catalytic indexical vs replicator

From: Joel.M Dimech (
Date: Tue 10 Feb 2004 - 22:22:03 GMT

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    Michael, Some comments on your essay at With respect to memetics the important thing in your essay is that you are questioning Dawkins definition, meme = replicator = unit of cultural transmission that propagate themselves. With respect to your concern, your background and its needs, an important thing would be to offer something useful to managers. Keith Henson pointed out "Memetics is a very simple concept that Darwinian evolution applies to element of culture". The best seems to turn down the loosing concept of "Universal Darwinism" and to scrutinize the concept of natural selection, the very context of Dawkins definition, which context is another side of the least action principle (universal and unavoidable) Charles Darwin explained his idea of natural selection in "The Origin of Species", chapter 4, second page of the chapter. In substance: Natural selection, or survival of the best fit, is the Laissez-faire of nature, just abstention from direction and planning: Living beings survive and propagate when they fit into their environment, they die out when they are not. Ex: Permian time (-256 - 245 millions years), the biosphere suffered a big deal of the mechanical, thermal and chemical adventures that seem possible. One of the less negligible changes has been the change of the ratio of oxygen in atmosphere, by the end of Permian the ratio of oxygen came down from 30% to 15%. Numerous species had evolved and developed activities in accordance with the ratio of 30% oxygen, these species had no more environmental niche, their energetic needs showed too big and they became extinct (one Ref: "The Book of Life", under the direction of Elliot J. Gould) No one will question that living beings propagate without effort, just being who they are, actually living beings do not propagate themselves: An environmental niche propagates them. Following these statements of fact, we might get at some sort of self-evident conclusion: Replicators or self-propagating beings can't exist since it would mean that they have none environmental niche to propagate them. If they were to survive all the same, they would be obliged to make efforts, and then they would break off from the least action principle. Self-evident conclusions are seldom the right ones, the existence of self-propagating systems implies a functional property : without effort and just being who they are, self-propagating systems have the property to modify existing environmental niches in such a way that they propagate them. This is not incredible a property, living beings all are exercising this functional property. Still, in causing the conditions of their propagation, self-propagating systems may cause too much by-products, which by-products may feed the destruction of the cooperation into biotopes, and then the extinction of their inhabitants. When the cooperation happens to be completely destroyed, self-propagating systems are to die out, as other beings they can modify biotopes, but they alone can't create cooperation. Do we have evidences of self-propagating beings? Viruses, genetic experiments and many disastrous environmental issues account for the dark side of the self-propagating evolutionary pattern, symbiotic adaptations account for a more pleasant version. Regarding psychological and educational life, languages are based upon replicators. If they were not children would never learn to speak and we would stand unable to communicate with each other (we are able to produce a plethora of linguistic simplexes, in a certain sense the training of a primary language kills all the linguistic simplexes that are not its simplexes - as a result we learn foreign languages with the help of a different chain of procedures) Regarding the history of cultural and social life, some language replicators have caused so much social by-products that they murdered their civilization (ancient Greece is one example) It seems that it would be a dramatic mistake to dismiss Dawkins definition of memes from our mind. Still, replicators are not the only evolutionary pattern and people seem right to question the Neo-Darwinian point of view, i.e. Spencers' concept of the best fit, which does not account for the crucially important process of cooperation : The best fit prevents other living beings from eating and breeding, and then condemns them to die out. How much reluctant we might feel about an ideology, of which core looks like a genocide recipe, nature does not of ideology. None ideology should hide the real world from our sight: Self-propagating systems appear to be a natural and necessary possibility amongst others. For the sake of memetics, nothing can't substitute advantageously for the definition meme = replicator since it fits perfectly into one evolutionary pattern of nature. Your offer meme = catalytic indexical is not representative of the evolutionary pattern that captured the attention of Dawkins. This first pattern does not catalyse anything; it replicates itself, and may happen to generate destructive by-products. What I am saying does not imply that your offer meme = catalytic indexical rests on nothing, as a general rule a process has more than one pattern; this is not improbable for your offer to correspond with another evolutionary pattern. According to your general explanations, the pattern ranges over different things, some of them belong to hard linguistics, others to cultural science, others to social science, and others to psychology. It is possible that memetics bridges the gap between these different fields, but it does not encompass them. If your essay is representative of the needs of managers, these needs seem to ask for the creation of a new science, which would encompass all of the aforementioned fields. A pretty bunch of people would get involved in this new science-management adventure, Michael. Sounds like asking for the moon then.

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