[ExI] Morality Meme vs.Rationality

hkhenson hkhenson at rogers.com
Sat Dec 15 17:52:12 UTC 2007

At 10:23 PM 12/14/2007, Kevin Freels wrote:

> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusive_fitness
> >
> > This is where rational for the individual and rational for the gene
> > part company.
> >
> > I make the case that this ability to identify with unrelated others
> > (say in an army unit) is because we evolved in bands where the
> > average relatedness was high enough that taking a big chance of dying
> > to defend the band was cost effective from the gene's viewpoint.
> >
> >  From the individual's viewpoint, it's not rational to die to save
> > others.  From the gene's viewpoint it is, if they are relatives and
> > the number you save in dying times the relatedness is more than
> > one.  This makes the case that brain mechanisms built by genes will,
> > under particular circumstances, induce people to think and act 
> irrationally.
> >
> > Keith
> >
>Just to back Keith up some more (not that he needs my help), it is
>extremely important that anyone wanting to engage in a debate of this
>nature read and understand Hamilton's rule of inclusive fitness. (Thanks
>for the links Keith) It's been confirmed remarkably in a wide variety of
>animals. This isn't speculation. Keith is right on the money.
>I also recommend the work that Stephen Emlen did on the white-fronted
>bee-eaters in Kenya. Also check out the work of Robert Trivers regarding
>reciprocal altruism. It's especially important to this debate. This
>isn't speculation - it's all about observations.

It's always nice to be backed up by informed people.  They tend to 
agree with me.  :-)

Right on observations.  The observations also fit models that make 
sense in evolutionary bilogy terms

>Bigger brains may make reciprocal altrusim even more likely because it
>allows animals such to keep track of who they did favors for and who
>"owes" them. One could then almost make the case that morality is a
>natural genetic behavior which causes and bigger brains allow some
>animals to use it in a calculating manner to accomplish what they want
>emotionally. Morality and altruism then become the base genetic behavior
>while rationalizing and reasoning memes become a learned way to take
>advantage of altrusitic individuals. (note: I am not trying to make this
>case. It just came out and may not make sense. I'll analyze it tomorrow
>when I'm not falling asleep at the keyboard.)

It's not bad.  To extend a bit, social animals like humans and dogs 
limit the amount of benefit they provide even to related 
animals.  I.e., genes to use up your life helping relatives to the 
exclusion of reproducing are not going be preserved.  Hamilton's rule 
not only explains this class of altruism, but it states very clearly 
that there will be limits.  Make demands that exceed these limits and 
a wolf will be driven out of the pack.  (Happens.)

>Of course I subscribe to my own idea that our evolved brains are simply
>a more flexible and faster reacting evolutionary device that works by
>processing memes into genes. Over time if the memes take hold and spread
>wide and far, they become such a normal part of everyday life for
>everyone that they become genetic traits. Now I have to be careful here
>before someone accuses me of being a proponent of Lamarckian evolution.
>I do not mean that the memes change the genes. Only that a successful
>meme spread broadly across a population would create an environment
>where genes that accomplish the same things could spread quickly once
>they popped up and over enough time could become the norm through
>positive feedback loops. Here we have a recipe for a rapid response
>evolutionary system. More tired nonsense? Or am I on to something? Who
>knows - going to bed.

This can be expressed in a mathematical model.  Protohumans about 2.5 
million years ago suddenly started chipping rocks.  I rather imagine 
that the ability to pick up the meme for chipping rocks gave the ones 
who could learn this a big genetic advantage, maybe even the ten to 
one advantage that being able to drink milk gave in the last few 
thousand years to those who were raising dairy animals.  That's going 
to genetically fix a propensity to pick up the rock chipping meme in 
a rather small number of generations.


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