Reshared post from Betsy McCall

I wrote this in the comment of the original thread below. I have no idea if I'm right, but I thought I'm going to save it for posterity (vanity) anyway. For what it's worth, nothing like this is mentioned in the linked article in Nature.

If the biological analog of quantum theory is the theory of evolution, then the biological analog of the Higgs boson is the neural correlate of the meme.

The theory of evolution is highly explanatory, and predicts a wide range of observed phenomena. It doesn't give you a set of linear equations, but it does describe a set of complex dynamics that allows for a detailed study of the very mechanisms of life.

Like the standard model, some of these mechanisms are well studied and understood. The biological equivalent of the electrons are the genes: the most familiar and well understood mechanisms predicted by the theory. At the moment, we understand electrons far better than we understand genes– that is, we can do more with them. But the last few decades have seen incredible advances in genetic engineering, and we are only becoming more confident in our grasp.

The theory of evolution also has natural and obvious applications in the areas of psychology and sociology, but applying the theory in these areas is like walking through a minefield, and there are few places where we can do so with any confidence. The lack of confidence about the specifics, however, betrays a much deeper confidence in the generalities: the same biological models that explain the organization of other biological systems should likewise explain the organization of both brains and networks of brains. Both phenomena are pervasive biological phenomena, but we lack the mechanism, the "fundamental particle", to unify their treatment with the genetic models we've been developing.

To put it simply, we can explain the spread of a virus. We understand the way it spreads at a very high degree of mechanical resolution. And we can tell, from simple observation, that the dynamics of viruses spreading looks a lot like the way memes spread online, or ideas spread in the wild. We know the kind of thing it should be and where to look for it, but we don't know what it will look like when we find it.

And when we find it, it will give us some fundamental insight into the whole model.

Betsy McCall originally shared this post:

Does this question even make sense?

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