Kevin Aylward B.Sc.
General evolution or General Replicator Theory is a deductive theory. That is, it starts with a few global principles and applies them to all arguments. It considers that the fundamental axioms of evolution, that is, random variation, selection and replication, are all that is required to explain core behavior of all of sociobiology. The theory accounts, in a general manner, for both gene and meme driven factors in human behavior in a consistent and coherent manner. Of course, in reality, the actual details are so complex and intertwined that questions such as "is it right to murder", still cannot be answered. However, the approach here explains why this type of question can not be answered, and clarifies the issues involved.
There Is No Magic
This author finds it somewhat disconcerting that there is some general resistance to the general concept that culture is an evolutionary process, subject to Darwinian axioms. One needs to step back a bit, and look at the big picture. Other than random generation, selection and replication, what other process can actually be suggested as an alternative?
Certainly, excluding magic, our conscience can only be a result of random process acting on mass-energy, so fundamentally, even conscience processes must, essentially, be resolved to mechanical procedures, as indeed it can be.
The theory has its roots back to the original introduction of memes by Richard Dawkins.
Richard Dawkins introduced the meme as something that exists in its own right as something that can replicate itself. A basic issue here, is that it is obviously false. Memes are only ultimately perceived in the human brain, and can only be copied by a real physical device. The root of this was the rather (unfortunate) fact that DNA replicates itself, which necessarily replicates it genes. The distinction between a Replicator, that which Replicates entities, with its Replicant, that entity which is actually replicated, was never clearly made because of this, which resulted in a somewhat vague applications of the basic concepts. By recognizing that a general Replicator could be simultaneously something that replicates its traits by replicating itself, and something that replicates some traits without replicating itself, eliminated much of this confusion. The principle idea being that it is traits that get selected for in evolution, not the Replicator itself. The special nature of biological evolution obscured this distinction, because, in that special instance, they were effectively, one and the same. Again, for emphases, these papers refer to the word "Replicator" as the real physical machine that replicates Replicants. Dawkins 'replicator' is referred here as a Replicant, that is, as a passive entity that gets copied.
This view may be better illustrated by the following.
1 Put DNA in a culture dish. Can it replicate itself or its genes?
2 Put a phrase in a dish. Can it replicate itself?
General Replicator Theory, is not a new theory, in the sense that the basic ideas are not particular novel. Indeed it is essentially just the immediate logical extension to existing approaches. At its heart, it simple says that there is a human Replicator that replicates itself generically, as is the usual state of affairs in standard evolution theory, and that this human Replicator also replicates its meme traits that are stored in the human brain/body, also subject to a Darwinian process. That is, it copies traits from the environment by words, touch, sounds and pictures, and other human Replicators copy back those traits. It is known that we store store information in some sort of random access memory function of the brain. It is also known that such information effects how we behave. What General Replicator Theory achieves, is a solid formulation of standard evolutionary genetics, in conjunction with evolutionary memetics with clear and precise definitions and axioms.
It is noted therefore, that it is traits that get selected for in evolution, not the Replicator itself. The special nature of biological evolution obscured this distinction, because, in that special instance, they were effectively, one and the same.
There is significant experimental support for General Replicator Theory:
1 The axioms are already universally accepted for the evolution of biology.
2 The Darwinian Machine method is already used extensively by many researchers using such GA (genetic algorithm) methods for a variety of computer and robotic control systems. These methods are based directly on the perceived understanding of how the brain actually works.
3 It is known that information from the environment, i.e. memes stored in the brain, effect our behavior.
Thus, it is already well accepted that variation, copy and selection of genes drive biology, and variation, copy and selection of memes (data) drive GA computers and brains, and that environmental memes effect our behavior.
So, none of the basis of this theory can, realistically, be disputed by any that already accept biological evolution.
What's "new" then?
1 Replicators can replicate traits independently of replicating themselves.
2 Identification that memes never and cannot copy themselves, the human brain does the copying.
3 Selection is selection of traits not selection of Replicators.
4 Definition of "morals".
5 Definition of emotions.
6 Identification that all emotions are fundamentally selfish, and are for the purpose of maximizing Replicator numbers.
7 Identification that there are selfish morals that are for the purpose of maximizing Replicator numbers.
8 Identification that morals instruct emotions and emotions instruct behavior.
9 Proof that the "hard problem" of consciousness is intrinsically unsolvable.
10 Putting it all together.
Definitions of Morals and Emotions
"Surely, no one can mathematically define morals and emotions", is a typical immediate response to the ideas presented here on first reading. This might will be the most controversial aspect of these papers. However, in this authors opinion, if a one steps back a little, examines the flow and what is actual being stated, rather than forcing in any preconceived ideas, it will become clear exactly what the logic is. As with all new ideas, they take time to assimilate.
The mathematical definition of what an emotion and a moral is, in no way infers how this definition "should" be used in human life. However, the definitions, and the observation that real emotions and moral codes, can indeed satisfy such definitions, can be very useful. Unfortunately, they may also have a certain shock or disbelief value to those that have a more emotional response to what they think emotions are. It will be hard for many to accept that all emotions, are fundamentally selfish. That is, they act in the ultimate interests of oneself, or rather ones genetic code. It is the only way it can be, if biological evolution is correct.
It is this authors opinion, that the failure to make mathematical definitions of morals and emotions may have been a significant road block to further work in many areas, including psychology and artificial intelligence. In addition much meme research has failed to appreciate that a real physical device, i.e. the human brain, is where memes are ultimately contained an acted upon.
Although much of these papers are considered the original work of this author, clearly some of the ideas have been around for some time. The basic axioms chosen here have existed since Darwin originally proposed his theory of evolution. However, in this authors view, these fundamental axioms were not identified with the full vigor that is being presented here. That is, as fundamental principles regarding all of human behavior, rather than just biological behavior. That is, it is not genes or memes that are key, but rather the general principle of Replicators that is a basic underpinning of the mechanisms of the universe. The point here, is that a deductive approach from fundamental principles, rather than an inductive approach is, arguably, far more useful.
It should also be recognized that that memes are identically equivalent to nurture and genes are identically equivalent to nature.
It is also noted that, although this author independently, formulated the basic axioms as the key axioms to explain human behavior, and has posted such ideas to public news groups for several years, it was subsequently noted that Dennett1 (1995), has also identified such same axioms as the key ones for evolution.
Credit is also given to 2Susan Blackmore's website, for stressing the importance of memes to human behavior. It allowed the author to rationalize and clarifier some of the ideas that were meming around his own Replicator for several years.
1Dennett,D. (1995) Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, London, Penguin
2Dr. Susan Blackmore, "The Meme Machine", http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/.
These papers may be freely copied only for non commercial use,
provided full credit is given to the author.
© Kevin Aylward 2003 - all rights reserved