RE: virus: Memes and Genes

Dave Pape (
Wed, 15 Jan 1997 23:59:05 GMT

At 07:27 15/01/97 -0800, you wrote:
>Dave Pape wrote:
>>Question: Are there many memes which don't help their hosts
>>which still thrive in the meme pool?
>You've just asked what I think is the most interesting question brought
>up by memetics, and to which I devoted considerable discussion in Virus
>of the Mind. Given that your genes give you a set of instincts that
>point you in one direction, and your memes give you a context/world
>view/ethos that points you in another direction...what is YOUR best

It's a good'un. F'rinstance, at the moment I'm thinking that I shouldn't
have children, and that I should discourage others from having children,
because of population, and human load on resources etc. Which isn't going to
do a whole lot for my genetic interests. And I feel pretty uncomfortable
about it... presumably because of... of what? My genome's control of my
memetic content? How does that work? Woo!

>But to answer your question briefly: birth control, late marriage,
>monogamy for men, and celibacy for priests seem like obvious candidates.
>There are probably many others that act less directly.

Birth control isn't stopping people having kids, is it? It's just letting
them PLAN their families better. Ditto late marriage (esp. given better life
expectancy in the cultures that're doing it).

Monogamy for men... I think this is one of the two classic human male
reproductive strategies, the other being wide oat-sowing, and that
furthermore it's the strategy which, when there's lots of males living in
close proximity, is going to provide a degree of social stability. IE,
societies in which males are (mostly) monogamous will be more stable than
ones in which they're highly promiscuous, because there'll be less suspicion
of adultery and less fighting between males. Human beings being the
cooperators that they are, I can see how human societies with monogamy rules
built in would be selected for in conditions where social groups were in

Celibacy for priests. Well... I think part of the reason that religions are
so prevalent is that in many societies it's they that provide the major
overall social cohesion, cohesion that transcends that within family groups.
What I see when I look at a religion uniting family tribes, is group memetic
structures (families) which aren't linked, and thus can fight between each

But, if you can spare a few brains from processing family-specific memes as
their dominant memeset, those brains can process religious memes as their
dominant memeset. These brains can then GENERATE a virtual metachief (a
god), the laws of which they can then impose on all the family/tribal
groups, allowing them a way of resolving conflicts, and producing a
(virtual) authority that can tell them to stop kicking each other in.

So, overall, religious celibacy is good, because it provides the unworldly
brains needed to generate godly authority to create group cohesion between
tribal groups- again, to the (genetic) benefit of all concerned. Given that
the religious people come from (probably quite comfy) families that're still
reproducing, it could be that OVERALL the genes which they have (and share
with their relatives) benefit from this, although the genes of the
monks/priests themselves don't get directly replicated.

>Interestingly, in today's society I would say there are GENETIC drives
>that don't help their hosts genetically...they just haven't caught up
>with us yet. And Vonnegut, in Galapagos, argues that intelligence is a
>losing genetic trait!

There's a sci-fi short story (who by?) in which all the clever people decide
to cut the population by only having one child per married, couple, and
intelligence is weeded out of the gene pool, because stupid people carry on
having lots of kids. Or something. Peace!

Dave Pape
The memetic equivalent of a G3 bullpup-design assault rifle blowing a full
clip at my opponent. (Alex Williams 1996)

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