Friday, 20 December 2013

Against phenogenotypes

The term "phenogenotype" has been proposed to refer to a mixture of cultural and genetic traits - originally by Marc Feldman, I think.

Robert Aunger was critical of this concept - saying that such combinations tended to be transitory.

Herbert Gintis once wrote:

He shows that culture cannot be identified with phenotype or behavior. It follows that we must drop the term 'geno-phenotype'. In its place we can use the term 'geno-memotype.'

I don't like the term "phenogenotype". It's a confusing mixture of two different kinds of thing. Phenotypes include genotypes - so a "phenogenotype" would be just a phenotype. Instead, "phenogenotype" is used to refer to combinations of traits - or to combinations of genes.

In practice, "phenogenotype" is generally used to mean something close to a "geno-memotype". This name is better - but the concept is rarely needed, since memes and genes typically have different inheritance paths, and lumping them together in this way confusingly suggests that they are closely associated.

The proposed concept of a "phenogenotype is on my mind today because I read A Cooperative Species" recently - and the authors use this terminology.

I notice that Marcus Feldman was still teaching the "phenogenotype" terminology in 2014 here.

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