Re: Replicators (and the use of code)

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 11:13:12 -0700

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 11:13:12 -0700
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: Replicators (and the use of code)

Hans-Cees Speel wrote:
> : memes and genes
> > are not replicators. The only replicator on Earth today is the cell: the
> > cell is a system which can reassemble something similar. Genes cannot do
> > that, neither memes. Genes and memes are replicated.
> I know that genes nor memes self-replicate, but I would not like to
> say they are not replicaters. Not because you state the facts wrong,
> you obviously are right, but because the term is accepted for some
> time. It will confuse people to change it.
> I guess you could use self-replicaters, and replicaters to make the
> distinction you want.

I could live with that, but the problem is that using replicator itself
is confusing. As I tried to explain before then you speak of an active
agent. In that sense a photocopier is a replicator, still genes and
memes are not, although also the word replicator is used for them. An
enzyme and a photocopier are replicators, cells are self replicators,
genes and memes are information which is replicated.

The confusion is not because I think that we should keep the use of
replicator for cells only, the confusion has been caused by Dawkins from
the start, and it still exists after we call a cell a self replicator
(Moreover I dislike the use of 'self' and 'auto-').

Of course, once a word has been used in connotation with a certain
meaning or once an idea has been launched, it needs a lot of effort to
change that and it is even impossible to eradicate it (think of the
notion Lamarckism which still survives). That is the problem you refer
Again an interesting subject to be studied on its own.

Mario Vaneechoutte
Laboratory Bacteriology & Virology
Blok A, De Pintelaan 185
University Hospital Ghent
Belgium 9000 Ghent
Tel: +32 9 240 36 92
Fax: +32 9 240 36 59
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