RE: virus: Genes vs. Memes: The War Heats Up

John ''!Boolean'' Williams (
Wed, 04 Jun 1997 22:59:18 -0400

At 07:00 AM 6/4/97 -0700, Grant wrote:

>If you study it, you will see that every emotion we have is the
>product of genetic programming. In recent years they have found
>genes for happiness, contentment, preference for certain colors,
>etc. This is because all of the chemicals that create the feelings
>we call emotions are produced by genes. Anger, fear, lust, angst,
>all of this, is part of a programmed reaction to what goes on
>around us.

I'd like to point out that the chicken-egg and nature/nurture questions
haven't been solved yet. Are the chemical reactions the trigger for the
emotions, or are the emotions the trigger for the chemical reactions? Is
the impulse to create memes that counteract our genetic programing also
genetic? It seems it would have to be...

I've not read anything recently that proves that conciousness is purely the
result of chemical reactions...

>Memes come into play when they are able to determine
>what we do with these emotions. We can program ourselves to do
>positive things with our anger instead of negative things.

Hmm. Now, I have to admit to a little bit of confusion on this. You claim
that we are genetically "programmed" to react in certain ways to certain
stimuli. However, we can use "memes" to reprogram ourselves to react in
methods that are more constructive. What is the stimulus that invokes this
particular response? On the one hand, you seem to dumped the concept of
free will. On the other hand, you seem to suggest that we can take control
of the situation and bend it to our benifit -- which implies some volition.

I'm probably straw-manning you here. You need to run it past me again, real
slow like.

>Also, we learn what to get angry about from
>our parents at a very early age.

Especially this: "learning" is, of course, not the same as a genetic
response. That's another confusing assertion.

>Men who watched their fathers beat their
>wives and children use up the same behavior when they grow up
>in most cases, or in some cases they rebel against what their
>parents were doing and do the opposit. In either case, the
>behavior they learn came from their parents.

Yeah, I think that runs the gamut of possible behaviors. They will either
behave the same or behave differently. :-)

>I believe things like the ten commandments and other religious
>memes were developed to counteract the emotional drives of our
>early ancestors. It is a conflict that is still going on, and
>the genes are winning.

I must differ; western religion, at least, has always had and will continue
to have, for the foreseable future, an emphasis on the emotional. I agree
with you that the Commandments were designed to keep people from killing
each other, and to encourage them to treat each other with respect, but it
wasn't to quell "the emotional drives." Just some of them.

>Tribalism reigns in most places in the
>world and tribes align themselves against each other in times of
>scarcity and deprivation. But we developed memes like the ten
>commandments to keep people from different tribes who came to
>live together from stealing from each other, coveting each
>other's wives, killing each other, etc.

Again, I have to differ. The Israelites, and later the Jews, were among
*the* most fiercely isolationist groups BCE. The Old Testament is quite
full of incidents where God punishes the Jews for mixing to much with the
outside world; slavery under the Egyptians being one major incident, and
the Disapora being another. They *did* decide that their God was the God of
everyone, but they continued consider themselves "the Chosen People." Most
of them did not *want* outsiders becoming Jews. It wasn't until the
teachings of Christ -- or "the Christs," whichever you want :-) -- that
Judaic religion began to consider the possibility of God's "Chosen People"
being anyone who happened to follow God, regardless of ethnic identity.

Other cultures of this time, however, tried to *integrate* cultures and
keep them from killing each other; the Romans, for one example, and the
Babylonians, for another. The Jews finally convinced the Romans to execute
Christ (it is theorized) because Christ was stirring them up so much, and
making them upset. It seemed the quickest path towards cutting off a
potiential uprising.

>...We have
>to persuade the people of the world, very quickly, to buy the
>idea that they must learn to live with less rather than more and
>that what is good for everyone is more important than what makes
>them feel good right now.

I have no quibble with this point, although I have difficulty figguring out
how we can do that -- if our behavior is so genetically determined, that is.

>It's programmed into us more strongly than
>the memes that advise us against it. Despite more than 3,000
>years of passing down the ten commandments, we still kill each other
>on a daily basis, covet our neighbor's wife (and steal her when
>the emotion arises) and property, disrespect our parents, and so on.
>Three milliniums of memetic programming have not changed us much.

Well, maybe not the *neighbor's* wife. ;-)

Question (to anyone): how much is the doomsday "meme" spread because of the
availability of information from all over the world? I mean, if someone
sets off a bomb, the news is spread all over the place almost instantly. In
contrast, in the middle ages there were *three* Popes at the same time, and
practically no-one except the highly educated knew!

>I'm sorry if I sounded arrogant. I was just frustrated that with all
>the evidence in that article about what was causing the problem, you
>could only see the minor contributing cause rather than the main
>cause in spite of all the arrows I had pointing at it. Someone
>said once, the Tao is a finger pointing at the moon. Don't confuse
>the finger for the moon.

I once slammed a door on my finger, and let me tell you, *anyone* could
have mistaken it for the moon.

>I remember once that there was a cat in our backyard getting ready
>to jump over the fence. I pointed at the cat and told my dog,
>"Look, a cat." The dog kept looking at my pointing finger and
>never did see the cat. That is how I feel about trying to point
>out what I see as the cause of the worldwide misery that is just
>around the corner.

Um, genetics?

>All anyone can see is the pointing finger.
>You can't see what the finger is pointing at by disecting the

It'd be fun to try, though.
John Williams ICQ Address: 1213689
"See my loafers? Former gophers!"
Various Artists: Raising the Tide of Mediocrity for Two Years