Rebecca McNutt's Reviews > The Selfish Gene

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
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did not like it
bookshelves: science, non-fiction, religion, psychology

I'm agnostic myself, so I'm impartial, but Dawkins is so cynical, so against the idea that there is more to us as individual human beings than just intelligent apes meant to give birth, grow old and die, that he seems almost, for lack of a better phrase, sociopathic or antisocial. He leaves very little room for the profound depths of emotion, companionship, imagination, nostalgia or anything that goes against his view that we are just materialistic monkeys who won't matter to anyone a hundred years from now. I found him as a narrator of this book to be rather obnoxious and appalling, and I don't think he understands just how unique our minds and meanings to one another really are. I don't think we are divine beings, but I don't think we are just animals, either. I think there's more to the human race than that. I'm not talking about religion, I'm talking about humanity. This book tries to prove a point, but portrays humans as consuming, greedy, sex maniac gorillas who only exist to reproduce. Perhaps that is true in some ways, but not all humans are alike and to generalize them in this manner leaves no room for anything beyond Dawkins' view of logic. I think he's very full of himself, convinced he has all the answers, and the truth is nobody knows everything about the world and the only thing selfish about The Selfish Gene is the author himself, who seems to pride himself on putting down anyone who doesn't share his values.
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Reading Progress

January 7, 2017 – Shelved
January 7, 2017 – Shelved as: science
January 7, 2017 – Shelved as: non-fiction
January 7, 2017 – Shelved as: religion
January 7, 2017 – Shelved as: psychology
Started Reading
January 8, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

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message 1: by G.R. (new)

G.R. Hewitt I like your review and it is very much in keeping with my own thoughts. I have always been of the opinion that the person Richard Dawkins is really trying to convince is himself: "Methinks the lady doth protest too much," comes to mind.


message 2: by Rebecca (last edited Jan 08, 2017 09:03AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Rebecca McNutt GRH wrote: "I like your review and it is very much in keeping with my own thoughts. I have always been of the opinion that the person Richard Dawkins is really trying to convince is himself: "Methinks the lady..."

I agree, and I also think people are starting to see through him a little more these days. I think there's a lot more to humanity that Dawkins is just becoming blind to as well, like history and culture. He just comes across in the book as really angry at the whole world, and he keeps piggybacking off of Charles Darwin's theories instead of contributing a lot of his own stuff. As he gets even older I think he'll realize more and more why people cling to friendship and the past and love and religion. It gives people hope and joy to have these things, and he seems intent on convincing them that it's all for nothing, and I'm not really sure why he's so hell-bent on doing this, but instead of proving anything to anyone, he just seems really p!ssed off at the entire world.


message 3: by G.R. (last edited Jan 15, 2017 05:24AM) (new)

G.R. Hewitt Quite so, you have made some interesting points. I have entertained the thought (and still do) that, perhaps, as he went deeper into his studies of biology he came face-to-face with the Source of all life - God if you like - and this displeased him making him very angry - he does tend to go after people and their beliefs with a rabid ferocity. I have seen many discussions featuring Prof Dawkins and found his argument often ad hominem, which is really no argument. Perhaps you will be right, he may see there is lot more to humanity, but I think he will need to reconcile his anger at the world first; which means reconciling his anger with himself - for that is the source of it. Prof Dawkins, I feel, is a very unhappy man - what turmoil must be within him, how he must torture himself daily. Such vitriol could not come from a happy person. I pity him.


Rebecca McNutt GRH wrote: "Quite so, you have made some interesting points. I have entertained the thought (and still do) that, perhaps, as he went deeper into his studies of biology he came face-to-face with the Source of a..."

Apparently he was also a victim of childhood sexual abuse, which, although he claims did not affect him psychologically, might have further made him angry at the world. Most people get angry when they are faced with their own mortality as well. I wonder though, how many spirits has Richard Dawkins broken? People believe in God (Buddha, Jesus, whichever deity they worship) because of the prospect of something existing after death. I agree, he must be quite an unhappy person and he appears to be taking out his anger by debunking various religions and beliefs. One thing I don't understand though is why he is so rude and pushy about it. After all, atheism is about the freedom to not believe. Atheism is not about hatred towards religion, it's just about a doubt in God, but Dawkins uses atheism to push his beliefs on others, which is exactly what atheism is against, belief or disbelief being forced onto others. :-\


message 5: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Strömquist Never read anything by Dawkins, myself, mostly on account of not having to be convinced. I did watch him in a few debates and the likes and I have gotten the impression that he has resorted to the base premises. I'm quite convinced that he has a lot to say about human interaction, art, love, companionship, co-operation and being a decent human being. But others take this discussion and since the foundation of all existence is still questioned, he has decided to stay right there.

Far too many mistake meaning with purpose and you certainly don't need to believe in a deity or think that man is separate from all other species to find meaning with your life. Affecting other people or your environment so that the result is to the better is really all it takes I think. If one person would say that the[ir] world was made better for me being here and remembering me after I'm gone, that's all the meaning I could want. In my opinion, belief in an afterlife could be totally counterproductive in this regard - what does it matter what I do here in 80-90 years at best, when I've got eternity to make up for anything?


Rebecca McNutt Thomas wrote: "Never read anything by Dawkins, myself, mostly on account of not having to be convinced. I did watch him in a few debates and the likes and I have gotten the impression that he has resorted to the ..."

I agree. Personally I think human compassion goes a long way in the world. Making a difference for others, paying it forward, helping to improve another human being's life in even just little ways, that's what we'll be judged by in the end, not by how much or how little we believe in any sort of god. However, if a person finds comfort or hope in god, I see no reason why Dawkins should make fun of them and belittle them for their beliefs. I do think he has a lot to say because from earlier videos I've seen of him he seems like a decent guy just like anybody else, but he seems to be in a rut, so focused on atheism that he's missing the opportunity to share other things with other people. Instead of being so pushy and pretentious, I wish he would say, "okay, I don't believe in god, you do, let's just agree to disagree and move on", because he's undoubtedly an intelligent man and I think you're right, he probably has a lot to say about humanity, not just religion but what it means to be a good person in the world. So many people these days feel entitled to everything the world has, so we have war, viruses and diseases, pollution, a loss of resources, an addiction to technology, a loss of real social interaction, homelessness - so as human beings it should be our duty to not contribute to this consumerism way of life. I mean, we still have racism and homophobia going on in this day and age despite it being 2017. America has elected Donald Trump for president, a man who has stated: "I can do anything I want to women because I'm “a star” — including grabbing them “by the p*ssy.” There are so many problems and so much corruption in the world, so being a good person is what makes a difference in the end.


message 7: by sore (new) - rated it 1 star

sore ice I am at 60% of the book and I already felt after chapter 2, the writer is so convinced of scientific observations but most of the human factors you've listed are what makes us the way we are. The writer keeps on comparing us to a limited number of analogies and he kept on avoiding details that that might lead him to discredit himself. So far I am not impressed by the book's contents and how he arrives at his conclusions


Rebecca McNutt sore wrote: "I am at 60% of the book and I already felt after chapter 2, the writer is so convinced of scientific observations but most of the human factors you've listed are what makes us the way we are. The w..."

I wasn't impressed either; obviously the author is intelligent but when it comes to scientific observation, to just generalize all humans as the same seems quite careless. :\


Amun (Mohamed Elbadwihi) "portrays humans as consuming, greedy, sex maniac gorillas" - Nothing of the sort in The Selfish Gene. Did we read the same book? I actually thought it was rather optimistic, and enlightening.


message 10: by Ron (new)

Ron "portrays humans as consuming, greedy, sex maniac gorillas"

We are animals.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primate
Family: Hominid
Sub Family: Hominidae
Genus: Homo
Species: Sapien

And there is no question that we are greedy, especially here in Murica. But I think the bonobos have us beat out in the "sex maniac" department.

Other than that, based on your review I don't think we read the same book.


Rebecca McNutt Ron wrote: ""portrays humans as consuming, greedy, sex maniac gorillas"

We are animals.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primate
Family: Hominid
Sub Family: Hominidae
Genus: Homo
Sp..."


I'm not denying that fact, but the author was so cynical and intolerant that his writing just personally came across to me as obnoxious. He addresses the worst of humanity often, and hardly acknowledges any of the beauty or compassion that the human race displays. I have a problem with his smug, pessimistic attitude, not the statement that humans are animals.


message 12: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura "... Dawkins is so cynical, so against the idea that there is more to us as individual human beings than just "intelligent apes meant to give birth, grow old and die", that he seems almost, for lack of a better phrase, sociopathic or antisocial."

Why, though?
I mean:

"...his view that we are just materialistic monkeys who won't matter to anyone a hundred years from now."

We really won't matter to anyone in a hundred years from now. Give it two hundred years. Give it three hundred years. In five hundred years, no one will ever think of us again. I find it saddening that humans often find themselves more important than they actually are. You're right, humans have deep emotions, social interactions and relationships. But at the end of the day, you are flesh and bone. I don't understand why you find this cynical? I'm not annoyed here, just curious. I personally find it quite freeing. You're just one in 7 billion humans. Our planet is nothing compared to the immensity of just our galaxy, itself nothing compared to other, larger galaxies, which are nothing compared to the vastness of the universe. But the point is you've got this one shot at a life. Why not make the most of it, while still understanding that at the end of the day, you are just another animal? A very developed, intelligent animal, of course. But still just an animal.

"I don't think we are divine beings, but I don't think we are just animals, either. I think there's more to the human race than that. I'm not talking about religion, I'm talking about humanity."

It is certainly comforting to think that there's "more" to the human race than "that" (whatever you mean by 'that'- I'm guessing you're saying we're more than just "materialistic monkeys"). But just because something is comforting, that doesn't make it true.


message 13: by Rebecca (last edited Mar 14, 2018 11:11PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Rebecca McNutt Laura wrote: "I find it saddening that humans often find themselves more important than they actually are."

I find it saddening that you would be so painfully callous and nihilistic about the value of human life. I guess I simply prefer to think that our brief shot at love, friendship and joy is more meaningful than the vast nothingness that your philosophy suggests. I've seen people die in horrible ways better not talked about, and my first reaction was to disregard that life, but then it got me thinking. These people were once alive, and somebody cared enough about them in this world to help them become beloved citizens of our society. They were young, they were happy, they were loved, and their lives were taken as pure collateral damage as though they were just means to an end, but they had loved ones out there. They had children who would grow up impacted by their deaths. Their deaths would change so many things. Their deaths impacted my life and will continue to for as long as I live, even though they were total strangers to me. I care a lot about life and see it as valuable. Otherwise I would just give up on life and crawl into my parents' basement to play video games and get old and eventually die, but I see a lot of value in what we accomplish as a whole and what we mean to the other people around us. I adore Hamlet for instance. How long ago did good ol' Shakespeare die, and has he been forgotten? Maybe someday he will be, but meanwhile his writing has defined literature and helped shaped culture for centuries (and probably more centuries to come). We've discovered crude drawings by cavemen and still continue to marvel thousands of years later at the artwork of these early people. We haven't forgotten them even if we don't know them by name. They weren't famous, they weren't brilliant, they, like us, were just people, and though they died off, they left a beautiful and intriguing legacy behind for their distant ancestors. I don't think we'll be forgotten. Some of us perhaps, but definitely not all of us. Maybe I have an inflated sense of the importance to each individual, but I'd hardly say anybody is insignificant. If we truly were, than there would simply be no purpose to exist and we would all be right in simply giving up, or becoming bitter old men like Dawkins has become.


message 14: by Luke (new)

Luke Taylor Santosh Kalwar said, “We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking.”

Albert Camus said, “Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.”

By these definitions, Dawkins logic is the most selfish thing about the book, and is not only poisonous, but quite frankly, just plain ignorant. I am so sorry you spent your valuable time having to read this, but it is always interesting to see someone else's perspective, even if it only helps you to reinforce your own, or stirs up your passion about all the things in life you care about. :)


Rebecca McNutt Luke wrote: "Santosh Kalwar said, “We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking.”

Albert Camus said, “Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.”

B..."


I absolutely agree. I wish I hadn't read this book but I'm glad to have heard a new perspective from him though I definitely don't agree with his mindset. It makes me wonder how someone as intelligent as him could dedicate so much time to pure cynicism and bitterness without having much to say on the intricate beauty and enigma of life, even if he does think life in and of itself is pointless.


message 16: by Luke (last edited Mar 15, 2018 12:02PM) (new)

Luke Taylor Rebecca wrote: "Luke wrote: "Santosh Kalwar said, “We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking.”

Albert Camus said, “Man is the only creature who refuses to be wha..."


I agree. To think and propagate such thoughts amongst your own kind seems anti-human.


Timmy Fenning The fact that you don’t think humans are just animals immediately nullifies your entire review. You are using your own, unsupported biases to rail against a book that was created based on scientific observation.


Rebecca McNutt Timmy wrote: "The fact that you don’t think humans are just animals immediately nullifies your entire review. You are using your own, unsupported biases to rail against a book that was created based on scientifi..."

Okay...? I'm not sure how disagreeing with a book's "scientific" observation (there was more b!tching and rambling than science coming from Dawkins in there) nullifies my review, but if that opinion makes you happy, sure. The human race has created amazing things, from the internet to our most famous artwork to buildings that have lasted for centuries. That can't be disputed by science, religion or anything else. When a dog or a monkey constructs the Great Pyramids or hits it big on the New York Stock Exchange, then maybe we'll be just like all the other species out there, but at the present time I think we're more than just animals. It doesn't mean humans aren't animals at all, but there's more to them than that, and no, I don't mean in a theistic sense.


message 19: by Leo (new)

Leo . I like your review Rebecca. I am a bit biased though as I think Dawkins is a bit of a prat. 🐯👍


Rebecca McNutt Leo wrote: "I like your review Rebecca. I am a bit biased though as I think Dawkins is a bit of a prat. 🐯👍"

thank you :)


message 21: by Leo (new)

Leo . You are welcome. 🐯👍


message 22: by Leo (new)

Leo . All science is theory, all history is his story, one thing is true though...we are not monkeys. If we came from apes...why are there still apes? Did the apes suddenly stop evolving? Oh! And what is religion? Re-legion or the rise of the Holy Roman Empire from the dark ages. With all the knowledge that is as hidden...who knows? 🐯👍


Rebecca McNutt Leo wrote: "All science is theory, all history is his story, one thing is true though...we are not monkeys. If we came from apes...why are there still apes? Did the apes suddenly stop evolving? Oh! And what is..."

I think there's too much mystery in life, so much so that no human being can ever comprehend it no matter how intellectual or intelligent they are, Dawkins included. All we can do is make the best of life in the time we have. I see no purpose to Dawkin's notion that life is a vast nothingness, and if the whole world prescribed to his science-veiled dogma we'd all be depressed and bored and bitter forever. Whether someone believes in religion or focuses on science or isn't sure which side of the fence they fall on, it's better to try to help others and make something beautiful of life than to act as if it's worthless the way Dawkins does. We can do this through science, religion, art, music, fiction, fashion, architecture, nature, good deeds, the possibilities are endless. :)


message 24: by Leo (new)

Leo . In the words of John Lennon...Love is the only way.


Belief is blind faith...awareness is Truth.🐯👍


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