Replicator article

From: Liane Gabora (
Date: Thu 06 May 2004 - 16:22:02 GMT

  • Next message: John Wilkins: "Re: Replicator article"

    I'd like to say a few words regarding the discussion of my paper which came up recently on this list. I have been sympathetic to the memetic perspective for a long time, and in some ways still am. The paper was not something I dashed off quickly, but the result of nearly 20 years of reading, writing, and computer modeling devoted to really getting to the bottom of the question: how does culture *really* evolve?

    Clearly ideas or memes do not consist of, as part of their information content, self-assembly instructions (akin to genetic material), which get carried out to form new copies. If they did, then for one thing, inheritance of acquired characteristics would be prohibited. But we all know that ideas or memes can inherit changes as they pass from one person to another. If you read this email, you will accommodate it to your own way of thinking, if you tell someone about it you will put your own slant on it, perhaps garnish it with your own insights&.. It acquires characteristics along the way. But that doesn't mean it isn't *evolving*; it is undergoing descent with modification after all. So what is going on here?

    In fact, inheritance through a self assembly code came about in biological evolution only after millions of years of inheritance through a more primitive, self-organized form of replication, which is more akin to the form through which culture evolves. I argue that it is worldviews or minds evolving, not discrete ideas or memes, because a worldview constitutes an integrated, self-modifying, self-healing structure, and that ideas or memes are how a worldview *reveals* or manifests its (ever-changing) structure
    (like a slice through a log reveals something of the internal structure of the wood, slicing at a different angle reveals something different&). I wont go on to re-write the whole paper here, but just mention that it is not a line of reasoning that can be quickly dismissed after light reading of the title or abstract, and it is better to read the whole paper before leaping to quick assumptions about what it is saying.


    PS The paper can be obtained in reprint form from the Biology and Philosophy journal website (
    ) or in html form from my website (below).

    Liane Gabora
    <> Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies, VUB, Brussels Ph:
    (32)2.644.26.77 Psychology Department, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-1650 Ph: 510-642-1080

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