Sunday, June 15, 2008

Not Selfish Genes

Bodies are not just instruments for carrying genes around; genes are recipes for making bodies. Bodies are the point. Genes are the tools.

This is the upshot of a fine lecture by Oxford theologian Keith Ward. I have thought something like this as a rebuttal to the "selfish genes" view, but he put it much better. This lecture is available from the Gresham College online service. (For that matter, I highly commend Gresham College, an ancient adult education foundation in London.)


Anonymous said...

He's missing alot of Dawkins' point. I think he's confusing the agents involved, and the nature of genes' selfishness.

I think what Dawkins means is this: that it's in our genes' self-interest to make the varieties of human behavior we see in the population as a whole - including both selfishness and altruism. Of course, the gene has no willpower, but it does get more of itself made. That's why he calls it a selfish gene - it doesn't have will, but it does have self-interest (including, ironically, to have altruistic behaviors...).

Our freedom of choice is rather more qualified than he seems to think. How many are so good resisting showing off in front of the other sex, or at resisting peer pressure to contribute to a good cause?


D-rew said...

Anon is right,

Selfish gene theory just says genes are the unit of selection, it doesn't say anything about "point".