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Fragment of a discussion from Forum:Genetic evolution vs memetic evolution (LQT!)
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RTFM - seriously.

In the meantime - from Wikipedia

The Selfish Gene is a book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976. It builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's first book Adaptation and Natural Selection. Dawkins coined the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centred view of evolution as opposed to the views focused on the organism and the group. From the gene-centred view follows that the more two individuals are genetically related, the more sense (at the level of the genes) it makes for them to behave selflessly with one another. Therefore the concept is especially good at explaining many forms of altruism, regardless of a common misuse of the term along the lines of a selfishness gene. An organism is expected to evolve to maximize its inclusive fitness — the number of copies of its genes passed on globally (rather than by a particular individual). As a result, populations will tend towards an evolutionarily stable strategy. The book also coins the term meme for a unit of human cultural evolution analogous to the gene, suggesting that such "selfish" replication may also model human culture, in a different sense. Memetics has become the subject of many studies since the publication of the book.

Note that this implies that evolution favours the survival of the gene rather than the individual. In most cases this comes down to the same thing but bees which die to protect the hive are a classic example of when it's not.

At the risk of oversimplification in evolutionary terms my "job" is to be a vehicle for the survival and propagation of the various genes that I am made up of. My evolutionary "fitness" is determined by the number of genetic offspring I produce. Note that it's the number, not the quality, whatever that might mean. As such I am programmed to prefer my offspring over those of others. This is not wholly determined - adopted children are loved as much as natural offspring - but it is summed up in the old phrase "blood is thicker than water" or, as SJC's son said - "Kids that you are related to are cuter".

This is why eugenics is counter to genetic evolution. I would gladly give my life for my children - my genetic offspring - and would make sacrifices for my tribe - my close genetic cousins. However expecting me to give up genetic survival for the sake of... of what? Some vague concept in the "improvement" of humanity? This is doubly true when, as you point out, strict genetic determinism is highly doubtful - now you're asking me to give up genetic survival for some vague "improvement" in humanity using a method that may not work very well. Nah, that breaks the program.

Jack Hughes (talk)13:41, 11 January 2011
Edited by another user.
Last edit: 20:57, 11 January 2011

Your book review, didn't elaborate much on the simple concept of genetic determinism, so I'm replying to your later comments.

"At the risk of oversimplification in evolutionary terms my "job" is to be a vehicle for the survival and propagation of the various genes that I am made up of."

That's a fine analogy. But unlike the mouse you "know" who your "boss" is. Can you disagree with your "boss"? Do you have any preference for subjective things like happiness, liberty, awareness? Isn't your conscious mind and it's needs, more of a certainty than unimaginably complex theories of how the body works?

"My evolutionary "fitness" is determined by the number of genetic offspring I produce. Note that it's the number, not the quality, whatever that might mean."

Quality means their genes can last longer (since that is aaaaall you care about). Otherwise why aren't you hunting night and day for pregnatable females to shag?

""Kids that you are related to are cuter"."

You'll just grab at anything that appears to support your philosophy. Look and you will see counter-examples.

"As such I am programmed to prefer my offspring over those of others."

Obviously, we are not all that way. How do you explain me? I prefer my "memetic" offspring who I have chosen, not an ancestral heirloom.

"This is why eugenics is counter to genetic evolution. I would gladly give my life for my children - my genetic offspring - and would make sacrifices for my tribe - my close genetic cousins. However expecting me to give up genetic survival for the sake of... of what? Some vague concept in the "improvement" of humanity?"

Let's take the extreme example of genetic engineering. Do you like absolutely everything about your genes? Say you had omniscient knowledge of your genome and your wife's genome, and you could combine germ cells, select every gene, and control the entire process. Would you change nothing?
~ Lumenos (talk)20:51, 11 January 2011

"You'll just grab at anything that appears to support your philosophy. Look and you will see counter-examples."

Where to start?

  • There is a yawning abyss of difference between a "philosophy" and a gut reaction.
  • It is a very good thing that infants are cute, since that provides motivation for the laborious endeavor of keeping their little butts dry and clean, to say nothing of the hours spent marching up and down with a colicky kid on one's shoulder, screaming its lungs out right in one's ear. I can testify that it takes an awful lot of cuteness to make up for that, when the time could have been far better spent catching up on sleep.
  • I am not sure I even have a philosophy. To the extent that I might have the approaches to one, they could be summed up by the clever sayings on the back of the little tags once attached to Salada tea bags. My friend Paul claimed that those tags all said the same thing: "Don't be a dickhead."
  • There are always counter-examples. Something about them defining the parameters or boundaries of any rule... oh, right; that is what's meant by "proving the rule," putting it to the test.
  • More significant than the counter-examples are the central examples, the ones which define the prototype of a coherent cluster of ideas.
  • Philosophy has taken great strides since Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Many of those steps had to do with demolishing the false dichotomies at the root of classical logic.
  • Have a nice day.
Sprocket J Cogswell (talk)22:33, 11 January 2011

Just to be clear I guess you are arguing that "Kids that you are related to are cuter" is a universal trait of humans?

"More significant than the counter-examples are the central examples, the ones which define the prototype of a coherent cluster of ideas."

Have you pretty much shown us the unquestionable evidence that you have discovered a "central example"?

"It is a very good thing that infants are cute, since that provides motivation for the laborious endeavor of"...

When I said "philosophy" I basically meant "speculation" and "hypothesizing"; wild, creative, "fascinating" hypothesizing, that would make Kent Hovind proud to be a scientist. Dream on, ReasonDiva.

"There are always counter-examples. Something about them defining the parameters or boundaries of any rule... oh, right; that is what's meant by "proving the rule," putting it to the test."

And you've clearly provided proved the "rule" in this case, Teach.
~ Lumenos (talk)03:24, 12 January 2011

I guess you are arguing that "Kids that you are related to are cuter" is a universal trait of humans?

Guess again.

Looking for unquestionable evidence or any kind of teaching in this corner of the web is liable to be frustrating and fruitless. Using your own made-up definitions of words such as "philosophy" is guaranteed to make discussion useless.

Sprocket J Cogswell (talk)04:51, 12 January 2011

I was replying to Jack who reproduced your quote (thus the ""quadruple"" quotation marks). Here is the fuller quote:

"As such I am programmed to prefer my offspring over those of others. This is not wholly determined - adopted children are loved as much as natural offspring - but it is summed up in the old phrase "blood is thicker than water" or, as SJC's son said - "Kids that you are related to are cuter". "

Note the topic of this thread. Perhaps I don't understand either one of you.

"Looking for unquestionable evidence or any kind of teaching in this corner of the web is liable to be frustrating and fruitless."

Not really looking for it, just arguing that any evidence doesn't seem to be there. You agree?

"Using your own made-up definitions of words such as "philosophy" is guaranteed to make discussion useless."

This is a close one, "An academic discipline that seeks truth through reasoning rather than empiricism" [1] but I would say "speculation" rather than "reasoning". Or "doctrine: a belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school"[2] Being that I consider myself a (bad) philosopher, I like to poke fun at people who think they practice "science" because they ramble in "scientificish" jargon, as in erroneously using some observation of the natural world or a "scientific study" to support their philosophy (usually naturalism which isn't such a bad religion, but genetic determinism is off the deep end, IMO).
~ Lumenos (talk)13:17, 12 January 2011
 
 
 
 
 
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