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

Robin Faichney (
Thu, 5 Jun 1997 10:22:00 +0100

Grant Callaghan wrote:
>On Wed, 4 Jun 1997, Robin Faichney wrote:
>> >No. I think human greed is genetic. I think the drive to devour
>> >everything on the planet that can be devoured is genetic.
>> I don't agree. (Except in the trivial sense that everything we do
>> requires that we have the capacity to do it -- so like everything
>> else, some of the elements that are part of greed are genetic.)
>> I think greed is neurotic, in words an emotional/memetic disorder.
>> We seek more than we really need because we are insecure, and
>> mistakenly think that possessing more stuff will make us feel
>> secure.
>If you study it, you will see that every emotion we have is the
>product of genetic programming.

I don't need to study it (again), I have a degree in psychology.
The emotions obviously have a genetic basis, but learning
plays a very highly important part. For instance, I'll
guarantee that you, like everyone else, are sexually turned on
by things that you've *learned* to associate with sex.

>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.

The fact that genes code for the systems that produce
adrenalin etc, does not mean they fully control that
production. Sure, I'm genetically programmed to feel
fear out in the woods at night, but to suppose that
every feeling you have comes as directly from the
genes as does that one, is to betray not just a lack
of psychological knowledge, but a lack of common

>Anger, fear, lust, angst,
>all of this, is part of a programmed reaction to what goes on
>around us. Memes come into play when they are able to determine
>what we do with these emotions.

Memes are already in play whether we make an effort of will
or not. Our reactions are programmed at least as much by
our experiences (including socialisation) as by our genes.

>We can program ourselves to do
>positive things with our anger instead of negative things. Rather
>than smashing our fist or our car into something...

You think people don't know that?

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

Now you're arguing against yourself!

>What angers them will also anger
>us... In either case, the
>behavior they learn came from their parents.

So it's not genetic!

>I believe things like the ten commandments and other religious
>memes were developed to counteract the emotional drives of our
>early ancestors...

You seem to be locked into a Judeo-Christian moralistic
framework, with genetic inheritance standing in for
original sin. This is the kind of thinking that got us into
all this trouble in the first place. If we really had only
memes on the "good" side, and only genes on the "bad"
side, the war would already be lost, but there are genes
and memes on both sides.

>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...

"All the evidence in that article" was about the problem itself,
not its cause. Reasoning on the level of genetics=bad,
memetics=good has absolutely no hope of countering such
problems. The internet has screeds of analysis going a
very great deal deeper than this, in newsgroups, mailing lists
and on web pages. I suggest you spend just a few months
studying what others have to say about these issues before
shooting your mouth off and making yourself look like just
another eco/religious nut, again.

Just to reiterate my own eco/religious thing: greed is
caused by insecurity, and the problem will be solved when
people realise that security is achieved by psycho/spiritual
means, not by possessing things. (Though some population
control, of the indirect, consensual sort, will probably be
required as well.)