The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Clade and meme

I was interested in dinosaurs as a boy. (Like everyone else, right?) For me it wasn't all about large scary monsters, safe in the distant past. I also got to learn about how animals are classified today. It turned out that many - it turned out, all - animal types had branched out each from a lone survivor of a larger, and now otherwise extinct, group of an ancestor type. In the case of dinosaurs, we have the example of the birds: these are descended from what popular-culture calls the "velociraptors" - smallish (for dinosaurs) two-legged feathered runners. We need a word as abstract, one instance of which is that whole historical bird-group that did not die off with the other 'raptors. Such a group of an ancestor and all its descendants is called a "clade".

The cladistic approach used to be just a fun way of looking at biological classifications. But now with the widespread use of genome sequencing in research, modern scientists need to know about the grouping of clades. Knowing the next-most relatives with surviving DNA helps fill in the gaps (to a degree of error) of the DNA sample you're working on. Knowing how modern birds function and behave might help understand the lives of their extinct 'raptor uncles.

Like birds, humans also have a genetic inheritance, but this inheritance is not nearly as flattering to us. Jon Swift rubbed this in our faces, noting in that fourth part of Gulliver's Travels that the brutish state of man was best seen as a degraded chimpanzee.

In addition to that inheritance, civilised man has an intellectual inheritance. It is enough to the chimp that he be part of a clan. Our tribesmen require more to justify their existence, if nothing else then to prove to ourselves that we are not chimps. These stories we tell ourselves within the group have a name too: "meme". Clade and meme tend to cluster together. The Jewish people are the "textbook" example, but it will hardly do for non-Jews to pretend that they are any different. Many Orthodox Christian communions have historically been national cults and, where deprived of a nation, have tracked with racial groups. The Armenians, for instance.

You must understand clade and meme, and their interconnectedness in human tribe, first. Otherwise you'll never figure out human history, and political science will be lost to you. When you've soaked all that in, you can attempt Mencius Moldbug's work on the origins of Northeast Progressivism. This should be supplemented by Gura's contemporary text on Transcendentalism. (We all seem to have missed the latter at the time. Kevin MacDonald's 2012 review may have been similarly overlooked, and it has since been at least forgotten; but now we got Radish's tweet.)

An afterthought, on the English language: I am surprised that auto-spell-check does not recognise the word "clade" - nor "progressivism", nor even "velociraptor". It does however recognise "meme" and "transcendentalism". But then, I've been battling Microsoft Tu- uh, Word's attempts to turn "pericope" to "periscope" for almost two decades now...

posted by Zimri on 11:23 | link | 0 comments

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