Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 00:50:52 -0500
Subject: Re: Replicators (and the use of code)
> 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.
This makes a great deal of sense to me.
There are some real problems with the popular use of the term 'gene.'
We ought to look a the concept 'gene' for a moment. Genes, as
understood in the popular mind, are not really a valid scientific
concept any more. The 'bead' model has been discounted for years. A
segment of DNA code may used in a wide number of processes, linking up
with different segments of code and producing different proteins. A
better concept for genes would involve something of a 'holographic' data
storage system. The code is all discrete, but the data map is
non-gramatical. The process creates the code unit.
The 'memory' and 'product' cannot be separated from the process. Genes
continue to be a useful concept as a reference to 'inhereted' chemical
processes because a gross segment of code can be identified as
containing the process code. Isolating the specific code is currently
As pointed out earlier here, there are no 'behavioral' codes
in the chromosomes. The codes simply create enzymes that interact
together. The codes are not blueprints, but producers of a balancing act.
Thus a 'gene' is an invisible unit of code. One segment of DNA can mean
different things in different processes. We can identify genetic code and
the 'chunks' that hold them with some ease, but not the 'gene' itself.
If we want to use the 'meme' - 'gene' analogy, we are stuck with the same
subtle problem. Evidence of 'coding' should be easily found. Chunks of
codes containing a variety of memes should easily be found, but 'memes'
themselves will be invisible unless we understand all the processes
involved with code retreival and processing.
The other problem with using the term 'gene' is the popular assumption that
everything important, the 'whole blueprint' is stored in the gene. This
of course is missleading. As you pointed out earlier, a wide variety of
cellular matter is passed on to the offspring. In particular, the host
cell provide the replica with active processes and a sense of rhythmicity.
The gene/meme analogy looks at first glance, but there are certainly a lot
of linguistic pitfalls.
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Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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