Re: virus: What makes memes compete?

Robin Faichney (
Mon, 14 Apr 1997 12:41:00 +0100

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
>[Robin Faichney wrote:]
>> Tim Rhodes wrote:
>> > is in the interest of your genes
>> >to protect your brother until the risk is greater than 50-50 that you,
>> >yourself, will die (for half of your genes can survive through him).
>> Rubbish! This is one of the most common "scientific" canards.
>> How many genes do siblings share? Well, I'm led to believe
>> that humans and chimpanzees share about 98%. Just think
>> about it, OK?
>Think about it more clearly: percentage of shared DNA is irrelevant..

OK, I stuck my neck out, and got my head chopped off. But I'm
still not happy with this way of looking at things. Guess I'll just
have to explain why...

>...a selfish gene cares not
>about any other gene in the whole set when it comes to altruism--
>it cares only about the probability of itself existing in the other.

Seems to me this way of thinking about altruism is
pre-memetics, despite their co-existence in The Selfish Gene.
Suppose that altruism is not genetic but memetic. Suppose
further that the genetic base upon which altruism is built (or
part of it) is a tendency towards empathy.

Q 1: What do people around here think of the liklihood of a gene
for empathy? Before you answer, I should say I think that it
just *could* be one of the most important bases for the
transmission of memes, because in its most basic form,
empathy results in the copying of behaviour. For instance,
empathic behaviours include flocking, schooling and
herding, and the tendency of humans to fall into step when
walking together. (And modelling (copying of) behaviour
has been observed in *very* young children, including
premature babies.)

Q 2: What would be other consequences of an empathy
gene? I should admit here (though it's probably already
obvious) that I'm not yet really into genetic/memetic
thinking. But I can probably define it a little better: as
well as coding for the copying of behaviour, it would
cause a tendency to identify with con-specifics. (And,
as a side issue, how are con-specifics identified? By
visual/behavioural/other type templates?)

Q 3: We know that the concept of genetic altruism is
highly dodgy. So how does the concept of genetic
empathy stand up?

Q 4: What can we say about altruism as a meme?

Robin Faichney