Re: virus: What is meant by "memes affecting genes"?

David Leeper (
Wed, 16 Oct 1996 21:34:49 -0500

:> :> The reverse idea, that memes effect genes, is called the Baldwin Effect.
:> :
:> :Two possible interpretation to "memes effect genes":
:> :1. The actual content of memes is saved into genetic information.
:> :2. Memes effect our selection of mates, thereby effecting the genetical information of our
:> :off-springs.
:> Neither of these is the Baldwin Effect.
:> The Baldwin Effect works like this:
:> Memes can effect the environment an creature lives in or can move the creature to new
:> environments. As the creature environment changes, genes which may have been adaptive in
:> the old environment may be maladaptive or useless in the new environment and genes which
:> were maladaptive or useless in the old environment may be very adaptive in the new
:> environment. The selection preasures of the new environment will favor those individuals
:> with genes that work in the new environment. The evolution of the creature changes because
:> of the new environment and it was the memes that created the new environment or moved the
:> creature to that environment.
:I think the above description reduces to #2. However, it is an
:improvement over the naive one by demonstrating how the effect is
:pervasive and indirect.

#2 discusses memes and sexual selection, a relationship I believe to be weak. The Baldwin Effect
deals with learning. When memes which effect the evolution of a species are learned, this is the
Baldwin Effect. An example of this is when Homo Habilis learned to eat meat 1.2 million years
ago. This learned behavior had a drastic effect of the evolution of Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus,
Homo Sapien Neanderthals, Homo Sapien Sapien and Homo Sapien Sapien Deus.

David Leeper
Homo Deus