This is connected to "Abraham's Promise" thread.

“Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ is really a special case of a more general law of ‘survival of the stable’ “ Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
In the study of genetics, knowledge has emerged that alters our view of the human being, and will cause us to re-examine our most basic assumptions. In sociobiology, for example, E.O. Wilson has proposed that the “altruism” practiced in herds or tribes comes not from “selflessness” but from selfishness. Wilson’s application of this idea led to Dawkins’ book title “The Selfish Gene”.
As Dawkins, in his provocative way, has argued, the human being is merely the gene’s way of making another gene. If that is so, then our behavior as human beings will be subject to earlier “strategies” developed by the gene, which seems to be the driving reproductive force in our development. Wilson has pointed out that herds behave in a sacrificial, altruistic manner because of kinship. The greater the genetic kinship between two animals or insects, the more the likelihood that they will act in a sacrificial manner. Take ants or bees for example. Since their genes are produced by one queen and drones that fertilize that queen, they share fifty percent of their genes, so the loss of one is minimal. In other species, where sexual reproduction is more random, especially in humans, the tendency to be selfish and independent would be more pronounced.
The greater the genetic kinship, the greater the tendency for sacrificial behavior.
In any organism, the cells are basically no different, since each possesses the information necessary to re-construct the entire organism. Therefore, if one acts in sacrifice, nothing is lost genetically. If any organism is merely the gene’s way of making another organism, then the survival strategy will depend on the kinship of each organism to other organisms.
As Dawkins writes:
“If a group of atoms in the presence of energy falls into a stable pattern, it will tend to stay that way. The earliest form of natural selection was simply a selection of stable forms and a rejection of unstable ones.”
Patterns, extending from atoms to genes, with a tendency to “select” for stability. That being so, we can simply proceed to conclude that the gene pool of any organism will resist change. Even further, we can conclude that in order to resist change, the gene itself will seek to control its immediate environment. The principle of “coercion”, therefore, exists at the most basic level of reproductive drives.
Dawkins writes further:
“No matter how much knowledge and wisdom you acquire during your life, not one jot will be passed on to your children by genetic means. Each new generation starts from scratch. A body is the genes’ way of preserving the genes unaltered.”
Let’s take that idea and compare it to Claude Shannon’s idea of information: the more probable the message, the less information it contains. “Information ” creates a need to adapt to change, so the genes, will not tend to store “information” that causes disruptions of its replicative “algorithm”. The ‘genetic replicative algorithm’ of the gene is to resist change, control its immediate environment, and only change to the degree necessary for adaptation. No more, no less.
We may compare this need of the genes and the relation of “knowledge and wisdom” to the hardware and software of a computer. While the genes represent the “hardware’, the “software” of knowledge can no more reach “down” into the genes and alter their behavior directly than the software of a computer can alter the hardware. In fact, the “software”, in either case, is dependent on the operation of the “hardware’ for its purposes.(This will be studied later in reference to Pinker’s The Blank Slate)
Whatever the human is, or becomes, it is merely the gene’s way of making another gene. The gene, writes Dawkins, in nearly immortal in the form of copies, as its defining property. The more perfectly it replicates, the less “information” is lost in the replication. There is a high degree of stability maintained by the continual “probability” of a repeated message. “Survival of the stable”.
Dawkins makes yet another point:
“It is differences that matter in the competitive struggle to survive; and it is genetically-controlled differences that matter in evolution”.
A computer has been called a “difference engine”. As Kenneth Boulding pointed out, the meaning of a message is the difference it produces in the image, or the organism in this case. If so, the genes are a kind of collective statistical computer that computes a minimum of necessary changes to replicate themselves. Genes, therefore, are “machines” in the same sense that computers are “machines”. They calculate according to feedback ad reconcile differences.
In Cybernetics and Information Theory, there is a difference between “desired” state and “existing” state. A mechanical example would be a thermostat in your central heating system, or the “flush” mechanism in your toilet. The mechanism acts as if it “desires” an equilibrium between the two states, or as Dawkins writes:
“The fundamental principle involved is called negative feedback, of which there are various different forms. In general, what happens is this. The ‘purpose machine’, the machine or thing that behaves as if it had a conscious purpose, is equipped with some kind of measuring device which measures the discrepancy between the current state of things, and the ‘desired’ state. It is built in such a way that the larger the discrepancy, the harder the machine works…The ‘goal’ of a machine is simply defined as that state to which it tends to return”.
So, if the genes control behavior in this way, and if they seek to maintain stability, it stands to reason that a brain created by the genes will operate according to this same principle. It will be a “difference engine” that seeks to maintain stability and minimize change.
The reason, says Dawkins, is this:
“Prediction in a complex world is a chancy business. Every decision that a survival machine takes is a gamble, and it is the business of genes to program brains in advance so that on average they make decisions that pay off”.
Survival and survival choices are based on two basic principles, it seems:
1.Predictable behavior
2. Control of the immediate environment
Predict and control, leading to coercion. This further requires that the genes, in combination develop “immunity” to change, and it suggests that brains developed by genes will also develop immunity to change. Where there is strong genetic kinship, therefore, the survival of genes, on average, has more selective force than when there is little or no genetic kinship. A machine-like response in the face of danger, coercion and control, with each part acting to sacrifice itself if necessary for the “greater good”, has a selective advantage in favor of genetic replication.
We would conclude, therefore, that the brain operates as a machine, functioning statistically to select differences and reconcile those differences as “existing” state versus “desired’ state.
As Slater writes in EarthWalk:
“When man invented the machine, for which there is no external model in nature(the model seems to be internal, in our genes), he invented it in his own image. The machine does not come from nowhere–It mirrors man’s mechanical head”
This is what Slater refers to as responding to our “internal circuitry” rather than to external environments. The brain, as extension of ‘self”, will tend to act collectively in such a way as to resist change, and will use technology as a means to extend its control of the environment. The “uniformity” of organization trumps the “content’ of the organization. The process by which genes extend themselves are of more importance than the content that propogates that extension. That was Hoffer’s insight in The True Believer.
This ability to extend “self” and minimize control, however, can have destructive effects. If the collective culture becomes so powerful that it ignores its environment, the results can become cancerous, as Slater powerfully describes:
“Imagine a mass of cancerous tissue, the cells of which enjoyed consciousness. Would they not be full of self congratulatory sentiments at their independence, their more advanced level of development, their rapid rate of growth? Would they not sneer at their more primitive cousins who were bound into a static and unfree existence, subject to heavy group constraint, and obviously ‘going nowhere’? Would they not rejoice in their control over their own destiny, and cheer the conversion of more and more cells as convincing proof of their own way of life? Would they not, in fact, feel increasingly triumphant right up to the moment the organism on which they fed expired?”
The “machine” of the brain, of the human head, seeks to reduce things to statistics, to create a perfect equilibrium between that which “exists” and that which is “desired”. That is also the purpose of the gene. The “uniformity” of all actions according to controlled definitions and pattern sis far more important than the “content’ of each group. Conversion o more and more to an obviously “superior” system. As Hoffer writes in The True Believer:
“Whence comes the impulse to proselytize? Intensity of conviction is not the main factor which impels a movement to spread its faith to the four corners of the earth.: ‘Religions of great i often confine themselves to contemning, destroying, or at best pitying what is not themselves.’ Nor is the impulse to proselytize an expression of an overabundance of power which as Bacon has it ‘is like a great flood, that will be sure to overflow’.
“The missionary zeal seems rather an expression of some deep misgiving, some pressing feeling of insufficiency at the center(the ‘purpose machine’-Ralph). Proselytizing is more a passionate search for something not yet found than a desire to bestow upon the world something we already have. It is a search for a final and irrefutable demonstration that our absolute truth is indeed the one and only truth”.
What Hoffer described, whether he knew it or not, was the “difference machine” described by Dawkins, and the need to establish equilibrium described by McLuhan.