Sidharth Vardhan's Reviews > The Selfish Gene

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
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really liked it
bookshelves: africa, non-fiction

“ There are more possible games of chess than there are atoms in the galaxy.”

Sometimes science books can become unintentionally funny:

“What is the good of sex? This is an extremely difficult question for the evolutionist to answer. Most serious attempts to answer it involve sophisticated mathematical reasoning.”



Okay!

One of stupidest criticism here on Goodreads of Adam Smith’s Theory of Wealth of Nations’ was that he made the human selfishness as basis of his theory. It was stupid as Smith didn’t invented that ‘selfishness’ he merely showed us how our economy was already based on selfishness of individuals.

It is same here. In fact, in this case ‘selfishness’ is apparent selfish behaviour of genes (‘apparent’ because genes do not make conscious choices, selfless-by-default ones just won’t survive) and any effects on the individuals are unconscious. Dawkins shows how selfishness of genes can actually bring out what, at first, may look like altruistic behaviour among animals.

Also, we need not be slave to our genes. In fact, we do resist behaviour imposed on us by genes. The best examples are people who remain without children all their life, contraceptives, welfare state etc.

“Contraception is sometimes attacked as 'unnatural'. So it is, very unnatural. The trouble is, so is the welfare state. I think that most of us believe the welfare state is highly desirable. But you cannot have an unnatural welfare state, unless you also have unnatural birth- control, otherwise the end result will be misery even greater than that which obtains in nature.”

There are theories in here describing how first life must have started on planet. There is also a theory (theory, not law) that tries to explain why should people die of old age. Any explanations are better than 'God did it'. One of my favorite parts were those discussing Game theory involved in biology.

Above all, there are all those fascinating aspects how some animals behave. There are some insects who can be like Chinese-boxes:

Female greenflies can bear live, fatherless, female offspring, each one containing all the genes of its mother. (Incidentally, an embryo in her mother's 'womb' may have an even smaller embryo inside her own womb. So a greenfly female may give birth to a daughter and a grand- daughter simultaneously, both of them being equivalent to her own identical twins.)

And...do you remember that romantic dialogue, 'I'll die for you'? Ladies among matinses take it too literally:

“Mantises … When they mate, the male cautiously creeps up on the female, mounts her, and copulates. If the female gets th e chance, she will eat him, beginning by biting his head off, either as the male is approaching, or immediately after he mounts, or after they separate.”

Isn’t that lovely?

Than there are the friendly fights (mostly to get girls):

"the notable thing about animal fights is that they are formal tournaments, played according to rules like those of boxing or fencing. Animals fight with gloved fists and blunted foils. Threat and bluff take the place of deadly earnest. Gestures of surrender are recognized by victors, who then refrain from dealing the killing blow or bite that our naive theory might predict.”

Dawkins also points out how most of Darwin’s oringal theory was wrong. Yet, you won’t find any Darwin-fundamentalists fighting against evolutionists. Several of Dawkins' own postulates must have been already proved wrong - it was written 40 years ago, that is like stone age to scientists. I don't think he would mind either.

Creationists, well, they are a different breed. I guess given the condition the world is in, with all those stupid wars and ozone holes; any ideas of intelligent design can be easily trashed. And have you ever heard of that *stops to search for a word*thing called 'Donald Trump' - what is so intelligent about his existence? If I had my way, I would also have humanity consider whether we aren’t too liberal with the word when we call ourselves an 'intelligent' race. And even assuming there was a creator -than what about his/her aesthetic sense? Why should he give us bad body order? What is so intelligent about that?

Coming back to creationists, well, I think Christian church was a little stupid (no offence) when it picked a head-on fight against evolutionists. All they needed to do was to manipulate the meaning of phrases in Bible and tell the world that evolution was embodied in Bible, it was just that they weren't interpreting it right. Hinduism and Islam are far cleverer in this regard.

For example, as India’s respected prime minister will tell you Hindu gods had already invented plastic surgeries long before lesser mortals discovered Iron. Atom bombs, flying vehicles etc – you name it, we already had them ages ago. Read this review for more details. Whatever you may do, we did it in ancient times and were clever enough to forget about it.

Also, one of most popular (pseudo) scholars on religion, Dr. Zakir Naik, tells us that truths like Big bang, evolution, Copernican solar system, existence of plasma state of matter, the growth of embryo etc. were all already explained by none other than God himself in Quran. There are many other scientific truths to be found in Quran that he has found using his far-fetched sophisticated reasoning, you can listen to him here
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message 1: by Lizzy (new)

Lizzy What an amazing and witty review, Sidharth! Loved it. Not sure I need to read the book after your after it all. L.


message 2: by Lizzy (new)

Lizzy One more thing: I totally agree with you on how foolish all religions are in not buying into science's evolution, making them their own!


Sidharth Vardhan Thanks Lizzy. I actually love mythological tales - especially some of those coming early in Old Testament (the creation, first sin, first murder, Tower of Babel) because they are amazing attempts by humanity to understand their world, when they didn't have sciencxe in their hands. In Plato's Symposium, those old people seemed to be using myths with same purpose. I think the representatives of religion actually do a big disservice to their traditions, when they are constantly trying to make them truth.


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