Re: Chromosomes and memes

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Thu, 09 Oct 1997 15:42:30 -0700

Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 09 Oct 1997 15:42:30 -0700
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: Chromosomes and memes

Mark Mills wrote:
> Mario writes,
> >Chromosomal genes can't hustle around like plasmid genes and
> >memes, they are locked within a chromosome within a cell. This
> >is another good reason why giving both genes (whereby people
> >usually think about chromosomal genes) and memes
> >the same name (i.e. replicator) leads to wrong comparisons.
> I'd like to point out this is a problem caused by how one defines meme.
> If one starts with the proposition that memes bounce around in the
> environment, meme are by definition different than chromosomes.

I just mean that plasmids are transmitted from cell to cell just like
memes are transmitted (or 'jump', as even I would allow Nick to say)
from brain to brain. Just like for memes, plasmids can only be
interpreted once inside a cell. So, there is not really a contradiction
here with the vision you present below.

> There are some, myself included, that place memes in the brain. Dawkins
> himself says 'memes live in the brain' in his 2nd edition of 'The Selfish
> Gene.' It is not difficult to propose a construct that relies on an
> inherited neural process which collects experience to gain 'behavioral'
> form. These processes would be developmental, building upon each other in
> a manner similar other natural 'growth' processes. Such a process would
> produce individual and population behaviors we would all agree are
> memetic.
> According to the 'brain process' construct, memes would be a feature of
> genetic evolution, a new level of complexity (code substrate) built upon
> cellular and multicellular organizational levels. In brief, meme
> replication would be part genetic replication, part cellular differention
> (embryology) and part 'environmental imprinting.' There would be no
> need for 'external memes' to explain human memetic activity.

Well, most memes come from external sources, i.e. other humans or the
things we read.

> >From my perspective, the problem is envisioning a meme that acts like a
> plasmid gene. The chromosome model is much easier to follow.

And what if you look at plasmids as writings, which have to be
interpreted by a bacterial cell? Plasmids can exist outside a cell, but
than they are just like an unread book.
And how about plasmids as a combination of very different genes, which
can be recombined with other genes (through interaction with the
bacterial cell), just like ideas and theories which consist of very
different pieces of information and which can be recombined with other
ideas by human minds?
A lot more interesting similarities can be found.

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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