Re: Good Meme, Bad Meme

Peter Bentley (
Wed, 04 Mar 1998 11:45:35 +0000

Date: Wed, 04 Mar 1998 11:45:35 +0000
From: Peter Bentley <>
Subject: Re: Good Meme, Bad Meme

> ...Although I understand why Dawkins
> cs. claim that evolution makes more sense if we treat genes as if they were
> agents with a program, it remains fallacious to take this all too
> literally. That is not the issue at hand, however. I took my remark about
> nature being tautological from Bateson, who wrote:
> "My opninion is that Creatura, the world of mental process [=life,
> according to his definition], is both tautological and ecological. I mean
> that it is a slowly self-healing tautology. Left to itself, any large piece
> of Creatura will tend to settle toward tautology, that is, toward _internal
> consistency_ of ideas and processes. But every now and then, the
> consistency gets torn; the tautology breaks up like the surface of a pond
> when a stone is thrown into it. Then the tautology slowly but immediately
> starts to heal. And the healing may be ruthless. Whole species may be
> exterminated in the process." (Mind & Nature, 1979, p.206)

I must disagree - it is in no way fallacious to take the 'selfish
gene' and 'extended phenotype' ideas literally - they are perhaps
the clearest and most powerful explanations of the propagation
and duplication of genes for evolution. And I'm afraid I am still
very unimpressed with any definition of evolution that uses the
word 'tautology'. As my dictionary puts it, tautology = repetition,
pleonasm and verbosity. Not very useful as explanatory terms.


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