Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Mark Pagel's "Wired for Culture" book is out

Mark Pagel's book "Wired for Culture - Origins of the Human Social Mind is out.

The book uses the term "meme" pretty heavily throughout. It has five pages of fairly positive content at the start all memes. It says:

In fact, it has become something of a badge of the true believer among those who study memes that there is no reason to expect our genes to win—that there is no reason to expect as the evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson maintained, that our "genes hold culture on a leash".
Mark doesn't seem to bother much with the critics of memetics. He just introduces the idea - and then gets straight on with using it. The memetics in the book looks pretty good. Mark discusses parasitism and commensalism - and approvingly cites Daniel Dennett. He talks about "brain parasites" and "viruses of the mind". Mark discusses the cultural immune system. There appears to be a little replicator rot for critics to feast on - but I'm OK with a little replicator rot here and there.


Guardian Podcast.

Not too many evolutionary biologists that I am aware of have openly embraced memes. There are a few - for example, Eörs Szathmáry mentions them now and again. It isn't clear terribly why this is. Many do not yet seem to fully understand that culture evolves along Darwinian lines. Conservatism may be one factor. Memetics being a bit of mess may be another factor. Anyway, congratualtions to Mark for being an early adopter. It seems to be a bit of a boost for the credibility of memetics to have Mark on board.

Matt Ridley's WSJ article says:

Bodies are just genes' ways of making more genes; similarly, culture is just another way of making genes.
Fellow meme enthusiasts will proabably want to scream: No! Culture is just the memes' ways of making more memes!

It does make a difference! For example, the gene-centric view is blind to the possibility of a memetic takeover.

Look to Japan - and the demographic transition there - to see how memes don't necessarily help genes to make more genes.

The podcast (above) has Mark expounding on this point. Memes apparently are there for the sake of the genes - according to Mark.

Here's our page about Mark Pagel resources.

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