Re: Dawkins' Mutation Test for Replicators

Chris Lofting (
Sat, 28 Aug 1999 17:00:18 +1000

From: "Chris Lofting" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: Dawkins' Mutation Test for Replicators
Date: Sat, 28 Aug 1999 17:00:18 +1000

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Spight <>
To: <>
Date: Saturday, 28 August 1999 5:30
Subject: Re: Dawkins' Mutation Test for Replicators

>Dear James,
>> Here is my understanding of the test:
>> ** The mutation test: In order for something to be a true replicator, it
>> must pass on its mutations to its descendant copies. **
>* * *
>> Dawkins uses the test to attack the claims that organisms and species are
>> replicators. Then comes his notorious 'clarification' that memes are
>> of information residing in brains'. Presumably, Dawkins changed his
>> definition because the meme is a replicator, and he used the mutation
>> to determine that cultural artefacts and behaviors are not true
>Beg pardon, but cultural artifacts and behaviors pass the mutation test
with flying colors. Examples abound, because that is part of what we mean by
>Dawkins, quoted by James:
>> << [With regard to Bateson's claim that 'the bird is the nest's way of
>> making another nest'.] A nest is not a true replicator because a
>> [non-genetic] 'mutation' which occurs in the construction of a nest, for
>> example the accidental incorporation of a pine needle instead of the
>> grass, is not perpetuated in future 'generations of nests'.
>> >>
>A major reason we do not consider nest making by most (if not all) bird
species to be cultural is that variations are *not* passed on. By contrast,
we do consider the washing of food in the ocean by Japanese rhesus monkeys
to be cultural is that that behavior is learned and passed on, and arose
from the variation of feeding behavior by one individual female.

you left out the bit about the monkeys on nearby islands 'suddenly' adopting
the same behaviour without any perceived contact with the original group.

This gets us into the possible manifestation of quantum mechanics concepts
at the macro level where the correlation between the groups of monkeys comes
from their genetic links and so the same type of influence as we see in the
Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox where particles that have some form of
correlation always influence each other regardless of distance. This
correlation emphasises some form of 'purity' and we seem to see this at work
in identical twins; either that or the method of analysis we use has this
correlation 'trait' as a property and so we are confusing properties of the
method with properties of the things under analysis.

If this 'connectivity' IS a property of reality then it does go towards
becoming a model for the 'sudden' evolution, as well as extinction, of



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