Re: reading a book

From: Dace (
Date: Wed 27 Apr 2005 - 19:50:14 GMT

  • Next message: Dace: "Re: reading a book"

    > From: Chris Taylor <>
    > Okay so this is linked to my vague point about imagination: Is it simply
    > the case that this ability to recontextualise a pattern, and to exploit
    > serendipitous accidents (either in the world, or internally) is much
    > more advanced in us, but no different in kind; or is there more?
    > Is it the ability to deconstruct and recombine disparate parts that is
    > the key (fish genes in tomato iyswim), or can 'lower' forms do that too,
    > but again to a less advanced (=speedy?) degree?

    What we call genetic recombination has been practiced by bacteria for three billion years. They're a lot better at it than we are. But this doesn't mean the "meme" of genetic recombination originated with bacteria. What bacteria do can be explained strictly in terms of standard biological concepts. To apply memes to bacterial gene exchange is therefore to violate the law of parsimony. Memes simply aren't necessary to account for what bacteria do. But they are necessary to account for the same practice in human culture. We engage in this practice because the idea of genetic recombination is culturally transmitted from scientist to scientist. By contrast, among bacteria the practice is biologically ingrained and requires no internal representation of the process that can be transmitted from one bacterium to another. In the realm of pure biology genes can be exchanged but not memes.


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