From: John Wilkins (
Date: Mon Feb 25 2002 - 03:11:54 GMT

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    On Monday, February 25, 2002, at 01:30 PM, rmey4892 wrote:


    > what is IMHO?

    "In my humble opinion"
    > good to know that I am not nuts.thanks to all for the generally favorable
    > reviews.
    > my genetics textbook points to some first hand sources that say as little
    > as
    > one gene can cause speciation. My idea is not a big leap from there, and
    > the
    > thing about races being not that different genetically is no impediment
    > to a
    > memetic species.

    I recently polled a few geneticists working in speciation. They said that
    there is no obvious correlation between number of point mutations and
    other mutations (duplications, inversions, etc) and the reproductive
    isolation of sexual species.

    What counts is the post hoc success at reproduction. The difference
    between subspecific and varietial "races" and a full species is that the
    likelihood of successful reproduction when sympatric (in the same locale)
    is approximately equal to the inverse of the effective (ie, fertile)
    number of organisms in the deme.

    > we all can have genes. Those genes can make prehensile tails and long
    > necks.
    > these can be local genetic adaptations. These memes can build things as
    > different as an igloo and jumbo jet which can also be considered local,
    > since
    > the materials for a jumbo jet are not easily found by Inuit tribe members.
    > Are
    > igloos and Jumbo Jets as different as prehensile tails and long necks? I
    > think
    > so.(oh yeah and technically we all can have long necks and prehensile
    > tails....simply reverse every selection pressure that has ever occured in
    > mankind to the common progenitor of life, then proceed up the branch of
    > the
    > tree of life to reach a prehensile tail or long neck)

    Do not make the mistake of thinking that all or even necessarily most of
    the unique features of a species are due to selection. Many features
    (characters, they are called in systematics; traits in morphology and
    anatomy) are in fact brought to fixation or equilibrium by drift, and many
    are eliminated for the same reason.

    On the current model of speciation, most unique features of a species aare
    a matter of contingency - the isolated population from which the new
    species develops happens to have some unique set of frequencies of
    alternatives which drift to form the novel species. Under this model, most
    mutations occurred *before* isolation, in the ancestral species.
    > interesting that you should bring up music. I actually wondered if you
    > were
    > serious there at first, but it makes sense. Much can be communicated
    > through
    > the medium of music and I think that whatever Tuvan throat-singers sing
    > about
    > is completely lost on me (God Bless 'em....They sing two notes at once!!!
    > !!)
    > finally its not so easy to chose whatever is handiest. Religion, fast
    > food,
    > and cars are hard to come by if you've never seen them before. There may
    > be
    > some inertia to fill the basic underlying biological needs these represent
    > (picking fruit from a fruit tree appears to me to be the fastest food I
    > ever
    > saw, and perhaps I would not need to be "given" the meme for it.). It is
    > probably true, that genetic instructions sometimes define what must be
    > memetically derived, but the opposite should be true as well since
    > memetics
    > can direct the flow of genes too (Disease resistance in sedentary cultures
    > (Jared Diamond, Guns Germs and Steel)).

    More than this. It is worth treating memes and genes as if they are
    "decoupled", to use Stephen Toulmin's felicitous phrase. Most of tyhe time
    they are, and then we have a baseline to attend to actual, rather than
    rashly conjectured, cases in which a correlation between memes and genes
    occurs. It is my opinion that not only do genes not force many memes
    (although they may very well force the range of options memes can take),
    but that the memetic "range" of variation *exceeds* the range of viable
    genetic options, so that even if genes become less fit in bearers that
    adopt the memes (eg, of celibacy), the memes will be fitter in some
    context and propagate anyway.
    > Memetic species should be coherent collections of traditions(not just one
    > as
    > someone proposed). large collections of memeplexes that form a large
    > coherent
    > body of information (with some variation obviously mixed in for good
    > measure)
    > should be considered memetic species, so religion can have a part in it
    > too,
    > but not all of it. The point is moot anyway, since memetic species will
    > soon
    > disappear forever (until space exploration...Go Star Trek).

    I'm not sure what you mean here. In the older scholastic, and prior to
    that neo-Platonic, tradition of classification, a "species" was merely
    some differentiable element of a genus, and the genus might itself be a
    species under a wider genus. What we now call species are what the
    medievals called infimae species (the lowest species). I am in some favour
    of returning to this approach - a species is whatever can be
    differentiated out of some larger genus (or, as Locke would put it, "sort"
    ). In culture, which is, after all, where this approach was formulated in
    the first place, there would be some fractal complexity of species, and a
    cultural species might be some larger civilisation, or some scientific
    discipline, or a movement of musical performance techniques. All that
    counts is that there are those who are, as memetic actors, "in" the
    species, and those who are "out". I'm not a scientist, and I am a
    westerner. At one time I was on the fringes of being a guitarist. Where
    the traditions *self-*discriminate, there are species (just as where
    organisms self-classify, there are biological species).

    > Finally, thank you for the reading list, I may get around to it soon, but
    > I am
    > otherwise occupied. Any other suggestions don't hesitate to write. I am
    > specifically interested in your opinion (John Wilkins) since your are most
    > aptly qualified for review of this subject.
    > Yanni.....P.U.
    My old fogeyism is showing, but I've never heard of himherit.

    John S Wilkins
    Head, Communication Services
    The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
    Parkville, Victoria, Australia

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