Re: facets of meme-talk

t (
Fri, 27 Aug 1999 17:26:48 EDT

From: <>
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 17:26:48 EDT
Subject: Re: facets of meme-talk

In a message dated 8/26/99 8:29:44 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

> This seems a bit confused to me, if you'll pardon my jumping in from
> It reads as though you're trying to be a biologist and a philosopher at the
> same time,

I hope so. For dealing with memetics we need to be concerned with both --
certainly at least until there is some major empirical breakthrough for
memetics that we can base further theorizing on.

>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:

As used in Dawkin's Selfish gene theory, genes are defined in terms of the
evolutionary algorithm, as *the* fundamental replicator in a replicating
population. (as opposed to individuals, groups, or species)

>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.

For more applied and technical biology purposes which are less concerned with
the context evolutionary theory that may be fine and well, but those are not
our purposes. I think Robin's response covers that nicely.


>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
>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
>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
>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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