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To what extent does meme substitute gene

  1. Oct 2, 2015 #1
    A specie of organisms can inherit traits to its next generation through gene. For example, leaf-cutter ants' ancestors passed their instinct of leaf-cutting to its offspring via gene.

    In the case of organisms capable of learning, such as crows, certain traits can be passed through generations by learning and imitation. For example, the ability to eat poisonous toads' livers.

    The inheritance of helpful gene accounts for the flourishing of many species, because those with neither helpful genes nor acquired skills are less likely to reproduce successfully. However, if an organism does not have good genes but compensate this with acquired skills (the skill and its acquisition being generally referred to as "meme") the probability of this individual not reproducing successfully will decrease. So, to what extent may meme replace gene in the creation of adapted species?

    a more concrete example:
    suppose a group of organisms, say human beings, live in an earthquake prone area. Earthquakes usually kill off those who does not know to duck and cover instinctively, selecting these to be the parents of the next generation, but being human, these organisms soon passed the knowledge of duck and cover around, so even those who do not instinctively know to duck and cover can have a decent chance of survival. Will this slow down the selection of the instinctive ducking gene? (I suppose it has too) If yes, to what extent is this effect expected to continue?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 2, 2015 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    You're asking if Selection works for behavior in animals - the answer is yes. Not learned behavior - 'hardwired' behavior, which includes the ability to learn. The ability of ant species to work at different tasks by age-class as the individual ages is that kind of a trait. A meme is defined for human behavior term largely, but is the result of our hypersocial behavior in concert with very large brains. Memes exist because we actually evolve new behaviors in a social sense. Behavior does not necessarily alter inheritable traits. Epigenetics is a kind of separate topic.

    There is an entire book about evolution of social behaviors, in humans and other animals: The Social Conquest of Earth by E. O. Wilson - largely talks about animals that are extremely social - humans, ants and some others like bees.

    The answer to your question is that memes are learned and passed on that way. An interesting thing to try a google for : twin studies
    One hit: http://msutwinstudies.com/why-twin-studies/
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