To escape counterapologetics, we can step back and view ourselves from the evolutionary perspective. One of our evolved traits is to assume free will, to see ourselves as unconstrained agents. But either natural selection or memetic selection shape all of our traits. While we think we're where the action is, we are not what counts going forward. Gene and meme ratios in their respective populations, that's the real action. We're like chess pieces, pushed and pulled by nonsentient "players." Each generation, some genes are winners and others losers. On time scales orders of magnitude faster, some memes are winners and others losers. We chess pieces come and go, having served "our purpose" for the players.


While it's easy to see opponents as memebots, the greater challenge is to accept the extent to which our entire frame of reference is distorted by inherted traits and memetic blinders.


How is this helpful? If we accept, not only intellectually but internalize, what science tells us about human traits, we would approach the theism dialogue differently. Paul MacLean showed that we decide what's real and true not with the neocortex but the limbic system. [The Triune Brain in Evolution, 578] This is how our brains evolved. We know many of the tricks incorporated into  religious memeplexes, that exploit such genetic weaknesses. We need an entirely new approach to "dialogue" that incorporates all of this knowledge. But so far the information has frightened us (nonverbal limbic system response) and we turn our attention away, and go back to useless reasoning with the infected.

Tags: Maclean, Paul, Triune, brain, evolution, theory

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Ruth. How have things been in the past 3 weeks?

I've tried to keep my responses as short as possible. 

? I do not follow. Your point that almost everyone is directly or indirectly involved in the oil industry is well taken. But I don't see how this leads to us not changing the environment.

Ok, I think I understand your main point now. It isn't how we are affecting the earth, it is we are affecting the earth. And the reason why we are affecting the earth is because of the genetic make up of some of us. (I thought your main point was global worming)


Would the following be true?:


High land Papuans whose breeding habits and slash and burn crop production, exist at an extent that doesn't exceed a level that is detrimental to their environment. And their genetic and memetic algorithms are different to ours.


At some point in time some of us in the west diverted from the Papuan way of life and began to use the environment at a level that exceeded the environments ability to rejuvenate itself. And this was the beginning of the end of the environment as we know it and therefore ourselves as well.


Do you think we all have these genetic memetic algorithms in us or is it only those of us that have control over the rest of us?


I think it's more than bad luck that fossil fuel use is, among other things, likely to kill us. I think it's inevitable that the genetic and memetic algorithms which guide our behavior would lead us to exceed natural limits of the earth, one way or another. Were it not fossil fuel use, it would be another factor. We haven't developed the social infrastructure to plan on a planetary scale, and lack of planning will do us in.


Ok, understood. Even if we never used crude oil as fuel, we would have just kept on using coal or wood, until we found something else. And regardless of what we found, it would still have a detrimental effect on the environment because of the scale of its use, in order to prop up the ever growing population. And it's not just limited to fuel. It could be the way we use land or anything.


Finding fault isn't helpful. Looking at responsibility is a better way toward problem solving,


Out of habit I blame myself for everything. I do this because it helps me think about responsibility. If I only look at something from an objective point of view, it feels similar to lying to myself about responsibility. Not taking any blame for something or not accepting fault for something goes against my personal way of thinking. If I look at something as my fault, it helps me think of a better solution to any problem that exists. But that's just me. I try to look at things from both an objective and subjective point of view. And believe blame and fault always lie at my feet. 


So now we come to the interesting part of the discussion. If the 'genetic and memetic algorithms which guide our behaviour' statement is true. And I tend to agree with it, just through observation. It doesn't matter what we do to rectify any problem. Because these algorithms are a part of us, we are going to be detrimental to the earth regardless. Any solution we come up with, will ultimately be detrimental to the world.

Leveni, in response to "...your main point now. It isn't how we are affecting the earth, it is we are affecting the earth. And the reason why we are affecting the earth is because of the genetic make up of some of us. (I thought your main point was global worming)"

That's more of an assumption than my main point, but if someone doesn't get that we are affecting the earth, we'll talk past one another. You've put your finger on a critical point. In Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life, Kari Marie Noorgard talks about the way we create community by unconscious norms of what to pay attention to and what to ignore. Our sense of reality is culturally constructed. That reality construction generates ontological stability and meaning for participants. By assuming that the earth will always be stable, the same as it was for our grandparents, we feel secure. The reality of climate destabilization attacks our psychic security.

All human beings share the same evolution, though traits such as aggressiveness vary.

Were we to maintain a low environmental impact, such as the Papuan way of life, we'd not be facing immanent climate destabilization. But you are right about scale being a critical factor. It could be soil loss, or some other factor that reached criticality first. Overpopulation is an underlying driver, and that's driven by both genes and Dominator culture memes. Every species arising from natural selection necessarily overproduces, that's part of how natural selection works.

You said that talking about responsibility feels to you like lying about responsibility. Perhaps you learned a distorted version of taking responsibility growing up, where an adult used "objectivity" as an excuse for denial. The blame meme is dangerous, because it narrows our view of the situation. Blame and fault finding imply that the person is deficient and incapable of doing better. It says "You're NOT OK!" instead of "You're OK, but you made a mistake, now correct it." Blame and fault do not always lie at your feet, Leveni. Every situation is unique, and has to be carefully analyzed to determine what you could possibly have done differently, what others could have done differently, and what no one could control. Give yourself a break.

You said, "If the 'genetic and memetic algorithms which guide our behaviour' statement is true.... It doesn't matter what we do to rectify any problem. Because these algorithms are a part of us, we are going to be detrimental to the earth regardless. Any solution we come up with, will ultimately be detrimental to the world."

Lets' consider the meme part first. Memes are units of culture. Human culture has two strange attractors, Dominator Culture and Partnership Culture (Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade) Although Dominator, which is based on reptile brain functions such as hierarchy and territoriality drives us to destroy the earth, Partnership culture, which values equality and creating does not. My hope is that we will invent a new global Partnership culture dedicated to sustainability.

Overcoming our genetic algorithms will be challenging, but it's imaginable. Here is my take on how we could start.

By investing in an Earth-wide information system, we could replace natural selection with individual choices and consequences. Global limits on population would translate into universal limits for every adult, but many ideas could compete for how to distribute those rights.

Collective decision making would determine how many people the Earth can support. If the Earth loses habitability, everybody's number goes down. If we make progress and can sustain more, i.e. nobody's starving anywhere, everybody's number goes up.

But each person could decide how those population limits should apply. Each person could choose to participate in one of hundreds of thousands of voluntary breeding groups which share their values. Each group would mediate decisions on how to distribute reproductive rights among their members. Simulations of effects over 1,000 generations of a large range of reproductive choices could help people predict the outcomes of their preferences, and those of potential mates from other groups. On the basis of your group's preferences, you'd have a reproductive rights number. Say 1 is needed for the right to make one child. Your number might be .8. You could transfer your right to reproduce to someone else, in return for partial parenting rights. A couple could have an "aunt" who lives upstairs, who shares guardianship with their child. Or you could convince a .2 to be an "aunt" or "uncle" to your child.

Presumably, most groups would include some criteria for global citizenship, such as one's carbon footprint, when considering who is most worthy to create the next generation. Now global sustainability would be personal, global justice would be tied to mitigating climate destabilization, and no distant authority would decide how many children you're allowed to have.



Has your brain had time to process all the pod cases yet?  Sometimes a few sleeps can help to reorganise your thoughts on a matter?


So are you with determinism or causality now?


I don’t think that determinism natural implies predeterminism.


But perhaps I misusing the work in its common use.


What you are saying re breeding is that we have innovated new strategies of staying alive and breeding.  Think of IVF for instance.


I think that our produce economy is threatening our survival as a species.  I think that we would be wise to innovate and evolve away from our product economy and develop a more needs based economy.  We have so much food because we all work so god dam hard producing it.  We might all kick back a bit and stop working so hard, so we produce less food and less crap.


The only reason we wouldn’t do this, is because the 20% of society that has 80% of the material wealth and power, wouldn’t like it – neither would all those aspiring to be one of the 20% - neither would the government – who rely on our current economy remaining stable, to maintain law and order.


A tricky situation – perhaps time for a revolution and some gorilla warfare!

(* an important thought to take from my post~ we have completely fabricated our environment.  Whilst the vast majority, if not all, of examples of evolution are within the context of the "natural world" [the earth without major modification from its inhabitants, eco-systems and what-not] what constitutes mans environment is not not so much as his(her) physical surroundings (keep in mind that in the context of evolution, the environment is key to selecting adaptations) as it is the society that he has constructed around him(her)self.  This inherently limits our scope of knowledge and foresight into mans future, as we have seen no comparable examples of a culture that dictates the survival of a species the way ours does~ keep in mind, primitive social structures develop in tandem with intelligence and adaptation, but ultimately fit within the scope of such a creatures natural environment)



What do you think about the theory that we are reaching a stable human population on earth at just under 10 billion.  Is it possible that it’s taken 10,000 years for us to move from a hunter gatherer stable population to a mainly agriculturalist lifestyle?  Perhaps we are just stabilising population now, which means that natural forces are balancing out our impact.


Sure we lost a few species on the way – but nature isn’t perfect!


Just as birds have a few false starts on their migration, we have a few problems on our evolution. 

Alice, you mentioned natural forces balancing out our impact for population stabilization. <Img src='""> [sorry I couldn't hotlink this graph]


It's my impression you have in mind K-selection. What I see happening more resembles r-selection, considering the rate at which topsoil is depleted, increasing ocean acidification, shrinking of Himalayan glaciers whose meltwater feeds much of Asia, depletion of minerals, etc. I expect in the next hundreds of years we'll have plummeting population due to starvation, epidemic disease, war, and other "natural balancing factors." Our present agriculturalist lifestyle is based on petroleum-based fertilizer, farm machinery, pesticides, etc. We've already exceeded the "natural" (organic) food-production capacity of earth and are essentially eating oil. Technological advances may help, but so far globalized food production hasn't created a long term increase in food, especially for those in developing countries. Every increase in food production, such as the green revolution in India, has quickly been channeled into increased population and higher standards of living, so there is soon no "excess" food. Now food also competes with the energy economy.

"Nature isn't perfect." True, but I see our predicament as a symptom of our control by gene and meme selection, how much that limits our capacity to plan on a planetary scale. If this was pure nature, no human intervention or memetics, I'd expect long term stabilization too and not worry about the loss of a few species. This isn't just a few problems in our evolution, it's hitting our head against the earth's limits.


Isn’t it natural to hit our heads against the earths limits?

I agree that our ability to communicate has meant we can innovate the way that we do – because we can accumulate knowledge and teach it to our children – so that they can build of what we know already – rather than starting from scratch. In this way we can also use communication to do things that others wouldn’t normally let us do – like spend hours and hours experimenting or on a computer – or other things that don’t seem to relate to meeting basic needs for food, shelter, protection, love, affection and so on.

It’s true, as our food quality reduces – they may be war over it – but to be honest I think that most people are too consumed with marketing that MacDonald’s is great – and they don’t see the direct connection between malnutrition from such foods and mass disease – they seem to think that pills will save them – and they can’t work out why they got cancer or heart disease or diabetes etc…

Interesting comment on our food reliance on petroleum. So with peak oil – food availability will go down dramatically and wars will be waged to secure oil wells. Not just for money and profit – but to secure food production.

That is outstanding; I've come across peopple, some one, who ack-knowledges the obvious, no 'free' will.  That is awesome, where did you people come from!   m


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