who might otherwise have been a
cooperative partner. Only when there is no possibility for misreading
intentions is 'tit for tat' more effective than its more charitable

Take care, all. -KMO

Department of Philosophy * 435 GCB * University of Missouri * Columbia * MO

"The very thought of acknowledging variable numbers will send every Quinean
into veritable paroxysms of ontological anxiety." -- Jack Nelson, from a
review of H.W. Noonan's Objects and Identity in Philosophical Topics, v.
13, no. 1 (p. 181).