Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What drives the human mind? Genetics/epigenetics/memetics?

To clarify: I'll explain why I believe the theory that *all human thoughts/emotions/behaviors are theory-laden* -- and what the theory is and what it implies about reality.

_What's the problem with the current theories of human thoughts/emotions/behaviors?_

Previous theories are flawed because they fail to explain reality. Those theories all share the idea that some parts of the human brain are hardwired (namely the from the part of the brain that is responsible for the mind, e.g. language ability). There are cases in recent history that refute this brain-is-hard-wired theory. For example, there was a girl who lost her language ability because of permanent brain damage to the part of the her brain that did language, and then she relearned language in another part of her brain. This implies that the brain (at least the part that relearned language) is not hardwired. The failure of the brain-is-hardwired theory in explaining this is its refutation. -- This is a problem which was solved by the theory that says that the brain is not hardwired.

Another problem with previous theories is that they all assume that much of human thought/emotion/behavior is due to genes -- meaning that genes encode the hardwiring of the brain. But this doesn't work since most of these human attributes were created after memetic evolution started replacing genetic evolution. By that I mean that as soon as humans started living longer lives because of technology, their otherwise-unfit genes didn't die as much as before because the natural selective pressures were changed/alleviated by the technology. Memetic evolution started as far as 2.3 million years ago when early humans started using stone tools. We started the cooking meme 250,000 years ago. We started using symbols to represent concepts 50,000 years ago -- which is when civilization started -- which is also when genetic evolution mostly stopped.

_What is the theory?_

All human thoughts/emotions/behaviors are theory-laden, which means caused by our ideas.

In the case of emotions, it is always interpretation first, then emotion. The interpretation causes the emotion. The interpretation depends on the ideas of the person. Many of those ideas are memes learned from other people. Some of them are unique to that person.

Note that no two people have the exact same set of ideas, which means that everyone is unique -- one consequence of which is that different people will do the same things for different reasons, and that different people will do the different things for the same reasons.

Note also that memes (aka ideas) are shared by lots of people, which means that many people share the same emotions and emotional habits.

The same is true for thoughts and behaviors/actions. Interpretation first, then thought. Interpretation first, then behavior.

To clarify, the interpretation part is largely subconscious. By the time you are aware of a thought, your subconscious has already done a lot of work and has produced a thought and served it up to your conscious.

Pastabake wrote:
The test of whether a theory is a good one or not is whether it adds to the explanation ... it would seem that the concept of memes adds nothing to the discussion at the genetic hard wired level, but may well explain how ideas spread and proliferate on the conscious level.
Ah I see your mistake now. Most memes are learned subconsciously. Here's an example.

A 3 y.o. child is watching his parents get ready to go to a social gathering. The mother says, "How do I look?" The father says, "You look amazing. The other guys are going to be so jealous of me."

What can a child learn from this? He might learn that its important to look a certain way for other people. He might learn that wanting other people to be jealous is a good thing. He might learn that being jealous is a good thing. He might learn that caring what other people think is not immoral/stupid.

If he learns these things, he will have learned these things without knowing them explicitly. At say the age of 15, these memes will express themselves (by that I mean he'll act on them). He may care what others think of him. He may get jealous of people. He may want others to be jealous of him. He may want to get a hot girlfriend for the sole purpose of making other guys jealous. If he does these things, he'll have done them without knowing that he learned these memes from his parents. If you asked him why he does these things, he won't know his reasons explicitly.

For more discussion between Pastabake and I, click here.

See more on the theory, see the book _The Beginning of Infinity_, by David Deutsch.


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