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

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri 24 Oct 2003 - 04:27:34 GMT

  • Next message: derek gatherer: "Re: Online Paper: "Ideas are Not Replicators but Minds Are" by Liane Gabora"

    At 09:54 PM 23/10/03 -0600, you wrote:
    >At 01:26 p.m. 18/10/2003 -0400, you wrote:
    >>>The point that was interesting, was the argument for cultural evolution
    >>>using non coded primitive replicators, whatever they may be.
    >>"Non coded primitive replicators" reminds me of "arithmetic without
    >>numbers" or perhaps "chemistry without elements."
    >>Keith Henson
    >I don't believe the "coding" part is as essential for a replicator as
    >numbers to arithmetic.
    >In the paper by Gabora, she points to the view that primitive replication
    >was carried out by polymers that only used existing substrates to directly
    >make copies of themselves. In this sense the replicators only used
    >building blocks already existing in the primordial soup, but had no
    >influence on the composition of its surroundings, except perhaps by
    >depleting those building blocks from the soup. One can easily imagine that
    >certain polymers arose that were more efficient physicochemically and
    >therefore became more frequent in the population, so that there was
    >natural selection. This would be the non coding replication.

    I don't think I can agree with you on this. How do you tell something has replicated? You look at the original information (RNA/DNA or whatever units) and compare its information (code) with the replicants. If "certain polymers arose that were more efficient physicochemically and therefore became more frequent in the population" that's your coding. I think what you are describing is non transcribed or "open loop" rather than non coding.

    >In the case of modern organisms, DNA doesn't just wait for building blocks
    >to fall into place, but is actually a blueprint (code) for actively
    >changing its surroundings into its replicating machine (organism) that
    >actively collects and synthesizes the building blocks.

    This is transcription "closing the loop." But not all modern DNA replicates this way. There are viruses that replicate without making the machinery to collect and copy DNA and even smaller chunks that don't code for *anything,* not even virus coat protean.

    I might not be up on the most recent thoughts on the subject, but the consensus used to be that chemical life originated in RNA that could fold up and serve as machines to aid copying (like protean does today) and also serve as a template for making copies of itself. In your terms would this be a self coding molecule?

    >So we have two extremes of a subtly graded continuum, on the one hand,
    >replicators that float in a soup of preexisting building blocks, and on
    >the other replicators that are decoded into machines that create the
    >building blocks.

    Don't forget that 97% of the human genome that is just junk along for the ride and codes for nothing at all.

    >The part that I found interesting is that when you try to make the analogy
    >with memes, the question arises of which stage is memetic evolution at?
    >Are memes tossed in a preexisting primordial soup (a meme-independent
    >preexisting mind)? or do memes construct their own environment according
    >to some rules (a meme-only constructed mind)? Or perhaps midway?

    It is a bigger "transcription loop." Memes need brains/minds to have any real world effects. At some point, probably prior to even the first rock being chipped, early memes started contributing to the survival of the human line. (Like memes do for chimpanzee survival today.) Then you had a hyper loop of memes, genes and humans. Genes build humans with better meme learning abilities, the memes improve human survival and replication of the genes that built humans with better . . . .

    >Of course this question has been raised before, but I thought (personally)
    >that it was interesting to see that it followed from this analysis.

    We can see culture elements (memes) arising and being passed down in monkeys, chimps, whales and birds. We can see the record in stone of several million years of human line memetic evolution. We can see deaf kids develop a brand new fully expressive language if enough of them are thrown together.

    Human line minds already had the general ability of mammals to learn and the social ape's extended ability in this direction when we split from the chimps. A few million years of projectile hunting topped off with chattering in and out of ice ages for the last 2-3 million selected genes that make minds able to hold more bytes of culture than the information in our genes.

    One question is why we were the only mammal to go so far?

    Keith Henson

    >Keo Ormsby.

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