Selfish Gene: genes and genes alone are the unit that natural selection acts on. They are the best candidates for evolution’s unit of replication.
A consequence of this: “the genes that are passed on are those whose consequences serve their own interests at gene level - that is, to continue being replicated - and do not necessarily serve the interests of the organism at a larger level, or at the level of groups of organisms.” New Scientist
“The Extended Phenotype develops this idea, arguing that in their drive for survival and replication, genes extend their influence beyond the appearance, or phenotype, of an individual and into the world where it also affects their chance of survival. Think of the beaver’s dam or spider’s web.”
“Heredity. If you only read Dawkins, you might think that the case has long been closed on how it works. In fact, there are competing perspectives stretching back over 150 years. Darwin himself was a pluralist and proposed a theory of heredity that allowed not only for the inheritance of latent characteristics but also for the environment to play a role in it. According to Darwin and many who followed, the environment could even have an impact on the germ cells: in other words, the gene line is not necessarily “immortal”.”
This is not Lamarckian - i.e. “the environment could even have an impact on the germ cells” means the impact of their expression not altering the germs cells themselves.
“Building on the legacy of work by researchers such as Conrad Waddington or Barbara McClintock, increasing numbers of biologists find it hard to doubt the environment has a powerful impact on gene expression during an organism’s lifetime.”
But gene expression is not same as gene mutation.
“The public’s largely Dawkinsian view will be further challenged by research now emerging that may point to this kind of environmental influence being passed on to offspring epigenetically. Researchers have known for some time about transgenerational epigenetic effects in plants and fungi, and it is becoming clear that they might occur in animals too.”
But epigenetics only affects the phenotype not the genotype.
There is also Lateral Genetic Transer (LGT) but this doesn’t destroy the idea of a selfish gene.
Problem with memes is supposedly finding the: unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation
- this is not a problem the unit is made of ‘bits’ and mutations are at the bit level (are they, what about a game of telephone) mutations are a level of entire memes. Actually although telephone might look like multi bit mutations it isn’t - e.g. change from fish to dish might be a 1 bit transcription error, but fish to his over audio is a one syllable single bit mutation, even if it is multi bit when transcribed. In other words the size of the mutation depends on the medium in which the message sits. It may be that what looks like a massive change may be because a feature encoding 1 bit of meaning in the brain might transcribe to many pages when written down (that one bit might be so loaded because of the sum history for previous messages). e.g. what’s the secret of the universe may be a single number for someone with vast experience.