SPOT THE DIFFERENCE….
Guess who is in the black & white photograph?
Most of you should recognise our own Mr. Richard Dawkins in colour (source: http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/other/richard-dawkins)
Answer to the mystery figure in the Black & White image, it is a young T.H Huxley otherwise known as Darwin’s Bulldog.(source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:T.H.Huxley_1857.jpg) I find the resemblance uncanny!
This is an introduction to the weekly Monday posts on the theme of: If it didn’t happen by Neo-Darwinian means, how did it happen?
This introduction relates to Richard Dawkins and his Memes – so the spot the difference intro to the intro is pertinent. Anyway, I have struggled long and hard to bring all these concepts together in one place and make them clear and simple. It has taken a long time, but finally I believe I may have managed it. It will only take about five or six weekly posts to cover the entire topic. They are in bite-sized chunks. I hope you will enjoy the series and really get an insight into this exciting and dynamic version of evolution. I know I enjoyed discovering it.
I will start the series with this little introduction entitled: The Epi-Meme: Beyond the Meme of survival of the fittest
Richard Dawkins the British Biologist and extremely prolific producer of popular books about us and our evolution via Darwinian means coined the phrase MEME to rhyme with GENE. He tells us this in his publication of the now famous (or infamous) book: ‘The Selfish Gene’(2nd edition 1989, p.192). Genes like MEMES take on a life of their own (akin to a fad in life in popular culture) and the meme will survive and be successful if it goes viral and replicates itself throughout the population – the fittest MEME. Cultural Memes convey a simple concept that become popular in the public mind and in many ways the concept of the Selfish Gene as popularised by Dawkins, has become a meme in its own right.
Unfortunately, it is a highly inaccurate meme – as many are – they are unquestioned concepts that we come to believe because they are simple, catchy concepts that don’t require much thinking. They are easily communicated and perhaps work because it makes us feel part of the tribe of whatever the latest catch-all trend or slogan is. Dawkins’ well- entrenched meme and its direct association with gene, gives in one word, a plethora of evolutionary concepts. Alas, these concepts have a very real bearing on our present society. At its worst, it gives seeming scientific endorsement of draconian one or two-child policies in China. I kid you not. This arose from the concept (misplaced) of a Malthusian population bomb (a meme of Darwin’s own time) and the fear that inferior strains would overrun the planet and gobble up all the limited resources (now known as inferior genetic inheritance); the idea that you are driven by your genes and there is not one jot you can do about it.
This population bomb is still ticking to this day, apparently. This concept of scarcity and over-population by the genetically inferior classes has never gone away and leads to ridiculous attempts to genetically modify humans – but as you will see, the genes actually don’t work the way we are told – hence, the reason why it is important to re-evaluate our current model of evolution, as it is currently founded on a seriously innaccurate assumption that genes and selection run the evolutionary show.
That reminds me of one viral-type Meme that seems to be making its rounds: “Not my Circus: Not my Monkeys” which is sort of how I feel about our modern synthesis. But as much as I would love to disown it, I can’t. This is because this particular gene/meme is quite toxic to us and our society, our health, well-being and future and it has caused significant grief in the past. Just because it is popular and the idea is infectious – doesn’t mean the meme is good for you.
Memes are fickle and so are genes as you will see in next Monday’s article.
Here, for example is another cultural meme (fad), but thankfully it didn’t last too long – it dates back to Darwin’s time and is taken from a website on popular culture: http://listverse.com/2012/11/07/top-10-truly-weird-victorian-fads/
Think you’re dying to look beautiful? Late Victorian women used arsenic laced “complexion waters” and wafers, and bathed with arsenic soap and shampoo in an effort to improve their skin, make themselves look younger, and increase their attractiveness. Some men took arsenic pills to stimulate their libidos. Did it work? Of course not! But it comes as no surprise that the nineteenth century was awash in arsenic. Green dyes used in many products including wallpaper, clothing, and food contained terrifying amounts of arsenic. A notable fact is that arsenic could be bought at the chemist’s by anyone, and it was cheap. Half an ounce – sufficient to murder fifty people – cost only a single cent.
So the Victorians weren’t that different from you and I. Sure, they followed some pretty weird fads, but so does your average Fifty Shades of Grey fan, and they’re still allowed to walk around free on the streets like normal people… for now.
Fifty Shades of Grey is another well-known FAD or meme of our present time as a prime example, however, back in Darwin’s time, the article lists other Victorian memes such as: the craze for tattoos, swooning and taking a plunge in freezing cold water and electricity cures, but not at the same time.
Anyway, I am not going to labour my point, but below is a teaser of just one example of the sort of problems that our current evolutionary model is running into. Take for example the so-called molecular clock that is supposed to tick at a given rate and therefore all the glossy mags and and Meme-laiden reports of how related we all are because of genetic similarity, E.G. the last common ancestor who split off from the Gibbon family, 100, 000 times removed and twice thrown out due to conflicting new reassessment, …is based upon flawed assumptions in the first place as revealed (I believe unintentionally) in the following excerpt from ‘Nature’ online:
…calculations using the slow clock gave nonsensical results when extended further back in time — positing, for example, that the most recent common ancestor of apes and monkeys could have encountered dinosaurs. Reluctant to abandon the older numbers completely, many researchers have started hedging their bets in papers, presenting multiple dates for evolutionary events depending on whether mutation is assumed to be fast, slow or somewhere in between.
Basically our modern synthesis is in serious trouble these days, but as always in my books and articles I try to give solutions and alternative views of evolution as it is all too easy to point the finger and unravel our current model of evolutionary thinking. So I’m going to cut to the chase and present the alternatives from several scientists, past and present and connect the dots (the over-arching principles that bind these theories) to see what emerges. As the overarching principles are so radically different to our current MEME of evolution, hence: the EPI-MEME concept to go way beyond the gene, all I ask is for you to join me on this journey over the next weeks (every Monday) and simply follow the thought experiment as I trace the old and newer evidence for an entirely new synthesis of evolution based upon first principles. All I have done is highlighted and linked pertinent existing scientific data, and obviously, in the end, you will make up your own mind. So please, join me next Monday for the start of the new synthesis and feedback is always appreciated. I would love to know what you think. Stay tuned and you might be surprised that there is actually a distinctly different scientific alternative to our modern synthesis.
Cheers Maria Brigit