The Nature of Altruism
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25-10-2011, 06:09 PM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
(23-10-2011 08:50 PM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, GirlyMan.

What I said is akin to, there's a gene for blue eyes. It's WAY more complicated than that, but the basic idea is right.

Bottom line is that there is a shitload of rigorous science behind genes (goddam, we're at the point now where we are starting to be able to manipulate them with expected results because we are starting to understand and appreciate the underlying mechanisms of action and interaction), memes are merely speculative in comparison. It's like comparing biochemistry to sociology. It's okay and may or may not turn out to be productive to compare and gain insight and inspiration from interdisciplinary concepts, but to even suggest equating them is just plain wrong.

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
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Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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25-10-2011, 07:36 PM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
Hey, GirlyMan.

(The following is worded kinda strongly, but please believe me when I say that it comes from an indefatigable passion for memetics rather than any sense of malice towards you.)

Generally speaking, this sort of thinking makes me angry.

We didn't know enough about genes in 1940 to map the human genome (we didn’t even know about DNA), but we knew enough to know that genetics was important and we knew enough about genetics to make certain claims about how genes functioned.

Physicists shit on quantum physicists because they haven't flushed it out yet. Well give it time.

Nothing is discovered in a day. But the idea that there's no science behind memetics is outrageously false. Like just purely insupportable. The idea was introduced in 1976 (and suggested even earlier than that). Since then, countless PhDs have been working on the idea (with astronomically less funding than early geneticists enjoyed) and always in the face of sceptics; sceptics that dismiss memes not because they understand them, but because they don’t.

One of the more important facts about the field of memetics is that people have been working on it for 35 years and NO ONE has ever hit a dead end. There has been zero indication that the theory is incorrect, only indication that we haven't hit the bottom of the rabbit hole.

No, memetics isn't as flushed out a field as genetics, but Darwinism kicks genetics ass in terms of being flushed out and memetics flows from Darwinism, NOT genes. Brothers flow from the mother, the second born doesn't flow from the first born. Memetics is simply the younger brother we know less about, but we know that it simply MUST share qualities with the older brother because they are governed by the same rules.

The idea that memes could not possibly share any qualities with genes is a refutation of Darwin, not memetics. With apologies to the uninitiated, Universal Darwinism is a reality.

It just makes me mad (I'm not ranting at you, GM, it's just frustrating) when people dismiss memetics because we don’t fully understand it yet and when they do it without truly understanding it first. I'm sorry but it's like when creationists dismiss evolution because it’s “only a theory”, only its people who believe in evolution dismissing evolution. It boggles my mind.

Hey, Peterkin.

Hope you kept your promise Cool

Quote:Why focus on altruism in particular, unless for the irony of general perception that selfishness is bad and altruism is good?

The reason that altruism was focused on was because it didn't make sense. It existed, of that we were certain. But we didn't know why it did or how it worked. The replicator centred view (both genes and memes) explains everything.

But I agree. Generally speaking, binary comparisons fail wherever they're found.

Quote:The meme idea is convenient for explaining cultural mechanisms, but it's a bad - inaccurate, unfair, incomplete, misleading - way to describe the behaviour of individuals. We may react blindly to memes - but we also think and are not entirely at their mercy.

That is a bold and dismissive statement. I'd like to know about the science that it's based on.

No one is saying we don't think. But people are saying, and everyone knows, that people share behaviours. Memetics explains how it is we share behaviours. That we do is incontrovertible.

All human systems have culture and all human systems are comprised of individuals. If we can't explain why the individuals behave in unified ways, then we can't explain anything.

Quote:No, i mean these are some more of the emotions/ mental states that motivate altruistic acts. In such cases, the benefit to the giver is not a positive gain, but the diminution of a negative standing in the community, or in his own mind. Somebody with a bad reputation, or a load of guilt for past misbehaviour, might want to make amends, either to the person(s) they've wronged or to the society at large, or even to the world. Much like being sentenced to 40 hours of community service, assigned penance by a priest, going through AA's 12 steps, being fined $20 M for a careless chemical spill - similarly, one may undertake a beneficial projects voluntarily, often anonymously, in order to "pay off" what one considers a moral debt - even if he were never caught, even if the transgression was legal and actually rewarded by society.
We are selfish, yes - but we are also aware.

I see what you mean. But I offer that this is not at all incompatible with the idea of reciprocal altruism. In fact, it is reciprocal altruism.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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25-10-2011, 08:12 PM (This post was last modified: 25-10-2011 08:32 PM by GirlyMan.)
RE: The Nature of Altruism
(25-10-2011 07:36 PM)Ghost Wrote:  ... it comes from an indefatigable passion for memetics ...

We need to ensure those indefatigable passions of ours have sufficient support to go from speculation to hypotheses. ... I mean, it's just due diligence.

BACK TO TOPIC: For altruism, I personally look to the anecdotal accounts of elephants realizing that they have become a burden to the rest and just go away quietly to die. That is fucking graceful.

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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26-10-2011, 07:31 AM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
Quote:Hey, Peterkin.

Hope you kept your promise

Yes - to the mutual benefit of all parties.

Quote:Why focus on altruism in particular, unless for the irony of general perception that selfishness is bad and altruism is good?

The reason that altruism was focused on was because it didn't make sense.

It didn't make sense in a mechanistic view of animal behaviour. It's always made sense to everybody who thinks in terms of life.

Quote:The meme idea is convenient for explaining cultural mechanisms, but it's a bad.. way to describe the behaviour of individuals.

That is a bold and dismissive statement. I'd like to know about the science that it's based on.

Yes, i know. That's because i dislike this science. I have no science to answer with - just 65 years of direct and several thousand years of indirect observation.

Quote: If we can't explain why the individuals behave in unified ways, then we can't explain anything.

I suppose... if you insist on a unified explanation of everything... if that means dismissing the explanations of literature, mythology, folklore, song and subjective experience.
For me, it's acceptable that some things are explained by quantitative sciences and other things are explained in other ways.
For me, it's acceptable to have more and less disciplined fields of study.

I have no problem with reciprocal altruism - or reciprocal anything: that's what social animals do; reciprocal activity is in the very definition of societies - only bigger.
It's that bigger picture that's hard to keep in mind when working on models.

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26-10-2011, 08:17 AM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
I am no expert in altruistic behavior but I don't believe the assumption about it being selected for only at the individual level to be correct.

In an event I will need to learn more about this. I have been intending to read "The Selfish Gene" but I have not yet gotten around to that.

There are a few other points that I would like to clarify though. No behavior is the result of a gene. There is no gene for altruistic behavior nor a gene for sexual reproduction. Genes and combinations of genes control physiological processes but behaviors are invariably a learned trait. Think about a dog being raised with a pack of wolves (I could use a more extreme example like pigs, but this will do). That dog is no different genetically by where it is raised or by whom it is raised, but its behaviors will differ greatly as a result of its environment. There are certainly behaviors that are more fundamental and in some cases involuntary, but these are not the result of a single gene. Breathing is involuntary but it is controlled by an organ, the brain. Reproduction is a behavior that even organisms without a brain engage in, but it is not the result of a single gene. For most of these organisms it is simply a physiological process that must be carried out, similar to breathing or feeding. Take the humble clam. Clams do not have brains, but they release sperm and eggs at certain times to reproduce. They do not do so because a single gene codes for that, but because it is a natural response to their environment, like filtering in food through their siphon and excreting waste. It is true that genes code for proteins and combinations of genes code for organs, but it is not the gene that controls behavior.

Let's stay with the clam and reproduction too. You made the statement that what I said was more or less organisms reproduce because they reproduce. I agree with that statement. Organisms eat because they eat and breathe because they breathe. They do so involuntarily because not doing so would result in death. Reproduction is simply a natural response to the environment around them. That clam with a brain does not reproduce because of some conscious decision to pass on its genes, but does so because it is a known response to its environment (like eating again).

Back to genes and talking about them as if they were capable of making decisions. They do not. Genes code for proteins/amino acids. Decisions are made by that organ known as a brain. Decisions are not made at any level by a gene. Even organisms without brains have simple (and complex) neurological pathways to detect the environment around them in order to change their direction of motion, decide when to reproduce, etc, etc. But the gene does not make that decision.

My last point is that a genotype is not the basic unit of selection in a population either, nor at the individual level. A phenotype is what is actually selected for or against. There are many genotypes that remain unexpressed by individuals and these remain "hidden" and are nothing more than inert variation within the individual (like a recessive gene for a hair color you don't express). A phenotype is the expressed characteristic from a genotype and the environment. Note that I did not say that it is a result of the genotype alone. We will use sexual selection as an example because it is easier to percieve but this applies to natural selection, punctuated selection and any other selective pressure. Let's say we have a population of deer. In most organisms it is the female that selects mates and the male simply sits back questioning his decision to wear cologne and that awful flannel shirt that he knew he shouldn't have worn. In this scenario the female will choose a mate based on the physical and chemical attributes that the male deer exhibits, not the genotypes. By selecting for certain phenotypes (like a bright shiny coat, big horns and overall body size) the genotypes that accompany these traits are inadvertently selected too, but so are the genotypes that remain unexpressed. The only actual selection is for the phenotypes. The female is selecting for the healthiest individual that will maximize the health of the offspring, not a particular gene.

As for the anthropomorphism of genes, this may seem to be a trivial concept that seems fine when in casual conversation, but the danger here is misconceptions by those who may overhear or read what is being said. These individuals may not have the knowledge needed to realize that genes don't think. I am sure that at one point in time someone thought it was simply easier and harmless to describe humans having descended from monkeys, and we all know how that has been exaggerated and contorted.

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
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26-10-2011, 04:51 PM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
Hey, Peterkin.

The 'think in terms of life' thing seems pretty hippie dippie to me. I mean, I can dig the approach from that camp, but for myself I think that humans are pretty much organic machines and while they're stupid complicated, we gain a lot of insight by figuring out how they work.

For the record, I don't think that memetics dismisses literature, mythology, folklore, song and subjective experience. I think that it explains them.

Hey, BD.

Quote:Genes and combinations of genes control physiological processes but behaviors are invariably a learned trait.

I gotta disagree with this one.

The reason I have to disagree with it is that from my understanding, behaviours like duckling imprinting, honey bee waggle and round dances and salmon spawning, are in no way taught.

So while I absolutely agree that some behaviours are taught (I'd be a shitty memeticist if I disagreed with that), it is my understanding that only organisms with a brain and a central nervous system are even capable of learning. All other organisms (those that have nervous systems and those without) rely on signal transduction and innate behaviour alone. They are restricted to involuntary and instinctual behaviour: Key stimulus (KS) to Innate Releasing Mechanisms (IRM) to Fixed action pattern (FAP).

Quote:There are certainly behaviors that are more fundamental and in some cases involuntary, but these are not the result of a single gene.

I think that you're right to question the validity of the idea that single genes code for behaviour, but your heart isn't coded for in a single gene either. I don't know if the single gene/multiple gene distinction is important to the position you've taken, but it struck me as significant.

Quote:Breathing is involuntary but it is controlled by an organ, the brain.

True. But the question is, why does the brain control breathing? None of us learned how to breathe, but we all do it. So where is the common factor? My understanding is that it's genetic.

Quote:Organisms eat because they eat and breathe because they breathe. They do so involuntarily because not doing so would result in death. Reproduction is simply a natural response to the environment around them. That clam with a brain does not reproduce because of some conscious decision to pass on its genes, but does so because it is a known response to its environment (like eating again).

By that rationale:
People get cancer because they get cancer.
People get MS because they get MS.
People age because they age.

But we know so much more about these processes. We know how cancers are caused and why MS occurs and why people age.

It's fine to say that not eating results in death, but why does it result in death? We know so much about metabolic pathways and macronutrients and so many of the other processes at work.

What is a natural response? I mean, what does that actually mean?

And you're right. I don't think ANY organism makes a conscious decision to pass on their genes. They either can't or don't think about it in those terms. Regardless, it’s clearly what they’re doing.

Quote:It is true that genes code for proteins and combinations of genes code for organs, but it is not the gene that controls behavior.

I'm petty sure that I agree with this. Genes do not directly control behaviour. They aren't like Krang, sitting at the controls making us do things. But they control us indirectly in the sense that when expressed, they result in proteins and tissues and organisms. The behaviour is built into the organism itself along with all of the other traits it is comprised of like hands and eyes and duodenums.

Quote:Back to genes and talking about them as if they were capable of making decisions. They do not.

Right. But nobody is saying that they do. Everyone qualifies any statement that even remotely resembles this by saying that replicators neither think nor act. Replicators are simply information.

Quote:A phenotype is what is actually selected for or against.

I agree. But that's why selection doesn't occur at the population level.

Quote:As for the anthropomorphism of genes, this may seem to be a trivial concept that seems fine when in casual conversation, but the danger here is misconceptions by those who may overhear or read what is being said. These individuals may not have the knowledge needed to realize that genes don't think. I am sure that at one point in time someone thought it was simply easier and harmless to describe humans having descended from monkeys, and we all know how that has been exaggerated and contorted.

That may be so, but all jargon runs that risk. The point is, biologists, geneticists and memetecists that subscribe to the gene(replicator)-centred view have been happily using selfish gene(replicator) theory for 35 years. As in all cases, the specialists that employ the jargon understand the distinction.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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26-10-2011, 05:06 PM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
I can live with hippie dippie.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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26-10-2011, 10:51 PM (This post was last modified: 26-10-2011 11:05 PM by houseofcantor.)
RE: The Nature of Altruism
(25-10-2011 07:36 PM)Ghost Wrote:  (The following is worded kinda strongly, but please believe me when I say that it comes from an indefatigable passion for memetics rather than any sense of malice towards you.)

Generally speaking, this sort of thinking makes me angry.

If you're not offended by having an ally in a witch; I gotta say, I'm working with the original witchcraft - using naive philosophy, conceptual engineering and archetype - all I know about "meme" is how similar it seems...

And I'm all witchy and stuff - a locus of paranormal event - that may be resolved by science as electromagnetic communication and simulation...

(I was thinking of what I could do for the person Gwyneth Paltrow whom I love so dang much - nothing is the practical answer (silly girl suggested serving at a soup kitchen) - but she's sweet and adorable, I'm sure she'd be thrilled if I "saved humanity for her...)

And what's the problem? Hypothesis: excess entropy in conception of identity. Not being true to ourselves makes this a world of lies. Communicating with emotion and not thought through electromagnetics - could be The Reason the general populace is not as glorious as Gwyneth Paltrow - could be meme - could find empirical verification in the field within the decade - could become "mandatory home experiment" for human beings everywhere - 'cause alla problems in the world - are communication problems.

We communicate? Problem solved.

bonus round: emotional communication through electromagnetics. Ghosts in the machine. Electromagnetic-sensitive processing equipment. Mathematics so abstruse nobody understands it, or nobody understands the mathematicians trying to communicate...

Where's that multiverse, again?

Just a happy thought. Big Grin
(25-10-2011 07:36 PM)Ghost Wrote:  Universal Darwinism is a reality.
Hey! The qualifier "universal" limits Darwinism. Imma evolutionist. Tongue

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27-10-2011, 02:28 AM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
There is no such thing as altruism. Everything that humans do are purely selfish. If one helps another, it is entirely out of their own self satisfaction, and no matter how generous or kind, will leave the giver an expected feeling of contentment.
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27-10-2011, 06:51 AM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
Hey, Peterkin.

Smile

Hey, Cantor.

Man, you always say some interesting things, but sometimes you confuse the hell out of me. I read this last post and this happened lol

Witchcraft?

Electromagnetic communication and simulation?

Excess entropy in conception of identity?

Quote:Hey! The qualifier "universal" limits Darwinism. Imma evolutionist.

Whuh? How does it limit Darwinism?

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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