Re: On influencing factors

Mark Mills (
Fri, 6 Nov 98 09:04:09 -0600

Subject: Re: On influencing factors
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 98 09:04:09 -0600
From: Mark Mills <>
To: "Memetics List" <>
Message-Id: <>


>> 'Extreme' suggests 'abnormal,' and that's not my interest. I'm
>> interested in common next neighbor interactions. My interest is this:
>> to what degree is gene expression in one cell triggered by the behavior
>> of neighboring cells.
>Well, lots. See Hancock (1997).
>> I hope you see the parallels for memetics.
>I can see the analogy, but I'm not sure it's a helpful one, because the
>mechanisms by which these neighbour interactions occur are very
>different. I'm not sure that signal transduction research can tell us
>much that would be applicable to memetics.

Perhaps there is more than meets the eye. Memes are often described as
'units of imitation.' Imitation is a form of signal transduction. I
don't think it a huge jump to suggest DNA is involved in signal
transduction and hence imitation, too.

Does a suggestion that DNA is involved in imitation at the
microbiological level seem reasonable?

If genes are involved in microbiological imitation, what does that say
about memetics?

As usual, I'm arguing for a systemic umbrella for genetics and memetics.
I've argued in the past that genetics and memetics should be
differentiated by the substrate upon which control features are
transcribed. Genetics involves DNA sequences planted in a sugar
substrate. Memetics involves neural tissue. In both cases, we are
interested in signal transduction. General principles regarding signal
transduction provide something of an umbrella.

>> I suspect many will be a bit uncomfortable with extra-cellular genetic
>> triggers. Such a phenomena would diffuse the locus of control and cause
>> a variety of philosophical problems.
>I think I'm lost here. Development is controlled genetically. There
>are differences between the ways that so-called mosaic embryos (eg.
>molluscs, the most extreme case) and regulative embryos (mammals are the
>archetypal example) implement the genetic blueprint. The fact that
>cells signal to each other during development doesn't cause any
>problems for this paradigm.

I'm puzzled by your use of the term 'genetic blueprint.' The notion of
'blueprint' implies the existence of a self contained plan. It's a
Platonic notion and easy to understand. I thought the Darwinian
revolution dismantled this paradigm, though.

Did I miss something?

The 'blueprint' model posits the locus of control within the 'plan.' A
'good' blueprint produces the same object or building regardless the
person reading it, the weather during construction or a host of other
possible confusions. One either follows or ignores the blueprint.
Ignoring the blueprint can lead to stiff legal fines.

I like your ball and groove model for DNA's role better than 'blueprint'.
The B&G model suggests DNA provides a vast array of grooves for
biological processes. Each groove represents a limited locus of control.
There is always the possibility that a process will be bounced out of one
groove and into another.

The ball and groove model suggests chromosomes functionally represent a
catalytic surface rather than a 'blueprint.'

The notion of 'ball and groove' model fits the Darwinian paradigm better
than 'blueprint.' There is no particular plan to the set of grooves.
Reproduction randomly rearranges the grooves for each new generation.
Each groove is catalytic, providing a lower energy path for chemical
processes. The groove set provides for the set of ongoing biological
processes active from the moment of fertilization and the host of
extra-cellular triggers that impinge on the cell during its lifetime.
Natural selection removes the 'less fit' sets of grooves.

The B&G model decentralizes control. It provides for the equivalent of
the 'butterfly effect' at the genetic level. A little change in the
balance of biological processes can produce new outcomes. Obviously,
successful groove sets successfully produce predictable outcomes. The
possibility of new response is not removed, though.

It seems the B&G model would work for memetics, too. It doesn't take a
lot of thought to see how neural tissue could provide a complex set of
process grooves.

This takes us back to the notion of signal transduction, with the added
notion of catalytic surfaces tossed in. This all seems to fit within the
framework proposed by Kauffman.


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