Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The Selfish Gene
- some notes
I have finally (after several recommendations of friends over the years) read The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. Some of my immediate thoughts: I enjoyed his discussion of the importance of the gene through a dissection and diminution of the human being.
I will, no doubt have to read it again to understand all the nuances of the work. Some of Dawkins' metaphors, while mellifluous, are potentially problematical, e.g. "We are machines created by our genes." They roll off the tongue well, and I will no doubt use them in conversation but I am still trying to understand the subtleties of his scientific utterances. I have not yet wrapped my mind around a “purpose-intent” set of genes. The answer is probably hiding there the cloud of new ideas and I missed it, but they have lasted for more than a quarter century and Dawkins has established the concept of "meme" which has become ubiquitous. The book was fun, educational, and thought-provoking to read. I hope my genes will allow me to learn more about this area of science.
Also, I wonder why the idea of selfishness, whether it exists as a gene, or as a learned philosophy is not given a fair shake as a possible remedy for some agreed upon social ills. Is it not possible that Ayn Rand had it right in her concept of selfishness as a virtue?
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. Oxford University Press, New York. 1999 (1976)