Re: Replicator article

From: John Wilkins (
Date: Thu 06 May 2004 - 23:12:09 GMT

  • Next message: Liane Gabora: "Re: Replicator article"

    On 07/05/2004, at 2:22 AM, Liane Gabora wrote:

    > 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.

    I have been saying something similar since 1998, too - evolution of scientific memes is the evolution of a "professional" facade, which I refer elsewhere to as an "agent's profile". I don't go the whole hog with your worldview account (I deny they exist in the traditional sense) but you are clearly on the right path for my money (and I was the referee for that paper too :-).
    > Liane
    > 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

    Dr John S Wilkins
    Head, Communication Services
    The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
    Parkville, Victoria, Australia
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