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

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sat 09 Aug 2003 - 00:13:34 GMT

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    >From: derek gatherer <>
    >Subject: Re: Defining the word "replicator" (was Re: Silent memes)
    >Date: Wed, 6 Aug 2003 09:11:49 +0100 (BST)
    >Drift would be another factor. OTOH, why couldn't so
    >called memetic variants be neutral? Could there be a
    >neutral theory of cultural evolution to parallel that
    >of molecular evolution?
    >Of course, for instance see:
    It's good to see somebody considering non-adaptive aspects of cultural change. From the POV of the organism, I'm a little more cautious about gene's eye view arguments, so meme's eye arguments are a bit harder to fathom. From the standpoint of individual or gene selection, a good bit of the transitory ideas that spread around a population could have negligible impact either way. There's lots of superfluous fluff that could act kinda like neutral allelic variants or "junk" DNA and just tag along atop whatver adaptive social structure exists in a culture and fluctuate in frequency stochastically veering towards fixation or extinction.. I don't know how much clarity looking at this fluff as selfish memes would be, just like neutral allelic variants or non-genic regions of DNA may not themselves be selfish (though there is an apt argument for "selfish DNA").

    Your treatment of irrational versus rational behavior confused me a little. You start off by defining an irrational behavior saying it's at best neutral to the agent then a little later say it could act in the agent's interests.

    I'm not sure status seeking would perfectly parallel with rational behavior. If a high status mate were to have other attributes that made them less of a long term asset to a mate, it may be in the best interests of the mate to choose a lower status individual without these other attributes (say if they had lost their gonads in a hunting accident or were misogynistic to the point of spouse abuse or what have you). OTOH if status seeking comes from some handy dandy module that emerged from the EEA and was selected for, the tendency for status seeking could arise from a non-rational instinctive level or may be an irrational impulse more than something that is consciously (or rationally) calculated by the seeker. I suppose it could be said that the behavior is "raional" from the gene's POV, but this could be excluded for the purpose of cultural simulation.

    I don't know if "what's your sign" could ever be rational, unless maybe the context is that one lives in a society that is under the sway of superstition to the point that the only way to find a mate is to join in the astrological (or religious) zeitgeist. How rational would it be to buck the system to the point of total ostracism spending one's weekends alone and mateless while everyobody else is at the local palmistry convention hooking up and having a good ole time.

    Your contagion versus common pool contrast was interesting.

    I'll have to think more deeply about your various models.

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