Re: Replicator article

From: Ray Recchia (
Date: Sat 08 May 2004 - 11:36:49 GMT

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    One other comment. In prions, the element that is replicating is the tertiary structure of a protein. Not the protein itself, just its tertiary structure. Yet, it clearly is responsible for the production of copies of itself, as millions of mad cows world wide would demonstrate. Where is the self-contained set of instructions?

    Want to argue that "it's not a real replicator, it just 'hijacks' another replicating system"? There's a bit of a problem with that if one is simultaneously attempting to argue that any cultural element is a replicator.

    Ray Recchia

    At 08:05 PM 5/7/2004, i wrote:
    >Just thought I would pipe in after a bit of lurking. I think that rather
    >attempt to pigeon-hole vague concepts like "replicator", we should focus
    >on more describing characteristics of what we observe, regardless of what
    >label we attach to it. Memetics is more a more complicated nut than
    >genetics because of the nature of replication. DNA replication is easier
    >to characterize than memetic replication for two reasons: 1) because with
    >rare exceptions it takes place at the discrete level organism, and 2)
    >because the chain of replication requires only the two phases of DNA and
    >anti-sense DNA. The phenomenon of cultural evolution is more difficult to
    >characterize because replication occurs by bits and pieces and because the
    >chain of replication involves many elements from internal representation
    >to external speech, writing action, or artefact production. Each element
    >of the chain can be reproduced through a number of different
    >pathways. E=mc2 may mean different things to different people. For some
    >people it is an incompressible symbol of science. For someone who
    >understands the physics behind it, a very different internal
    >representation is created. Regardless o the internal representation, the
    >external symbol can be be reproduced.
    >Others on this list have argued because those internal representations can
    >be so different, we should not regard them as reproducing at all. However,
    >I believe that a fundamental basis for culture is a recognition of the
    >commonalities of internal representations. Two physicists who can place
    >E=mc2 within the context of each other's knowledge of physics share an
    >internal representation that they are capable of recognizing within each other.
    >However, just as DNA can mutate in either it's sense or anti-sense form,
    >so too can culture mutate in any of its forms. Words may be misheard or
    >miswritten or smudged. The external shapes that culture exists in are
    >subject to selection pressures in those shapes. A sturdier building that
    >is observed may be replicated because of it's sturdiness allows it to
    >exist for a longer period of time. What makes the building more sturdy is
    >a cultural phenomenon that reproduces. In the mind, internal
    >representations are subject to a different set of selection factors based
    >upon other internal representations and upon the limitations of mind that
    >representations exist in.
    >Selection pressure exists a variety of levels even in biological
    >evolution. It was once thought that codons for amino acids were just
    >randomly arrived at and then became fixed. So for example according to the
    >old thinking it was random chance that the amino acid alanine ended up
    >coded by GCA,GCC,GCG,GCU. Recent research though, has shown the codons are
    >optimized to minimize the negative effects of single point mutations, so
    >that if an amino acid is changed, it is more likely to change to another
    >amino acid with similar biochemical properties. At a much larger scale,
    >mechanisms for introducing change, like crossing over, and chromosomal
    >mixing are also phenomena that exist due to evolutionary pressure. This
    >are no discrete elements of selection. Selection occurs at every level.
    >Variation is optimally introduced at every level.
    >The notion of a world view is an important one. I think it might be
    >possible to come up with an objective method of looking at how internal
    >representations cluster together and what sorts of elements of internal
    >representations are likely to be found working together. But saying that
    >"world views" are "The Replicator" just continues a pointless fight that
    >we ought to be able to move beyond.
    >Ray Recchia
    >(In my typical way, I'll probably just go back to lurking now. I'm away
    >at a conference next week anyway.)

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