LIFESCI 3C03 Chapter Notes - Chapter 11: Bsc Young Boys, Chromosome, Cultural Learning

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Ecology Selfish Gene Reading Chapter 11
Memes: The New Replicators
What is the main reason humans are unique from other survival machines?
- Culture
How is cultural transmission analogous to genetic transmission?
- Cultural transmission can give rise to a form of evolution
- Language evolves throughout generations such that an individual from twenty
generations back would likely not be able to easily communicate with a modern
individual
Cultural transmission in saddleback bird songs
- These birds live on islands. On a particular island, a researcher discovered a repertoire
of nine distinct songs.
- Males sang only one or few of the songs and could be classified into dialect groups.
- Song patterns are not inherited genetically. Young males learn songs from their
neighbours, just as humans learn language.
- Invention of a new song occurs when an individual makes a mistake while repeating an
old song – cultural mutation.
What is so special about genes?
- Genes are replicators
- Dawkins believes that all forms of life, whether on Earth or in space, evolve by the
differential survival of replicating entities
Meme
- A unit of cultural transmission
- E.g.: tunes, ideas, catch phrases, fashion, architecture
- Memes propagate by leaping from brain to brain via imitation
- Memes should be regarded as living structures that parasitize minds
- Example: the idea of God as a meme
Propagates by spoken and written word, music, and art
Has survival value (stable and culturally penetrative) because it is psychologically
appealing in explaining existence and justice
How did memes arise?
- Gene-selected evolution, by making brains, provided the soup in which the first memes
arose.
- Once self-copying genes had arisen, their own very fast evolution took off
How do memes replicate?
- Memes replicate by imitation
- Mistakes in imitation result in the creation of new memes, which will be passed along
through the meme-pool.
- Memes with high survival value have longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity
Fecundity is much more important than longevity
A fecund meme will be widely accepted and passed along (e.g. scientific
information that is cited in many journals would be a fecund meme)
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