Re: poly: conditional cooperation

From: CurtAdams <>
Date: Sat Apr 11 1998 - 10:21:03 PDT

In a message dated 4/11/98 3:24:01 AM, wrote:

>Curt>It's not rational for you, but it can be rational for a gene or meme
>that can influence you to make that commitment. Said gene or meme
>faces an ongoing game, even if you don't.
>Very interesting implications, Curt! Can it be that some of the ethos seen
>in religion... the notion of all-seeing powers and eventual comeuppance for
>good or bad deeds... may be rooted in such a long-seeing meme, as you just

More or less. I phrased that improperly, though (too casually). Genes and
memes don't think - they can be neither rational nor long-seeing. But the
effects of selection make the ones that work *as if* they were rational and
far-sighted spread better.

>That would imply that religion is not merely parasitical in its
>memic activity, but possibly commensal.

Memes are a separate set of replicators from genes. As is typical for inter-
acting sets of replicators not tightly coupled in their reproduction, inter-
actions are sometimes parasitical, sometimes commensal, and sometimes
I think that religion as practiced by priest/gurus/nuns etc. to be generally
parasitic on the genes but lay religion is usually symbiotic. You're
more likely to have more fit children by subscribing to a popular religion.
Marriage success, for example, is increased by the parties being of the same

This is probably a combination of true improvements to fitness and situations
analogous to sexual selection. The religion may encourage you to act more
wisely than your genes can, as memes can evolve faster and probably respond
more precisely to conceptual issues. At the same time, there's an advantage
to subscribing to a popular religion, from increased assitance and acceptance
from other members, quite independent of the religion providing any useful

I'm a thouroughgoing atheist, BTW. I think that scientific method can provide
the useful guidance of memetically evolved religious beliefs, far more
efficiently and at less cost. At the same time, I think religions can
provide a lot of value to humans and that in the absence of scholarship
and science are probably a necessity.

Identical twins raised separately have a strong concordance in the degree
of religious belief, but not the substance. Our genes evolved in the absence
of scholarship and science, and as a result create a "god-shaped void" in
most people. The details of what goes in that void elude them; or perhaps
they're better off leaving the details blank and letting them evolve
Received on Sat Apr 11 17:32:11 1998

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