Re: Darwinian/Neo-Darwinian, and codes (was Memes and Things)

Hans-Cees Speel (
Wed, 3 Feb 1999 13:18:15 +0100

From: "Hans-Cees Speel" <>
Date: Wed, 3 Feb 1999 13:18:15 +0100
Subject: Re: Darwinian/Neo-Darwinian, and codes (was Memes and Things)
Message-Id: <>

> >You go too fast for me:-) Darwinian in your words means selection
> >on individual organisms, and neo-darwinian selection on
> >replicators? Else please elaborate becuase then I have definitly lost you
> >here....
> As Darwin originally presented his theory, and in the most general version
> of it as I reconstruct it, selection is selection over variation of types.
> In biology, this might be types of organisms, sure, but it might also be
> types of behaviours, antlers, immune cells or environmental stress
> resistance.
> Neo-Darwinian evolution stresses the relevance of genes as replicators.
> This is fine, but there are exotic cases where this is not relevant, such
> as in epigenetic inheritance (non-nucleotidal inheritance, including,
> arguably, development systems - see the refs below). So, IMO,
> Neo-Darwinian evolution is a special case of Darwinian evolution, the kind
> where there *is* a strict soma-germ sequestration, or, in modern jargon,
> where the genotype and the phenotype are qualitatively distinct.

OK, I agree with this line of thought.

> But when, eg, Dennett says "And since memes are no more multicellular than
> they are sexual, the fact that there is no clear way---no "principled"
> way, as they used to say at MIT--of distinguishing mutations from
> phenotypic acquisitions hardly shows that they are disqualified from a
> neo-Darwinian treatment.(6) Most--much more than 99%-- of the life forms
> on this planet have evolved under just such a regime, and neo-Darwinism
> certainly covers their evolution handily."
> <> he is just plain
> wrong.

OK, that is true.

*Darwinian* evolutiona ccounts for it, but the only way this is
> Neo-Darwinian evolution is to treat it as a limit case where the
> geno-pheno distinction is insensible, and this is, to me, semantic
> salvation only.


I agree that Dennett makes a conclusion that can be attacked with
your line of reasoning. I am just wondering if this neo-difference
between code and matter has any concequenses. Calvin sais it
does not. I tend to agree that this particular difference is not the
most important thing. Althuogh it has caused a lot of confusement.

> The very notion of en/de-coding is subjective.

if you see it that way everything is subjective, and nothing. In other
words I do not agree or do not understand.

When is something a code
> and when not? Well, it depends on how you characterise the physical
> systems concerned, and a lot also on the scale at which you do so. Is the
> expression of a given enzyme from a codon of nucleotides a decoding of
> those nucleotides? Most say yes, but there are other properties of
> nucleotides - such as their structure in water - that we do not call
> decoding but just physical peoperties. When does a codon "stand for" (note
> the semantic nature of that phrasing) something and when not? When we so
> characterise the relationship for heuristic purposes.

isn't everything we say heuristic then?

> The scalar relationship between nucleotides and phenotypic properties is
> such that because some features of organisms, and indeed the organisms
> themselves, are perceptually salient to *us*, and there is some (more
> complex than most think) relationship between those and genes, we consider
> that mapping a codical one. Other properties we do not. --

I do not see the point of this ?



Theories come and go, the frog stays [F. Jacob]
Hans-Cees Speel
Managing Editor "Journal of Memetics Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission" submit papers to

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