Sunday, 10 October 2010

Can a gene copy itself? Problems with identity.

Can a gene copy itself?

A gene can build another like it, but there is no possibility of it surviving in its copy - a gene can't copy itself simply because identity is not copyable. Two things do not share the same identity simply because they are built the same. For example, if I made a "copy" of myself would I survive if I die and the copy lives?

The idea that "a gene copies itself" is an idea that models identity ("itself") on the model of a strange sort of physical object. It's as if identity itself were a physical object that could be duplicated like physical objects, but unlike physical duplication where two objects the same are still two objects, the duplication of the identity object remains unique as one object.

Now, the fact that X can be duplicated, and the identity of X can be duplicated yet still remain one, seems to break the association of the physical and the mental. It describes a set-up we have no knowledge of. In other words the idea that a "gene can copy itself" isn't a description of either physical reality or mental (identity) reality.

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