Re: memetics-digest V1 #1480

From: Dace (
Date: Thu 19 Feb 2004 - 00:04:08 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Whacking on memetics"

    > From: "Scott Chase" <>
    > >From: "Dace" <>
    > >
    > > > From: Keith Henson <>
    > > > Subject: Re: the meme/brain problem
    > > >
    > > > > > Evolution does not happen to organisms. They live or die,
    > >or
    > > > > > fail.
    > > > >
    > > > >An organism is not just a sack of molecules. What evolves is the
    > >of
    > > > >organisms rather than their material constituents.
    > > >
    > > > When you are talking about Darwin and evolution, *species* are the
    > > > subject to evolution. *An* organism (individual) is stuck with the
    > >it
    > > > has.
    > >
    > >An organism is a living form that's stuck with a particular set of
    > >(though, over time, it undergoes a complete changeover of molecular
    > >constituents). An individual is a materialization of a collective form.
    > >What evolves is not the materializations but the form. However, as
    > >emphasized, evolution is propelled forward by adaptations made by
    > >individual
    > >organisms. Though Darwin had no idea how such inheritance occurs, he
    > >maintained to the end that without this ability to pass on acquired
    > >characters, evolution as a theory is dead on the water. For Darwin, the
    > >organism is the central actor in natural evolution, and I would add that
    > >same is true of the person in cultural evolution.
    > >
    > Individual organisms are the level at which selection operates, but
    > populations are the level at which evolution occurs.

    Yes. As I put it, "An individual is a materialization of a collective form. What evolves is not the materializations but the form." As the evolving form is collective, it exists, by necessity, across populations.

    > The quick and dirty
    > definition of evolution is ("not again!" they scream from the peanut
    > gallery) 'changes in allelic frequencies within a population over time'.
    > Thus (is this where I insert a Q.E.D.?) evolution requires a group of
    > organisms or *population* and a time period, which can be taken as
    > subsequent generations. Flail around as you will, you are wrong on two
    > counts if you assert evolution happens to individuals.

    Fortunately, I don't. I merely pointed out, echoing Darwin, that the individual is the main driving force behind evolution (and not genetic drift or mutations).

    > Not only are you
    > ignoring populationns, you are ignoring the generational aspect of
    > evolution.

    Not a bit of it. Ironically, Darwin hated the word "evolution" and preferred the more descriptive "transformism." The literal meaning of evolve is "unfold," which implies that the newly unfolding form already existed in some ideal, predetermined state. Darwin was a materialist but not a determinist. He believed in the inherent creativity of matter. Evolution is all about creative adaptations among individuals that lead to transformations of whole populations into new species.

    > Individuals can change (or adjust) during a lifetime to match the needs
    > imposed by the environment within a reaction norm influenced by their
    > genetic repertoire, but they are not evolving.

    Right. They are merely adapting. Evolution is the inheritance of adaptations.


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