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>Subject: Re: Words and Memes
>Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 15:27:49 GMT
> >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.
Ted, thanks for the update. The books I read don't always have the latest
information and that may be one of the reasons for my confusion. The field
is changing so rapidly it's hard to keep up.
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