[ExI] Memes, genes Gregory Clark
pharos at gmail.com
Wed Sep 15 13:54:42 UTC 2010
On 9/14/10, Keith Henson wrote:
> But you really need to go deeper and ask why some memes do very well
> in one population and not as well in others? Why are some people much
> more susceptible to certain memes than others? And why do some memes
> come and go in the whole population? I can't answer all these
> questions, but I make the case that the host substrate for memes
> (genetically shaped people) is important.
Well, I think Dawkins (and others) would disagree with you.
Here is Chapter 11 from Dawkins, ``The Selfish Gene''
Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions,
ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate
themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or
eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from
brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called
So far, so good, but then he points out.....
Memes and genes may often reinforce each other, but they sometimes
come into opposition. For example, the habit of celibacy is
presumably not inherited genetically. A gene for celibacy is doomed
to failure in the gene pool, except under very special circumstances
such as we find in the social insects. But still, a meme for celibacy
can be successful in the meme pool.
I conjecture that co-adapted meme-complexes evolve in the same kind of
way as co-adapted gene-complexes. Selection favours memes that
exploit their cultural environment to their own advantage. This
cultural environment consists of other memes which are also being
selected. The meme pool therefore comes to have the attributes of an
evolutionarily stable set, which new memes find it hard to invade.
That's the reason for the difference in societies (races) adopting memes.
Some memes fall on fertile ground and some memes oppose the existing
That's why India didn't have an Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.
But modern India has educated itself, changed the culture and is a
modern powerhouse. (Incidentally where a lot of western jobs have been
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