Sunday, 15 February 2009

Lies, Deception and The Selfish Meme



image credit Walt Disney

















I'm reading Richard Dawkins book The Selfish Gene for the first time. I have never read Pinnochio.

On page 63 of the 30th Anniversary edition of The Selfish Gene (OUP) he says...

"A survival machine may be said to have communicated another one when it influences the behaviour or the state of its nervous system". This got me thinking about general social situations and current affairs like the Banking fiasco and how unscrupulous people are hell bent on making sure their version of events survive.

I have also recently read Steven Pinker's book The Blank Slate in which he explains that:

"Every human relationship…has a distinct psychology forged by a pattern of converging and diverging interests" adding that we "suppress evidence that we are not as beneficent or competent as we would like to think"

In other words if we think we've been gullible because we haven't spotted someone lying or decieving us then we should be kinder to ourselves because we are so susceptible to the power and skill of a deciever.

Robert Trivers suggests that:

“If…deceit is fundamental to animal communication, then there must be strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray…the deception being practised. Thus the conventional view that natural selection favours nervous systems which produce ever more accurate images of the world must be a very na├»ve view of mental evolution”


Woah!! our nervous systems (brains and cognitions) are NOT about creating the truth and there is survival benefit in telling lies.

Dawkins points out (p64) that many animals are in the business of deception from butterflies to angler fish, glow worms to hover-flies. With the Bankers in mind (and of course this applies to any deciever in any social situation), Dawkins then makes the precient remark that:

"Whenever a communication system evolves there is always the danger that some will exploit the system for their own ends...we must expect lies and deceit and selfish exploitation of communication to arise whenever the interests of the genes of different individuals diverge...we must even expect children to decieve their parents, that husbands will cheat on their wives and that brother will lie to brother"

Powerful ‘mind-sets’ (the rich, the bully, the narcissist) make sense of and speak of the world in a particular way. This could be described as the ‘selfish meme’ It resists changes that might be made to a direction it didn’t want to go. Change is not about rational actors but rationalising people. These rationalisations (theories for success and of causes and effects) are expressed as words that grow into discourses, which in turn inhabit the world of social influence, a world in which rival versions of the truth seek to survive longer than their adversaries by any means they can in order to protect the psychological integrity of the individual who cares for them.

The only evolutionary development human's needed now is for lying genes to influence the size of someone's nose just like Pinnochio. Just imagine...never being duped again, I could justify my investment in my wide screen TV because of its ability to cope with 'Nasal Extensiveness'seen in Political Broadcasts and in Treasury Committee hearings :)

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