Re: Memetic Influence on Evolution

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Mon May 13 2002 - 23:09:01 BST

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "Re: Memetic Influence on Evolution"

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    Subject: Re: Memetic Influence on Evolution
    Date: Mon, 13 May 2002 18:09:01 -0400
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    >From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    >Subject: Memetic Influence on Evolution
    >Date: Mon, 13 May 2002 07:06:08 -0700
    >The following story illustrates the coming influence of memetics on genetic
    >evolution. For a view of what we might do about it, read Francis
    >Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution.
    Sorry Grant, I fail to see your point. The article below summarizes the work
    of Rudy Raff and others (such as developmental biology text author Scott
    Gilbert) to synthesize the long ago separated fields of experimental
    developmental biology and evolutionary biology. I can't even see "meme" or
    "memetics" as keywords in the below article. You must be reading your
    assumptions into the article. Raff and others have been launching the field
    of evolutionary developmental biology which has little to do with memetics
    or cultural evolution *per se*, though instead of memetics offering anything
    to evo-devo, Dawkins inspired memeticists might become more informed by
    evo-devo, reading such books as Raff's _The Shape of Life_. It's a tad more
    heady than _The Selfish Gene_.

    Brian Hall and Wallace Arthur are two other authors to look for and there's
    classic works by Gavin de Beer and Stephen Gould (ie- _Ontogeny and
    Phylogeny_) too.

    Evo-devo has more to do with Bauplane (body plans) than memes, though it is
    important to note how erroneous mind sets like Haeckel's ORP have fallen by
    the wayside.
    >The Scientist 16[10]:68, May. 13, 2002
    >Rudolf Raff
    >At the crossroads of evolution, development,
    >and genetics
    >By Ricki Lewis
    >Courtesy of Rudolf Raff
    >If a visitor to Earth were to try to assess life's diversity by touring
    >terrestrial biology laboratories, he, she, or it might conclude that the
    >planet is overrun with fruit flies, mice, small plants, tiny transparent
    >worms, and a few types of single-celled inhabitants. That skewed view might
    >be why it's taken more than a century for the field called evo-devo today
    >have taken off.
    >It's also why Indiana University distinguished professor Rudolf (Rudy) Raff
    >collects sea urchins from the Australian coast instead of ordering mice
    >the Jackson Laboratory or flies from the Drosophila stock center right next
    >door. He's been doing so since 1985, along with wife and
    >researcher-in-her-own-right Beth, who takes an annual "maggot sabbatical"
    >join him.
    >In February, Rudy Raff was one of eight scientists to receive the Medal of
    >Alexander Kowalevsky from the Council of the St. Petersburg Society of
    >Naturalists in Russia. Due to intervening wars, revolutions, and national
    >dissolutions, the medal had not been awarded again since its creation in
    >1910. Scott Gilbert, professor of biology at Swarthmore College and another
    >founder of evo-devo, explains why Raff received the honor: "Rudy is trying
    >to create a new synthesis of the entire field of biology, nothing less, by
    >reuniting evolutionary biology with developmental biology."
    >Before evo-devo had a name, Raff organized symposia that brought together
    >the contributing life sciences in a new way. "At one of these meetings, I
    >heard an animated conversation between a postdoc in developmental biology
    >and an eminent arthropod paleontologist. Both were investigating the
    >of the insect jaw," Gilbert recalls. Raff was the first chair of evo-devo
    >for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, and he established
    >the first journal. "Rudy has gotten the researchers in evolutionary and
    >developmental biology to speak to each other, he's given us a manual as to
    >how to productively have these conversations, he has framed the problems
    >the field, and he has provided a specific forum for discussions in this
    >area," Gilbert adds.
    >Back in the lab, Raff concentrates on echinoderms, the invertebrates with a
    >characteristic five-part symmetry. He sees two ways to choose one's
    >experimental organism. "You can start with a model and study its relatives.
    >Or, you can go out and find species with appealing properties. I find
    >organisms such as sea urchins and starfish that are interesting and don't
    >worry if they are suitable models."
    >By generalizing from "little collections of organisms," biologists have
    >missed many clues to evolution, Raff contends. A broader view of life also
    >entails considering development right from the beginning. "Nature has
    >alternate developmental modes. All sea urchins, all frogs, don't
    >develop in the canonical way. This is wonderful material to reveal
    >evolution," he exclaims. "How does nature make essentially the same
    >through a completely different developmental pathway? How fast did the new
    >way arise? How many genes did it require, and what were the selective
    >pressures?" It all comes back to body plans, he says, and biologists
    >rely on Cambrian fossils for answers. "We can look at related modern
    >organisms that had big changes in structure over time. With this approach,
    >I've got my time machine."
    >Two species of sea urchins that last shared an ancestor 10 million years
    >have provided that time machine for Raff. One species develops through a
    >typical feeding larva stage; the other hatches directly into a juvenile
    >adult. Yet when Raff's group created a hybrid, the animal was more than the
    >sum of its parts—it had the larval feeding apparatus, yet also
    >characteristics of more ancient echinoderms not seen in either parent.1
    >speculates on what might have happened: "I think the first evolutionary
    >was freedom from the need to feed. From there, the animal could drop the
    >feeding features, then develop others, like highly rapid development."
    >Raff came to science as many biologists do, collecting fossils as a young
    >child. Another powerful influence was Gavin de Beer's book Embryos and
    >Ancestors,2 which Raff read in his "spare time" as a grad student in
    >biochemistry at Duke University, which meant while doing laundry. De Beer
    >wrote that evolution occurs through changes in timing of key developmental
    >events. That paradigm seemed too constraining to Raff, but back then tools
    >such as molecular phylogenetics did not exist to experimentally investigate
    >Ironically, timing would become a recurring theme in Raff's career. The
    >guiding principles of what would become evo-devo began to coalesce in his
    >mind long before he could categorize his thoughts. By the mid-1970s, his
    >ideas had gelled sufficiently that he and distinguished professor Thomas
    >Kaufman, who investigates homeotic mutations in Drosophila and other
    >arthropods, offered a graduate course called "Embryos and Ancestors," one
    >the first official retrospective evo-devo courses. In 1983, the pair
    >published an early book in the field,3 but it proved too visionary. By
    >when Raff published The Shape of Life, the time had come.4 One of many rave
    >reviews called it "arguably one of the most important books of the decade
    >evolutionary biology."5
    >Clearly uncomfortable being called a founder of a field that many have
    >built, Raff—in the introduction to The Shape of Life—traces evo-devo's
    >origins to Charles Darwin, German evolutionary biologist Ernst Haeckel, and
    >many others.
    >Ricki Lewis ( is a contributing editor.
    >She took the course "Embryos and Ancestors" with Rudy Raff and Tom Kaufman
    >in 1977.
    >1. E.C. Raff et al., "A novel ontogenetic pathway in hybrid embryos between
    >species with different modes of development," Development, 126:1937-45,
    >2. G. de Beer, Embryos and Ancestors, New York: Oxford University Press,
    >3. R.A. Raff, T.C. Kaufman, Embryos, Genes, and Evolution, New York:
    >MacMillan, 1983.
    >4. R.A. Raff, The Shape of Life, Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
    >5. M.L. McKinney, "Understanding evolution: The next step," Science,
    >273:1347, 1996.
    >Chat with friends online, try MSN Messenger:
    >This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    >For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

    Chat with friends online, try MSN Messenger:

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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