Sunday, November 18, 2007

Joseph, Ants, and Meme Stability, part 4

A phenotype is the outward expression, the visible manifestation of a genotype (one's genes). Hence, one may have a gene for a particular eye color. This person's eyes are blue both in her genotype and her phenotype. Phenotypes then, obviously, apply to the physical characteristic of an individual. Yet, a phenotype is not limited to physical characteristics on the individual herself

A beaver is isolated from her family at birth. She is raised without the company of other beavers later to be released as an adult into a wetland void of beavers. Instinctively she sources the flow of water through her wetland, builds a dam, and forces the creation of an artificial pond. This behavior was obviously not learned as she did not learn it by observation: it is instinct and was coded in her genes.

The beaver's dam is, thus, an example of a phenotype: the outward expression of a genotype. Differences in phenotypic beaver dams exist. Some may allow more water flow; others less, etc. One beaver phenotype may present a proclivity for poplar trees, and a later birch-tree fungus, which kills off all available birch, may hence find the poplar-tree phenotypic proclivity of a particular beaver may spare her the plight of absent birch. Another beaver that prefers birch might not fare as well during the same birch-tree kill off.

How does natural selection act on the individual worker ant? She is incapable of reproduction, yet she cares for the larval brood, protects the colony, gathers food, builds and repairs the hill. Are her behaviors adding to the beneficial pressure of natural selection?

The worker ant is the offspring of the colony's queen and one drone who died moments after copulation--possibly weeks, months, or even years ago. The behaviors of the individual ant are phenotypes of the queen. All female ants in the colony share the same DNA; however, worker DNA ignores reproductive coding, soldier DNA recognizes and acts on coding for size and larger mandibles, and the queen DNA acts on coding, ignored by the others, for size and reproduction.

The phenotypic behaviors of the worker ant are actually phenotypes of the queen. If the queen produces phenotypic behaviors among her offspring that lend toward less community stability, then the chances of reproductive differential diminishes. Hence, the workers are phenotypes of the queen. Altruism and social cohesion as phenotypes of the queen favor the survival of the colony and reproductive differential in the queen.

Understanding how this relates to memes and human morality will be developed in the next installments. Particular attention will be placed on the ceremonial observances of the Pentateuch.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Foolish Hostilities

In-group charity and out-group hostility—we all have felt the warmth of the former and the sting of the later. In-group ethics are characterized by undeserved benevolence, benevolence that is capable of overlooking a multitude of offenses. Out-group hostilities are characterized by an overly critical ability to find fault in heterogeneity coupled with an oft-accompanied fear for the heterogeneous.

Identity with the in-group is cultivated through right and ritual. The right or the right of passage is the means through which one attains a given identity. In the Evangelical Christian community, personal conversion is the primary right of passage. For the “Sacred-Name” communities, recitation of a given name or baptism into that name is the initiation right. For the member of the in-group ritual becomes the rubric of identity, the way to maintain identity with the in-group.

In-group/out-group ethics present themselves strongly in religious contexts; however, such ethics are not inherent to religion. Rather, they are normative to human self-comprehension—a by-product of mammalian evolution. Unfortunately, though, the meme of religiosity is both the historical and modern venue for the nastiest expressions of these ethics.

No one is more despised than the “apostate.” The community fears and deplores her. Though at one time embraced despite her human misgivings, those same misgivings are now used to dress her up in the ghoulish garments of a nefarious knave. The reprobate is spoken of, though not named. She is damned with dour hostility, though no one sheds a tear. She has become the scapegoat, the trash bin of abhorrence. She is thought to be second-rate, undeserving of in-group identity from the start. Through deleterious depictions the dutiful devotes find gratification in her, vindication for their fears of heterogeneity, and justification for their draw to homogeneity.


Why do you fear that which is without? Cast aside your hubris for homogeneity and look reality into the eyes. Can you do this without shame? Is your belief system characterized by self-deception—the self-fulfilling, emotional, and illogical schematic attachments to anomalous aspirations?

If you are a devotee of religious faith, the answer is yes. No exceptions…..

Oh the web we weave when we choose to *believe*