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“Die, Selfish Gene … “ science writer just “doesn’t understand” genetic evolution – Harvard psychologist

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Further to “Selfish gene now coming under fire again,” David Dobbs, the original author, recounts at Aeon ,

In ‘Die, Selfish Gene, Die’, I argued that Richard Dawkins’s ‘selfish-gene’ model of evolution threatens to blind us to richer emerging views of genetics and evolution. The essay generated responses ranging from enthusiastic agreement to objections both civil and savage. I naturally drew pleasure from the excited agreement, which came from both laypeople and scientists. And I was truly heartened by the constructive criticism from scientists and others who took issue with the idea of retiring the selfish-gene meme. Their challenge expanded my thinking, helped me to improve the essay in a revised form, and, best of all, spurred a wide-ranging, open-minded discussion full of mutual inquiry, reconsideration, and great humour.

Alas, a more vitriolic line of objection also arose. I first ran into it in the form of a tweet from the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, describing me as ‘another confused journalist who hates genetic evolution but doesn’t understand it’. I remain puzzled that Pinker concluded I hate genetic evolution, whose wonders and riddles I have written about for several years.

It soon became apparent that some people are willing to defend the selfish gene idea as if guarding a holy kingdom. The rhetoric was astounding. More.

Hey, Dobbs, it’s not quantum theory: If you don’t understand Darwinism, your brain did not evolve so as to understand it.

And if you doubt, you don’t understand.

One real outcome of discussion is to sort out the true followers of Darwin from the people who just thought it was a good idea. The latter are starting to see the problems, the former not so much.

See also:

“Selfish gene” now coming under fire again

Is “macroevolution” even a meaningful term? It’s time to ask.)

A world-famous chemist tells the truth: there’s no scientist alive today who understands macroevolution (by the way, this post did pass 150,000 hits last night)

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6 Replies to ““Die, Selfish Gene … “ science writer just “doesn’t understand” genetic evolution – Harvard psychologist

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    Just a minor observation (note the bold text below):

    Hey, Dobbs, it’s not quantum theory: If you don’t understand Darwinism, you brain did not evolve so as to understand it.

    Did you mean ‘your’?

  2. 2
    News says:

    Thanks, fixed. – d.

  3. 3
    Dionisio says:

    By the way, as far as I’m aware of, the brain does evolve from a zygote after conception 😉
    Still trying to figure out how in the world this wonderful evolution from zygote to fully* functional brain (a.k.a. development) appeared. I mean the actual development process. How did we end up with this development process? What kind of development process preceded the current one? How did that process evolve? That process seems to include -among other things- cell fate/migration determination, signaling pathways, epigenetic controls, metabolic pathways, and the whole nine yards along with their cousins.
    Can someone please point me to the literature where all that is accurately described?
    Looking forward with great anticipation to seeing that explanation… but won’t hold my breath.
    (*) not sure my brain is fully functional after being exposed to so much garbage in the past 🙁

  4. 4
    Dionisio says:

    Denise,

    Thank you for posting so many interesting reports and for your writing style, which I enjoy so much.

    As a simple software developer, looking at the high qualifications of the majority of the people who participate in UD discussions, I may not belong in here. So I thank you all for letting me stick around 🙂

    I’m fascinated by the elaborate choreographies seen in molecular systems biology these days. For computer science or electronic engineering professionals, the marvels revealed by biological research labs today are unimaginable.

  5. 5
    Eric Anderson says:

    It soon became apparent that some people are willing to defend the selfish gene idea as if guarding a holy kingdom. The rhetoric was astounding.

    Of course. It was pronounced and foisted upon any unsuspecting dupes who would listen by Dawkins, one of the main materialist prophets of modern times.

    The whole idea of a “selfish gene” is so utterly preposterous, scientifically useless, and logically inane it is remarkable it was ever taken seriously. Yet Dobbs is now finding what a sacred cow it is to the Dawkins disciples.

  6. 6
    Barb says:

    From the OP: “Steven Pinker, describing me as ‘another confused journalist who hates genetic evolution but doesn’t understand it’. I remain puzzled that Pinker concluded I hate genetic evolution, whose wonders and riddles I have written about for several years.”

    Pinker claims you hate genetic evolution because you dared question the holy writ of the high priest Dawkins. That’s all. His viewpoint is no different from the dogmatism of fundamentalists. The irony is amusing, to say the least.

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