Re: Words and Memes

Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 15:27:49 GMT

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "RE: ply to Grant"

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    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 15:27:49 GMT
    Subject: Re: Words and Memes
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    >Genes have a well-defined boundary.

    >Not true. Biologists are still arguing about what constitutes a gene

    No, not really. There is fairly good agreement on what contitutes a genes, ie. that it is a protein-coding stretch of DNA, possibly including regulatory elements and introns. Gene-finding algorithms like GENSCAN, Procrustes, Wise etc can even fish a gene out of a gigantic slab of DNA, just by parsing the statistical properties of the sequence in terms of Hidden Markov Models, homologies etc. The gene is so well-defined, even a computer can spot one (and mine does, all day long......)

    seems to me to be almost as much confusion in the literature defining genes
    as there is in our effort to define memes. Biologists seem to be having
    trouble deciding where to draw the line, too.

    No, there was a lot of serious discussion back in the 50s about what genes were, as the molecular picture replaced the classical Mendelian one, but by the early 80s, 'What is a gene?' had become a question that was only trotted out in undergraduate exams to exercise our knowledge of the various component parts. Even prior to the discovery of DNA there was a fairly rigid definition of a gene in operational terms, ie. its alleles had to be non-complementary, it had to be a true-breeding trait, it had to exhibit the appropriate segregation and assortment ratios in genetic crosses. (more exam question fodder...)

    I'm not merely being pedantic about biology here, but every now and then somebody will try to justify fuzziness about meme definitions by claiming that gene definitions are just as fuzzy. They aren't.

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