Wednesday, 7 May 2014


I've long been sceptical about whether a science of copying could compete against genetics - or even find much of a niche in its presence.

However, I've now changed my mind about its potential viability. In particular, I've previously lamented the lack of a science of copying. Saying that the topic is part of information theory doesn't really cut it.

Since I think naming things is important, one of the things I've looked for is a name for the science of copying - and now I think I've found one: "repology".

Repology is the science of reproduction, replication and copying.

By "copying", I mean what it says in the 2013 article: What are inheritance and copying? Basically, copying involves information in one place spreading to multiple locations. It has two essential elements: Shannon mutual information and causality.

A science of copying isn't the same thing as a science of heredity. In particular, heredity consists of other means for patterns to persist besides copying - including: longevity and resisting modification. However, copying is an important component of heredity.

In terms of the Dawkins trinity (of fidelity, fecundity and longevity), repology is the science of fecundity - whereas heredity involves all three components.

My hope is that the term "repology" will be acceptable to both advocates and opponents of the replicator terminology promoted by Dawkins, Hull and Szathmary.

To dismiss a possible objection immediately, no implication that the reproduction, replication or copying involved are "high fidelity".

Repology does have some advantages over genetics. In particular, it doesn't come with useless historical baggage linking it to nucleic acids, or confining its domain to biology. It is unencumbered by such nonsense.

The most significant criticism of repology seems to me to be the idea that is is essentially the same thing as the science of heredity (i.e. a generalized version of genetics). Yet, fidelity, fecundity and longevity are somewhat different topics - and there are some benefts from a more fine-grained approach.

Repology hasn't seen very much action so far - but I'm hoping that giving the field a name will help a little with that.


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