Re: facets of meme-talk

t (RPrestonic@aol.com)
Thu, 26 Aug 1999 21:21:59 EDT

From: <RPrestonic@aol.com>
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 21:21:59 EDT
Subject: Re: facets of meme-talk
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk

In a message dated 8/26/99 7:58:52 PM, MemeLab@aol.com writes:

>For the purposes of that theory we can no longer have
>the simplicity of saying that genes are just DNA. When plugged in the
>algorithm, "gene" must include BOTH genotype AND its extended phenotype.
>Same with memes.

This seems a bit confused to me, if you'll pardon my jumping in from nowhere.
It reads as though you're trying to be a biologist and a philosopher at the
same time, and getting somewhat tangled up. Whether plugged into a mind's
conception of an evolutionary algorithm or not, a gene in fact IS just DNA:
If you look up the gene for, say, trypsin, at Genbank, you'll get a simple
one-
dimensional DNA sequence (either in its messenger form or in its genomic
form that includes "junk" introns and such, or in its translated, protein
sequence
form). There's nothing about any phenotype in the definition (by sequence)
of any gene. When you include a genotype (a sequence, or set of sequences)
and a phenotype in a single concept, then you're not talking about a gene any
more, but rather you're talking about (an evolved) critter, or a Dawkinsian
"vehicle", or something much more complicated than a plain old biochemical
gene. That's because the notion of a genetic "phenotype" can only be defined
in a relative sense, in reference to a very particular, defined genetic
background.
(Thus, for example, a genotype that would make for blue eye-color has no
phenotype at all when present in a genetic background that does not allow the
iris of the eye to form).

I agree that the concepts of memotype and pheMotype are probably very useful,
but it seems to me that the meaning of "meme" can only get very confused if
all the baggage of pheMotypic variation is included IN the concept of "meme".
I suggest that, in the spirit of Dawkins, genes are indeed naked selfish
bits of
DNA, and memes are naked selfish bits of ......hmmm, stumped, here. Help me
out.
(of course, there's an evolutionary dimension here too, as always in biol.)

R. Preston
Pittsburgh PA

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