Re: Defining the word "replicator" (was Re: Silent memes)

Date: Fri 01 Aug 2003 - 19:45:59 GMT

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    In a message dated 8/1/2003 4:02:47 AM Central Daylight Time, Derek Gatherer <> writes:

    > --- wrote: > In a message dated
    > the
    > > following definition given by Richard Dawkins in
    > > 1982 in
    > > _The Extended Phenotype_, where he states:
    > >
    > > "I define a _replicator_ as anything in the universe
    > > of
    > > which copies are made." (p. 83)
    > But on page 84 he qualifies this extensively with the
    > notions of longevity, fecundity and fidelity. That's
    > why genes are replicators but chromosomes and
    > individual nucleotides aren't, even though they get copied.

    I didn't mean to suggest that you and I were finally on the same page, or anything like that...

    Dawkins does indeed continue defining terminology on page 83 and the following pages, where he introduces the terms
    "active replicator," "germ-line replicator," etc. and arriving at the term "genetic replicator" on page 85. On page 87, he points out that in the rest of the chapter, he uses the word "replicator" as an abbreviation of the term
    "genetic replicator," but the same paragraph also says that he purposely defined "replicator" in a general way that encompasses more than DNA. (His overall focus in the chapter and the book is on biological evolution, hence the emphasis on genetic replicators.)

    Along the way, on page 84, he notes that he had previously summed up the qualities of a "successful replicator" in terms of "Longevity, Fecundity, Fidelity." I take this to be a tenet of evolutionary theory (subject to empirical testing and re-testing, logical analysis, etc.) rather than another definition per se.

    And on page 86, he offers this gem: "But let us not become worked up over terminology. Meanings of words are important, but not important enough to justify the ill-feeling they sometimes provoke..." A point that I, among others, should note.

    --Aaron Lynch

    Thought Contagion Science Page:

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