Re: META: Memes and War [was: Tomorrow is a new day]

From: Mikko Särelä (
Date: Sat Nov 13 2004 - 02:41:12 MST

On Sat, 13 Nov 2004, Randall Randall wrote:
> It's true that I have not thought about this much,
> however, I'd like to clarify my understanding of
> this. Most of my limited knowledge of this area
> comes from works such as _Guns, Germs, and Steel_.

If you are interested in this subject, you should take a look at "Constant
Battles" by Steven LeBlanc. I'm currently reading on the book and it tells
a lot about the constant warfare that people have been going through for a
long, long time. For example, in many (most?) stone age tribes living
nowadays, 25% of all males die of warfare. It would also seem that times
of peace (within stone age people, and before) have only occurred in
history when there has been much fewer people than resources.

On the other hand, as far as I've read, it does not seem to suggest total
kind of warfare in those troubled times. Rather the battles that occur
within bands tend to be small and often nobody gets killed. It's just that
when you sum up the losses through a persons life you get a large amount
of casualties.

So if these findings are true, then it definitely invalidates the old myth
of the 'golden age' of human kind when all was good, etc. It also
invalidates Keiths claims, since the bands and tribes tend to fight
constantly and suffer small losses all the time and not in a suicidal

I would also suggest that some ways of testing Keiths hypothesis is to
take a look at the record of stone age tribes we know about and how they
act. And to take a look at historical and archeological record. Does it
seem true that people go for this sort of suicidal rampage? I don't see
that when I look at history, so it would be nice, if you (Keith) can come
up with specific examples of that happening.

Keith Hanson wrote:
> Until I was motivated to figure it out by having a cult spend a ton of
> money harassing me, I had no idea that humans might have these buried
> psychological traits that could be called forth to make them monsters
> under certain conditions. In those days I was baffled by the news of
> various horrors like Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Nazi Germany and the
> like. Now I feel I understand the deep evolutionary origins of these
> events.

I lived the first 18 years of my life in a cult and saw people doing some
pretty nasty things to people. Now I don't think the actions were a result
of evolutionary (genetic) behavior patterns. I find it much more plausible
that they would be of memetic kind.

Religions are good at that; they tend to create a system, which is
uncriticisable and gives certain people (the cult leaders) power to
control a lot of things within the system. It is the existence of
uncriticisable premisses that allows all those montrosities to happen. Now
evolutionary origins are needed in explaining them. (Which doesn't mean
that they don't exist, but we should go for the simplest explanation á la
Occam's Razor, right?).

In addition you guys should all remember that one of the things that
general intelligence is about: it's about being able to respond to a
situation, not in a hardwired way, but by analyzing the situation and
creating the best answer based on our perception of reality. This means
that emergence of general intelligence in humans has necessarily seen lots
and lots of genetically defined responses to things disappear.

And that from the time that memetic evolution became possible, it became
very, very unlikely for any behavioral changes such as those you are
talking about, to become from genetic origins. After all, if there was a
mutant with beneficial behavioral patterns, others not having that gene
would be able to mimic him and the mutated gene would get no benefit to
its fitness.

Mikko Särelä
     "I too don't really find Monty Python all that exciting, but don't
      tell anyone I said that." Anonymous

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