Leajk's Reviews > The Selfish Gene

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
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it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction, science, evolution

When I read this a couple of years ago, I loved it. I've also been at a loss to see why people had troubles liking Richard Dawkins, sure he was harsh sometimes in debates, but mostly I found him intellectually honest.

It's higly ironic that not even a week after I was defending my idol Dawkins against accusations of his research being biased, I find myself in some serious doubts regarding my previous respect for him.

This is to the best of my memory what happened last week:

My fellow beer drinker: You can't take any book written by Dawkins seriously since he's an agressive ranting atheist.

Me: Wrong. You should never confuse the personal opinion a person holds with their science. If their evidence holds up it shouldn't matter. I wouldn't care if he was [searching my mind for one of the most offensive thing a person could be to me] a SEXIST, that wouldn't change my view of his research. They are two seperate things.

Fellow (male) beer drinker nods and looks slightly perplexed that I, a raging feminist, would defend anyone who was a sexist.

Me vs. MFBD: 1-0

And then I read this today:

Scientific American

and this:

Blag hag

If you don't feel you have the time to read the articles this is a short summary of what happened:
(view spoiler)

So apparently I was closer to the truth then I would've guessed. It doesn't change my views on Dawkins's general theories about genes as such, overall they appear sound and generally supported. However I can't help the nagging thoughts in the back of my head, that maybe some of the parts on sex and gender in the book might have been tainted by his private views on women (i.e. that women shouldn't really care about gender roles unless she's being physically assulted. I mean who cares about sexism if you're not being mutulated? Or a higher pay for that matter?).

So, me vs. MFBD: 0-1?
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 16, 2012 – Shelved
October 30, 2012 – Shelved as: non-fiction
October 30, 2012 – Shelved as: science
October 30, 2012 – Shelved as: evolution

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

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message 1: by Rowena (new) - added it

Rowena Great review :) Although I'm a Christian, I find Dawkins quite interesting. He really does make you think and I think it's important for people to question things and do their own research. I actually haven't read any of his books but I have watched his documentaries etc.


Leajk Thank you Rowena :) I've also always been interested in his science, especially since I'm a big fan of evolutionary biology. I'm glad that you are able to see the difference between his biological research and his views on religion, as I said most of what he writes is supported by a large scientific community of both Christians and atheists. I'm sorry to see that he's not always as calm, objective and intellectually honest as I thought though.


message 3: by Rowena (new) - added it

Rowena Yes, I'm a huge fan of the sciences and I minored in Earth Science at University so I love evolutionary biology and paleontology too :)Haha, he definitely has quite the temper! I understand he has different views from religious people but he shouldn't think all of us are stupid!
I really like the academic books you read. When my to-read list goes down a bit, I'm going to add a few (or several;))


Leajk Oh, cool I would've loved to study Earth Science! Yes, I agree that he can be quite condescending to people of belief. This is extra unfortunate since he's also trying to make the case for acceptance of atheism, which should be easier if he was more accepting of other people's belief.

It was interesting to me that it was easier for me to separate that from his other work than for me to separate his sexism from the rest.

I really have periods where only read non-fiction, I think one of my favourites is Jared Diamond. Have you read him?


message 5: by Rowena (new) - added it

Rowena Earth Science was definitely absolutely fascinating! If I remember any good books I read, I'll recommend them to you. I know what you mean, sometimes I just want to read non-fiction, it comes and goes in phases.

I have read a Jared Diamond book in paleontology class, one about evolution, I think? He's really great! Also, have you read any Stephen Jay Gould? He's like the father of paleontology, he did some great work, here in Canada too.


Leajk Ah, cool maybe it was "The Third Chimpanzee"? I've started on Gould's "The Panda's Thumb", but I got distracted. From what I've understood from Matt Ridley, Gould and Dawkins does not agree att all on the selfish gene thing, so I guess it would be good to get a counter-perspective.

And yes let me know if you come by any good Earth Science books!


message 7: by Shannon (new)

Shannon It's biased, not biast *hits forehead*


Leajk Shannon wrote: "It's biased, not biast *hits forehead*"

Thank you Shannon for your thoughtful critique. It's always nice to get some input on my English.


message 9: by Rowena (new) - added it

Rowena @ Leajk - Your English is impeccable, my friend:) Typos can and will happen. Have an awesome day!


Leajk Thank you Rowena! Well I'm not that bothered by typos on GR usually, though I try to correct them if I see them. But I was quite fascinated by Shannon's comment, seeing that that's the only comment she had on the whole review.

You too! :)


message 11: by Petra X (new) - added it

Petra X I wouldn't care if he was [searching my mind for one of the most offensive thing a person could be to me] a SEXIST,

Aha! It all makes sense to me now :-) (But no one else will understand this comment).


Leajk Haha, yeah I think I follow. I don't care what people call themselves as long as they are not blatant sexists.


Rebecca Can you explain to me what being asked to have sex has to do with gender roles?

I understand it is rude and no one should do it to a complete stranger, especially in an elevator, where you are bound to feel in physical danger.. but you said it had to do with gender roles, what gender roles?


Leajk So this is what I wrote: "And then suddenly all these men got very angry and said she was a feminazi and that someone should actually rape her at the next conference. That's where the actual sexism enters in my opinion. The guy in the elevator was just clumsy and perhaps a bit creepy, and that is in my mind all she said. She wasn't saying anything in the video about him being a patriarchial opressor, just that maybe he should reconsider his game strategy. And for this she gets the response that she's should be punished and raped! That is most certainly sexism."

(This is in the 'spoiler section' I don't remember why I put it behind a spoiler, maybe not to bother people who read the articles.)

What I'm saying is that the act in itself (being rude/hitting on a stranger in the middle of the night in a enclosed space) might not be very controversial (it depends on your perspective), but the reaction to it was very much sexist in people asking for the author to be raped etc. And I was very disappointed with Dawkins for taking the sides of the people who were attacking her.

Well, hope that clears things up!


Rebecca No that was fine, this is the part I was confused about:


" (i.e. that women shouldn't really care about gender roles unless she's being physically assulted. I mean who cares about sexism if you're not being mutulated? Or a higher pay for that matter?). "


message 16: by Leajk (last edited Nov 25, 2013 12:09AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leajk Ok, I guess I'm still a bit confused about what you're asking so I'm trying to be extra clear. As far as I'm concerned I never linked gender roles to the actual elevator meeting.

I was talking about gender roles because Dawkins response to what he thought was a feminist/gender role discussion on Watson's part, was to say that there is no need to discuss sexism/gender roles unless one has been physically harmed or lived in a muslim country, which I thought was incredibly stupid of him.

That being said I do believe that how/when/why people ask you to have sex DO relate to gender roles, but it's not really what I was writing about in the review, nor do I know if it is a discussion I want to have on this thread.


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