Cannibalism as an Example of Maladaptive Meme
Cannibalism in Fore tribe members persists as a meme in the tribe despite killing 50 percent of its carriers.
A seriously maladaptive example is the practice of cannibalism in the funeral rites of a New Guinea highland tribe called the Fore. As part of complex rituals honouring their dead the Fore ate parts of the human bodies. In fact, they preferred eating pork to human flesh and so the men tended to get more of this prized food, leaving the women and children to more cannibalism (Durham 1991). This practice led directly to an epidemic of the degenerative disease kuru, which killed about 2500 Fore people, mostly women and children. Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman demonstrated mathematically that a maladaptive trait like this could eliminate up to 50 percent of its carriers and still spread through a population.