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To Hell with my Genes! 
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Post Genes or Organism? Memes conquers Genes.
Sqwark:I have yet to read Rainbows (it's on order) but he certainly employs this type of double back flip liberally in all his other work, reassuring us at the end of River Out of Eden that we can overcome the tyranny of our genes, yet without saying how this might be possible when their pre-eminence is his entire thesis.

Meme Wars: Dawkins has suggested several times in his writings that even though genes have created the environment for the appearance of a new replicator called "memes" or social units of replication, these new replicators seem to be setting themselves free of genes.

An example is celebate priests. It is true that genes are not being passed on by the priest, but what the priest can do that others cannot due to their commitment to spouse and children, is pass on the religious memes into many adult and children brains. In this sense, memes have co-opted genes for its own self replication. It is through the meme-complex called self that we can set ourselves free of genes.

sqwark: NeoDarwinism has dispensed with the organism in favour of the gene, and yet this gene-centricism itself is not treated with proper scientific qualification, so hamstrung is the ideology by its own dogma.

The current research from molecular biology increasingly suggests that Lamarckian processes are at work as a direct response of the organism to its environment, and that neither organisms nor evolution are just a random collection of bits and bytes made intelligible by an all-seeing natural selection (which after all is an abstract term to describe something which has worked - it doesn't actually 'explain' anything).

Meme Wars: Genes in multi-celled organisms must pass through the bottleneck of meiosis, where they are only passed on through sexual recombination. These genes are unalterable at conception, meaning the environment of the individual organism cannot influence or alter the code of its offspring. This is why selection does not operate out of the organism or in group selection. Their program has already been predetermined at conception. Females are already born with about 40,000 immature eggs through meiosis and are not altered through the life of the female. Another surprising fact is that virtually all multi-celled sexual creatures are born with about 40,000 eggs, irrespective of the fact that larger organisms such as man and elephant may ovulate only about 200 to 300 of these eggs in their lifetime. This argues against Creationism or intelligent design and argues for the relatedness of all species that employs sex as a means of propagation.

Memes on the other hand do not depend on Mieosis or sex to spread itself to the next generation. Just as viruses also do not depend on sex for replication. Memes spread by cultural imitation, not sex. Viruses spread by social contact of some kind. On the other hand, the Bacteria mitochondria in each of our cells does not participate in sexual mixing of genes. Yet it is also dependent on the bottleneck of sexual transmission as a channel for replication beyond the organism.

There is no credible scientific evidence for the manipulation of genes in the sex cells by the organism, therefore, genes are the prime element involved in evolution, not the individual or groups of individuals. It is between genes and environment.

Meme Wars
montyquest@aol.com




Mon Jun 30, 2003 1:42 pm
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Post Re: Genes or Organism? Memes conquers Genes.
There seem to be two distinct areas of debate addressed in this thread. First is the alleged undermining of a moral or ethical framework by the Selfish Gene idea. The second is the perennial problem of free will verses genetic determinism.

For what it's worth let me chip in with my views. I'll keep this "bite sized" and only deal with the first argument here.

As I understand it most of us on this forum would not accept the premise that moral values were in some way handed out like sweets, by some omnipotent sweetshop owner. (if you live on the left-hand side of the map substitute candy for sweet). Therefore it follows that morality must have emerged as a kind of by-product of the emergence of the human mind or because we are innately predisposed to understand the concept of morality. As monkeys and apes have codes and conventions to enable to manage their social interactions it seems that what humans have is a natural outgrowth of these kinds of behaviours. This implies that the latter reason seems most likely to be the right one. The selfish gene idea helps us to understand why these behaviours have emerged. As a result of Dawkin's presentation of this idea (which strictly speaking was developed by the great evolutionary biologist William Hamilton) we are better informed, and better able to see how those forces that brought our species into existence act.

Dualism currently seems to be out of fashion



Wed Jul 09, 2003 5:45 pm
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