Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene

Richard Dawkins, 1982

1999 edition w afterword by Daniel Dennett

Extended Phenotypes are extracorporeal genetic adaptations

Phylogenetic development is the evolution of the species, on an evolutionary timescale

Ontologenetic development is the evolution of the individual, on an individual timescale

“Replicators are not of course, selected directly, but by proxy; they are judged by their phenotypic effects. Although for some purpose it is convenient to think of these phenotypic effects as being packaged together in discrete ‘vehicles’ such as individual organisms, this is not fundamentally necessary. Rather, the replicator should be thought of as having extended phenotypic effects, consisting of all its effects on the world at large, not just its effects on the individual body in which it happens to be sitting (p4).”

[In the same way that gravity and electromagnetic forces shaped the paleontological earth, the life-force of evolution has shaped the earth of our current era. Something, for example, has removed all the oil from the ground and burned it into the air, redistributing the molecules of the planet in the same way that a volcano redistributes molten iron from underneath the crust to on top of it.]

-The meme is a non-genetic replicator flourishing only in the environment of complex, communicating brains. –Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 1976

-When the meme is “graven into” the receiving brain, it is in a position to broadcast its phenotypic effects using inter-individual communication and imitation apparatus, i.e. humans (~p109).

-The copying process of memes is much less precise than in genes…there is a mutational element in every [meme-] copying event (p112).

The Hierarchy (according to Dawkins)

-Sub-Atomic Particles – fundamental particles below the atomic level

-Atoms – there are about 100 different kinds; they follow their own rules; they are ignored by chemistry



-Living Matter – macromolecules, intracellular membranes, organelles, cells, tissues, organs, organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems…

-Software – integrated circuits, computers

[and how does this compare to Teilhard deChardin?]

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