Re: Online Paper: "Ideas are Not Replicators but Minds Are" by Liane Gabora

From: Keo Ormsby (
Date: Fri 17 Oct 2003 - 06:01:32 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "RE: Online Paper: "Ideas are Not Replicators but Minds Are" by Liane Gabora"

    I think Gabora's work is postulating as given many aspects that are still in debate or outright wrong in Evolutionary Theory and in Biology.

    Her main point is that ideas per se cannot be considered as replicators since they by themselves do not replicate, and need to be embedded in a worldview to be copied. This point is also raised in Biology, but only substituting 'idea' with 'gene' and 'worldview' with 'genome' or
    'organism'. This problem has spawned heated debate, and is most certainly not a resolved question (ex. Gould vs. Dawkins).

    To be fair, she does dedicate section 4.1 to this problem, but nonchalantly states that genes always come packaged with other complementary genes that dynamically in context act as replicators, and since ideas not necessarily come packaged, only worldviews (a package in itself) can work as replicators.

    Genes not only do not need to be packaged with others to replicate, as can be proven with molecular biology techniques (which she parenthesizes, presumably to minimize its implications), but also in nature, as with single gene plasmids and free floating DNA fragments that can be internalized by protozoa. By this I am not daring to make stand as to whether the single gene or the whole genome is the unit of evolution, but I am merely making the point that this is debatable even in Evolutionary biology, so that importing one of the sides of the debate as a given in biology, so that she can apply them to cultural evolution, really demerits the point of the argument.

    The point that was interesting, was the argument for cultural evolution using non coded primitive replicators, whatever they may be.

    Keo Ormsby

    At 11:59 a.m. 15/10/2003 +0100, you wrote:
    > Ideas are Not Replicators but Minds Are
    > by Liane Gabora
    >To appear in Biology and Philosophy, BIPH264-02
    >1 Does Culture Evolve like Biological Lineages Do? *
    >2 Two Kinds of Replicators *
    > 2.1 Coded Replicators *
    > 2.2 Primitive Replicators *
    >3 Does Anything in Culture Constitute a Replicator? *
    > 3.1 Ideas and Artifacts are not Coded Replicators *
    > 3.1.1 Are Cultural Entities Interpreted? *
    > 3.1.2 Are Cultural Entities Copied (without Interpretation)? *
    > 3.2 Interconnected Worldview as Primitive Replicator *
    > 3.2.1 Conceptual Closure *
    >4 Implications for the Evolution of Culture *
    > 4.1 What Evolves is Worldviews, Not Ideas *
    > 4.2 Evolving without Copying from a Code *
    > 4.3 Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics *
    >5 Conclusions *
    >An idea is not a replicator because it does not consist of coded
    >self-assembly instructions. It may retain structure as it passes from one
    >individual to another, but does not replicate it. The cultural replicator
    >is not an idea but an associatively-structured network of them that
    >together form an internal model of the world, or worldview. A worldview is
    >a primitive, uncoded replicator, like the autocatalytic sets of polymers
    >widely believed to be the earliest form of life. Primitive replicators
    >generate self-similar structure, but because the process happens in a
    >piecemeal manner, through bottom-up interactions rather than a top-down
    >code, they replicate with low fidelity, and acquired characteristics are
    >inherited. Just as polymers catalyze reactions that generate other
    >polymers, the retrieval of an item from memory can in turn trigger other
    >items, thus cross-linking memories, ideas, and concepts into an integrated
    >conceptual structure. Worldviews evolve idea by idea, largely through
    >social exchange. An idea participates in the evolution of culture by
    >revealing certain aspects of the worldview that generated it, thereby
    >affecting the worldviews of those exposed to it. If an idea influences
    >seemingly unrelated fields this does not mean that separate cultural
    >lineages are contaminating one another, because it is worldviews, not
    >ideas, that are the basic unit of cultural evolution.
    >Keywords: associative network, acquired characteristics, autocatalytic
    >closure, conceptual closure, culture, evolution, idea, origin of life,
    >replicator, self-replication, worldview.
    >Available for the moment at:
    >This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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