Re: virus: What is meant by "memes affecting genes"?

David Leeper (
Tue, 15 Oct 1996 18:46:20 -0500

:> The reverse idea, that memes effect genes, is called the Baldwin Effect.
:Two possible interpretation to "memes effect genes":
:1. The actual content of memes is saved into genetic information.
:2. Memes effect our selection of mates, thereby effecting the genetical information of our

Neither of these is the Baldwin Effect.

Genes are chunks of DNA. Memes are stored in the neural nets of the brain. It is impossible
to encode memes into genes.

Memes effect the selection of mates less than you may think. You may have some "I love
red-heads" meme, but I doubt you would love an old, fat, disease-infested red-head. Your
genes have created a person who will be attracted to people who have at least a reasonable
reproductive potential. This will override your "I love red-heads" meme. There's more to
all this than I can fit into a mail message. See "The Moral Animal" by Robert Wright.

The Baldwin Effect works like this:
Memes can effect the environment an creature lives in or can move the creature to new
environments. As the creature environment changes, genes which may have been adaptive in
the old environment may be maladaptive or useless in the new environment and genes which
were maladaptive or useless in the old environment may be very adaptive in the new
environment. The selection preasures of the new environment will favor those individuals
with genes that work in the new environment. The evolution of the creature changes because
of the new environment and it was the memes that created the new environment or moved the
creature to that environment.

David Leeper
Homo Deus