[ExI] Memes, genes Gregory Clark

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Wed Sep 15 16:25:09 UTC 2010

On Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 5:00 AM,  ablainey at aol.com wrote:

>  I agree that the genetics of the carrier is very important. However I would go on to say that IMHO the main reason that memes fail to spread within certain society groups is in fact due to other memes. Call them antimemes if you will.

There is a whole ecosystem of memes out there.  I agree about opposing
memes, but to "get" some memes you have to have a whole mess of other

> These are information antidotes to any given meme. Such as understanding the science of evolution vs creationism. However the order in which the meme/antimeme are presented is important. If exposure to one comes before the other then it is more likely to take hold and be much harder to replace with its antithesis.
> This leads me to believe that taking an antimeme approach to a societal problem would be very beneficial, especially if the young of that society were 'vaccinated' before exposure to a destructive meme.
>  This is in reality almost the opposite to what we generally do. Far too often we shield our young from destructive memes in the hope they will not be exposed. Then on exposure we have an uphill struggle to inject a sufficient antidote.

Perhaps.  However, consider a certain cult.  By and large the people
who get hooked on that one I think are genetically susceptible.  They
are people who have brains (built by genes) that are particularly
susceptible to attention rewards, i.e., they quickly get addicted.
They also seem to be somewhat gullible.  I remember talking to one of
them, Brian McPherson, who told me that the local group of this cult
was parasitized by scam artists on a regular basis.  There also has
been a number of reports of people who had strokes which rendered them
completely susceptible to Nigerian scams.
Mike Dougherty <msd001 at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 5:39 PM, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com>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.
> Are you suggesting that memes require specific physical genetic
> characteristics or that people could be genetically predisposed to memetic
> influence?

Of course.  Memes like chipping rocks to get sharp edges can be taught
to our close relatives, but the memes don't spread to the larger
populations.  Certain memes spread among birds, or are reinvented
frequently (using cars to crack nuts for example) but they don't
spread to birds outside the corvus group.

> Conversely that some people have genes which could make them
> immune to memes?

Not all memes since the one thing humans do best is learn elements of
culture from each other.  But yes, I think there are people who are
immune to certain parasitic classes of memes due to their genes.

Ghod knows how many genes are involved.  But I know of cases where the
parents got sucked into a cult and their kids *knew* it was stupid.
Also there may be effects related to age.  Cults and addictive drugs
seem to use the same brain reward pathways.  It's well known that a
substantial fraction of drug addict can get off drugs as the age.
This makes evolutionary sense because gaining high status (integrated
attention) for improved reproductive success is important in young
adults and not so important by the time they reach middle age.

> In our mostly blind to people's differences out of artificially imposed
> sense of "fairness" I would not have imagined memes as patterns of thinking
> to be tied to something as base as genetics.  However, I can see that
> physical characteristics might contribute to certain patterns of thinking.
> Ex: PTC/PROP tasters may avoid these thyroid inhibitors and develop thyroid
> problems which further modify behavior and thought due to thyroid
> imbalance.
> [1]
> http://www.drpeterjdadamo.com/wiki/wiki.pl/PROP_and_PTC_Taster_Polymorphisms

I was not aware of this, but it's a related example.


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