Re: memetics-digest V1 #137

Chris Pierce (
Fri, 29 Jan 1999 09:42:59 -0700

Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 09:42:59 -0700
From: Chris Pierce <>
Subject: Re: memetics-digest V1 #137 wrote:
> Dear Alex and Bruce,
> If you ask me as a biologist: a virus can't replicate itself. It depends on the cellular machinery of a host to be replicated. So do
> plasmids, and so do behaviours, ideas, fashions. Although from an informational point of view, I since a few years do not consider the latter
> as memes (the analogs of genes).
> Mario Vaneechoutte.

Mario is correct. No DNA is self-replicating, though they are part of
autocatalytic sets of reations that result in sustained replication. Is
this any different than the replication of ideas, behaviors, and
artifacts? I think a case can be made that these memes are also parts of
autocatalytic reactions involving people rather than enzymes as Mario
suggests. Consequently, the self-replication issue may be a red herring.
I also think a similar argument can be made for the significance of the
genotype-phenotype distinction, which is important in biology, but may
not be for culture. I find it very difficult to think about evolutionary
theory in the abstract, removed from its biological roots, but this is
what we must do if we want to advance a Darwinian theory of cultural
evolution. I am about to complete the first draft of a paper addressing
some of these issues, and hope to have it available on the web soon. I
will let you know when it is up.


Christopher Pierce
Southwest Dataworks
212 Spruce Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501

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