Re: virus: What is meant by "memes affecting genes"?
Sat, 19 Oct 1996 00:15:57 -0500 (CDT)

On Wed, 16 Oct 1996, David Leeper wrote:

> :> :> 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.

If #2 discusses memes with respect to sexual selection specifically,
that is highly invisible to me. I agree that sexual selection is relatively
weak compared to memetically-driven enviroforming, which is also
subsumed under #2 by directly altering the pool of mates to choose from.
[The description doesn't say HOW the choice is affected!]

I would classify your example as an instance of memetically-driven
enviroforming, which feeds directly into my current interpretation of #2.

[Oh, 'enviroforming'. I need 'terraforming', only more generic:
alteration of the environment. Direction of change need not have a
normative evaluation. Is there a more typical word out there?]

/ Towards the conversion of data into information....
/ Kenneth Boyd