Re: memetics-digest V1 #1480

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Wed 18 Feb 2004 - 23:15:47 GMT

  • Next message: Dace: "Re: earliest memetics paper? and a question."

    >From: Chris Taylor <>
    >Subject: Re: memetics-digest V1 #1480
    >Date: Wed, 18 Feb 2004 09:52:24 +0000
    >And let's not forget that organismal form is only the result of the
    >interaction between genome (plus info in cellular components) and _the
    >environment_ which is subject to change, confusing any attempt to preserve
    >The genome is an important environment, for genes -- foreign DNA from
    >retrowhatevers, conflicts in silencing between the sexes, the constant
    >trade-offs between suboptimal compromises (neutral evolution at the
    >phenotypic level -- shorter legs, but longer neck), fiddling with
    >expression through chromosomal rearrangements, accidentally finding
    >yourself part of a new species because of a Wolbachia infection. All these
    >things (and a metric tonne more) confuse the preservation of form.
    >What you get out of evolution is a real mish mash, that works. There are
    >about a zillion constraints, most we'll never know about, and yet some
    >organisms still manage to do flashy things like encode genes on both of the
    >complementary strands of the same stretch of DNA, or overlaid in more than
    >one reading frame.
    >Lesson One: This is really goddamn complicated, and we have a measurement
    >problem. Sounds a lot like memetics.
    >Fact we can borrow from biology #1: Selection on individuals is not
    >appropriate, nor selection on kinds (group/species selectionist); evolution
    >happens (to repeat Scott) in populations. For instance I'm sure when
    >talking about French, Canuck French, French creoles etc. it is a lot easier
    >to talk about populations of speakers than of individuals, or of 'French'.
    For biological evolution I tend to be biased towards individuals as the target of selection, a bias which I think I share with Mayr. Dawkins is a genocentrist so he would opt for the gene as the target of selection. Others have argued for group and species level selection.

    Genocentrists would, if they followed a Kantian approach to the argument, point to individuals as fleeting appearances and the "immortal coil" genes as *ding an sich* or the true reality of the matter. To put it in Schopenhauerian terms, organisms are a Mayan illusion and the selfish genes are the Will.

    Nonetheless selection "looks at" organismic phenotypes and is more or less blind to genes.

    Memeticists would probably be memocentrists, opting for the meme as the target of selection during cultural evolution.

    My main point was to point out to Dace that individuals do not evolve, a point which Keith was trying to get across to him.

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