Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

The Selfish Gene, dying, yet lives?


We figure Dawkins’ selfish gene will die after its proponents retire. Look, even New Scientist was last spotted quietly getting off the boat. It doesn’t get worse than that.

Oh wait … from a puff piece in Nature:

Matt Ridley reassesses Richard Dawkins’s pivotal reframing of evolution, 40 years on.

Books about science tend to fall into two categories: those that explain it to lay people in the hope of cultivating a wide readership, and those that try to persuade fellow scientists to support a new theory, usually with equations. Books that achieve both — changing science and reaching the public — are rare. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) was one. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is another. From the moment of its publication 40 years ago, it has been a sparkling best-seller and a scientific game-changer.

The gene-centred view of evolution that Dawkins championed and crystallized is now central both to evolutionary theorizing and to lay commentaries on natural history such as wildlife documentaries. A bird or a bee risks its life and health to bring its offspring into the world not to help itself, and certainly not to help its species — the prevailing, lazy thinking of the 1960s, even among luminaries of evolution such as Julian Huxley and Konrad Lorenz — but (unconsciously) so that its genes go on. Genes that cause birds and bees to breed survive at the expense of other genes. No other explanation makes sense, although some insist that there are other ways to tell the story (see K. Laland et al. Nature 514, 161–164; 2014). More.

There are indeed other ways to tell the evolution story, including ways that offer much less naturalist philosophy and much more evidence from nature.

See, for example, Evolution vs common descent, universal common descent (Confusion among terms can turn productive discussions into shouting matches. Here are some conversation pointers that I have found helpful.)

Let’s see what happens with the upcoming rethink evolution conference.

But hey, the selfish gene gave the world evolutionary psychology. Such nonsense, so easy to toss off. Gotta hand it to Dawkins…

See also:

The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote — and shop, and tip at restaurants

People who think the Selfish Gene should die just don’t understand. Also, Dawkins: Mere adversarial journalism

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