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"The Selfish Gene's" negative message - Comments

Hendrix is my gOD's Avatar Comment 1 by Hendrix is my gOD

The ethics of altruism vs. selfishness is a creation of human intelligence. While it is not an absolute found in the nature of life, it is a useful tool for human survival just like technology or medical science.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 19:04:02 UTC | #581637

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 2 by Alan4discussion

The selfish gene explains how evolution works for all living things. What morality and personal objectives you choose for yourself, or what you do in social relationships is a separate issue. Family first runs deep, but good relationships with extended family, friends and colleagues is not only moral, but brings stability and happiness.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 19:15:31 UTC | #581642

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 3 by Ignorant Amos

I feel like the floor has just been pulled out from under me and I am struggling to find a basis for why I (still) believe in goodness, and love and joy! I think I can understand why religion prefers emotion over reason and feeling over evidence!

Why? We are the sum of our experiences, we are the by product of the gene proliferation process, we don't matter and evolution doesn't really care....do you think that in a billion years time, any of this will be relevant....as someone wise said...enjoy your life, it's the only one you get. As for religion, it is the bucket of sand in which to bury ones head because one doesn't have the tools, or even the gumption, to enjoy that one life ya get.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 19:24:04 UTC | #581647

JuJu's Avatar Comment 4 by JuJu

Finish the book then report back.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 19:26:52 UTC | #581650

bojevus's Avatar Comment 5 by bojevus

Prof Dawkins anticipated and addressed this in Unweaving the Rainbow. Read that and you'll see that there is plenty of room for art, beauty, wonder, etc. in the scientific worldview.

Past there, I think most people on these boards would agree that understanding how we got here and the manner in which that mechanism works in no way prevents us from self generating our own fulfillment or meaning.

I, personally, am thrilled to know I get to set my own course rather than have it laid down by some indifferent arial tyrant.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 19:27:34 UTC | #581653

venton's Avatar Comment 6 by venton

I totally sympathise. This book hit me really hard for 18 months when I read it many years ago. But somehow you will get over it, and come out a stronger person. If you are a good person, your moral outlook will not change at all, you will still love your family and friends. But you will not put up with any bullshit, and you will see straight through religion and other such nonsense. You will see that the truth is far more interesting than any fable and will probably start reading more books along similar lines and become a more interesting person.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:02:39 UTC | #581669

Michael Austin's Avatar Comment 7 by Michael Austin

This book hit me hard, too. I've pretty much gotten over it now. Just because I know the natural reason why my parents love me, and why we love sweet food, and have empathy; it doesn't make those traits any less valuable to me.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:27:18 UTC | #581678

Randy Ping's Avatar Comment 8 by Randy Ping

Luke Skywalker asked Yoda, "What in there?". And Yoda replied, "Only what you take you.".

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:29:37 UTC | #581680

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 9 by Neodarwinian

You are missing the point and confusing ultimate with proximate causation, plus a bit of metaphor misunderstanding. " Selfish genes " can influence altruism in organisms to be reproductively successful. Goodness, love and joy are very real at the proximate level while " selfish genes " " care " only about their own reproduction, ultimately.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:30:14 UTC | #581681

Quine's Avatar Comment 10 by Quine

What bojevus said in comment 5.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:38:16 UTC | #581685

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 11 by AtheistEgbert

Is the original poster for real? I'm sorry, but what exactly is the negative message about the selfish gene?

It has been several years since I last read it, and it's meant to be a gene 'perspective' explanation of how evolution works. In fact, I found the extended phenotype far more interesting in its explanatory power.

Perhaps if the original poster can explain what exactly they mean by dark and dismal, or why they have suddenly become pessimistic about human morality? What exactly has the book to do with morality any way?

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:40:55 UTC | #581687

Ungodly1's Avatar Comment 12 by Ungodly1

I also used to believe in the story of Adam and Eve, but have since realized that it was a fairy tale explanation created in the absence of science. One of the lies perpetrated by religion is that morality comes from the Bible. But reading the Bible reveals it to be a story of bloody genocide and murder, homophobia, slavery and complete disregard for human life. I choose to act in a moral manner because I care about how people regard me, and I would like people to treat me well in return. In short, we make our own morality and we can choose to be happy, no matter what our situation. Richard Dawkins is sometimes misinterpreted to mean that because our genes act in a selfish manner, we must also act in selfish ways. Fortunately, this is not true. But I understand why you might feel let down to learn the truth about our existence, but these are the expectations resulting from the false promises of religion. In the long run, we are responsible for our own lives, and we are free to sculpt our own lives as we see fit, free from the demands of a tyrannical sky dictator.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 20:58:28 UTC | #581694

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 13 by Steve Zara

Maybe I am missing the point, but it seems to paint a very negative picture and personally leaves me struggling to find the positive in human life.

It's joyously positive. It gives the best picture possible - we are free! We can live life as as we wish, free from the oversight of a creator, from from the dictates of a deity. We weren't designed to fill some purpose, we are here because groups of chemicals appeared that could store information and started to compete for resources. Evolution doesn't care about us, but that's good because what it means that we self-aware beings can ignore it. We exist and we know that we exist, and that means we have free will and can choose our destiny. How is that not positive?

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 21:03:20 UTC | #581698

Michael Austin's Avatar Comment 14 by Michael Austin

Maybe the OP is Mary Midgley.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 21:31:03 UTC | #581717

Czar's Avatar Comment 15 by Czar

What a dismal world. I thank God it is a fiction, at least the first part of your post.

Comment 13 by Steve Zara :

Maybe I am missing the point, but it seems to paint a very negative picture and personally leaves me struggling to find the positive in human life.

It's joyously positive. It gives the best picture possible - we are free! We can live life as as we wish, free from the oversight of a creator, from from the dictates of a deity. We weren't designed to fill some purpose, we are here because groups of chemicals appeared that could store information and started to compete for resources. Evolution doesn't care about us, but that's good because what it means that we self-aware beings can ignore it. We exist and we know that we exist, and that means we have free will and can choose our destiny. How is that not positive?

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 21:48:34 UTC | #581724

venton's Avatar Comment 16 by venton

The selfish gene was picked up by me at an airport as a random read. And from the cosy world which I was bought up in which included religion and karma or judgement day and salvation I suddenly realised that:-

Our bodies are merely vehicles for self replicating molecules. Everything we are is merely a natural consequence of molecules copying themselves, there is no reason for our life whatsoever. There is no purpose. That could be construed as negative (comment 11)

After reading the book, I did find myself lurking in this world for a while where everything I saw I placed in terms of 'why did that evolve?'. Why do I love my son? (My genes are protecting their copies), why do I like a nice view (there is no swamp where I will catch a disease and die).. etc.

Whilst it is totally valid to ask these questions, it can become a bit compulsive and is best left alone for some. I don't now actually care why I like certain music, I don't want to know why that appreciation evolved. I know and understand that it did, but don't find it healthy to keep looking at everything in life from a gene's perspective.

Some people won't be affected, but if you lend someone the book, prepare for the consequences. It is like a cult, apart from it is true.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 21:49:50 UTC | #581726

Outrider's Avatar Comment 17 by Outrider

I can see how the focus of 'being good is self-serving' might be demoralising for someone who has come from a background where morality is defined as external and somehow imposed on man despite his nature.

My personal take on it is that it's something wonderful - it means that people have evolved to be social, to be communal. Working together, forming communities, looking out for each other - these truly are the norms for humanity, and the greedy, selfish and malevolent are truly the outcasts working against their underlying instincts.

Mankind is, inherently, nice (even if it is to get something for himself...)

O.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 22:03:15 UTC | #581740

Paully from Australia's Avatar Comment 18 by Paully from Australia

Why not just look at it from the point of view you hope your genes will continue on into the future?

By this I mean trying to make the world a better place for your children, any nieces & nephews etc so that they to can ennjoy their life on this planet & pass on their genes to their children etc

I feel it's a positive feeling to try to make our planet better for future generations rather than one of dispair

Anyway, that's how I look at it

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 22:09:41 UTC | #581742

Baron Scarpia's Avatar Comment 19 by Baron Scarpia

I can't see The Selfish Gene in a negative light. I just can't. The people who find it negative misunderstand it.

I find the message that 'they love because of selfishness' that 'altruism is only a result of selfishness' very disconcerting.

This is what I mean. You are conflating two things - first, what our genes do, and second, what we do. To say that our genes are selfish, therefore we are selfish, is like saying that since an army is made of soldiers, and soldiers have eyebrows, an army must have eyebrows.

So our genes are trying to get us to reproduce them. So they latch on to altruistic acts to do so. So what? Why should I care? I might be inclined towards altruistic acts because my genes survive better that way. But I did not wake up in the morning and say to myself 'I must spread my genes through the world!' What my genes want is immaterial to me. I'm going to give to charity because I want to alleviate suffering. To hell with my genes.

And honestly, I don't want to spread my genes. I don't want children. If my genes expect me to help them proliferate, they've got another thing coming. I'm quite willing, and quite able, to work against what my genes 'want' me to do. In a massive dose of irony, they themselves have given me this ability. As Dawkins says on page 201, 'we... can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.'

Go through the literature on moral psychology - both psychologists and philosophers know that altruism is not just possible, it's a fact. The Selfish Gene tells us of the origins of altruism, but Dawkins is well aware that an origin is just a starting point. What happens next is another question entirely.

Thu, 20 Jan 2011 23:31:17 UTC | #581762

ScottB's Avatar Comment 20 by ScottB

I am hoping for a 'happy ending' but I fear there is none as our selfish genes are so controlling!

I am unsure as to how you have come to see the selfish gene theory in such a negative way. I suspect that, as other commenters have noted, that you are mistaking the description of genes as being selfish (not an emotional attribute but just that only those that "act" in such a way as to increase their likelihood of propagation are likely to survive) with the description that we sometimes give to humans as being selfish. We are not our genes and our genes are no more consciously selfish than the average cornflake.

However, especially if you have one of the later editions with the 2 extra chapters, you may well find the end happier than you're expecting. I hope you come back and let us know.

I find the message that 'they love because of selfishness' that 'altruism is only a result of selfishness' very disconcerting.

Genes that propogate are genes that are successful. If, by having an effect that increases on average the altruism or warm feelings, this makes them more successful then why should that bother you? Is it any more bleak to believe that you only act altruisticly, or only love, because a higher power designed you that way? That you are the result of cosmic engineering, no more than a toy of the gods? A part of gods "great plan"?

We are machines for carrying genes and helping those genes continue, but within that purpose, and as a result of it, we are able to love, hate, help and save, kill and play. And we are not slaves to our genes. Something you prove everytime you wear a condom, take a contraceptive pill or masturbate. We have minds that can set us apart from the "will" of our genes and that, is a very uplifting message in my view.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 01:23:01 UTC | #581810

MarkMyers's Avatar Comment 21 by MarkMyers

Thanks for reminding me about that.

I almost forgot feeling the same way and even warning those I shared TSG with. It did change the way I thought. More than I was comfortable with. But not much later I noticed I had become more observant and things made more sense and everything about my life and the world around me became more interesting and meaningful.

Bottom line, that disheartened feeling ended up being a period of mourning of something like a 'Loss of innocence'. In the end, this and all knowledge empowers and enrichens. Who would trade that for innocence and ignorance?

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 01:48:34 UTC | #581821

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 22 by ccw95005

The title "The Selfish Gene" was brilliant marketing but misleading as to the implications. The "selfishness" refers to how the individual genes attempt (sort of) to survive without regard to any higher motives. It doesn't mean that we are all selfish as individuals. In fact, we believe that cooperation, conscience, morality, altruism, love, friendship, generosity, empathy, sympathy, and all sorts of characteristics that most of us consider morally good (along with all sorts of negative characteristics, too) developed through the evolutionary process. Personally I believe that a lot of those good character qualities evolved through group selection, which Richard didn't accept as the mechanism, at least at the time he wrote the book, but the important thing is to realize that all the characteristics that we consider noble and decent came to us because of evolution.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 01:50:39 UTC | #581823

0penM1nded's Avatar Comment 23 by 0penM1nded

It seems I need to provide more explanations for my reactions / feelings towards TSG!

'Dark and Dismal' are definitely emotional terms and of course very subjective! I use them not with respect to the science, but rather with repsect to the ultimate conclusions, namely that because of their genes, animals are selfish and it is only through our interactions with other selfish animals that altruism emerges (Evolutionary Stable Strategies - ESS)! In other words animals are not altruistic because they want to be nice or good, just simply because their genes have survived by selfishly being non selfish when it suits their selfish needs!

I benefit from the support of my friends and family, and I 'naturally' (seems programmed into me) try and support my friends and family when I can! I have never really taken the time to figure out why I and others behave that way, and just accepted that was just people being nice to one another. Now I find that view challenged, almost like the door to the machine has been openned a little, and the real motivation for the altruistic behavior I am seeing is actually selfishly motivated - and I am talking for myself as well as for my friends and family!

I don't know why, but I want to believe that people do good things because they are good people and really do want to be good and self sacrificing! Now I find myself thinking that NO, their selfish genes have programmed them to be nice simply because it helps the genes survive! I am not denying that the result is the same, i.e. people help and are nice to each other, its just that what I wanted the motivation to be has changed!

I would definitely think differently to the following two statements...

Bob sacrificed himself for Alice because he loved her more than himself and never expected to benefit in any way. In fact, Bob is really pissed off that anyone even knows about his self sacrificial behavior for Alice because there may now be the suggestion that he is doing it for some self recognition!

Bob sacrificed himself for Alice because his genes had programmed his brain to participate in the best Evolutionary Stable Strategies and ultimately it selfishly served his own genes better to self sacrifice rather than put himself first! Love just seems like the way that particular ESS express their programming! Of course, this wasn't stated in the book, but it is the message I am getting!

By the way, I find this statement revulsive too...

Bob sacrificed himself for Alice because he expected to get a reward of some sort in a later life!

I used to hear statements such as 'Without god, life is meaningless', or 'without god there is no motivation at all for doing good or feeling fulfilled' - I probably believed these statements myself at one time! Since being an atheist I would simply dismiss such statements as bullshit. While reading TSG I find myself really understanding why religious people make such statements - even though I don't think everyone that says them actually understands what they are saying!

I guess I have never really 'naval gazed' at the meaning and motivation of morals and goodness before, and I am going to have to figure out a new 'internal framework' for understanding this aspect of human behavior!

I will have to think some more about the comments pointing out my misunderstandings, and I do take the points about 'Half Full' versus 'Half empty'. Of course, what freewill do I really have to resist my gene's innate selfishness?

Comment 17 by Outrider

This definitely speaks loud, as I don't think that I really knew where my morals came from until reading TSG! Just when you think you have finally thrown off the years of Xian indoctrination you realise that there is still crap left over.

Don't get me wrong, TSG hasn't changed my mind about god, or science, it is just that I had so many aha moments and most of them were aha that explains that bad stuff, and that bad stuff, and that bad... It also seemed to be explaining the good stuff with bad / selfish explanations!

I can definitely see how altruism and 'good stuff' can evolve out of selfishness, and maybe that was the shocking part and it has challenged my (hidden until now) belief that altruism and meaning are external instead of realising that I really do have to create my own meaning and morals!

Unweaving the rainbow is definitely my next book!

I shouldn't forget that every time you read a book you rewrite it!

BTW: Czar.Bernstein... Not sure if you have read TSG, but you should compare it to the Bible's explanation of sin? In terms of acuracy, TSG is like comparing the new Airbus 380 to the Wright Brothers first plane! TSG makes so much sense and explains things SO MUCH BETTER! TSG isn't selling a cure, or using guilt to keep you buying more books that will help you get better, or lieing about reality, it just provides a really very simple explanation for the animal and human condition!

Now if god does exist he has even more explaining to do for creating evolution as the vehicle for life and as a means of ultimately creating man over billions of years - and then to tell us it is all our fault that we are the way we are!

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 02:04:48 UTC | #581825

0penM1nded's Avatar Comment 24 by 0penM1nded

It seems I need to provide more explanations for my reactions / feelings towards TSG!

'Dark and Dismal' are definitely emotional terms and of course very subjective! I use them not with respect to the science, but rather with repsect to the ultimate conclusions, namely that because of their genes, animals are selfish and it is only through our interactions with other selfish animals that altruism emerges (Evolutionary Stable Strategies - ESS)! In other words animals are not altruistic because they want to be nice or good, just simply because their genes have survived by selfishly being non selfish when it suits their selfish needs!

I benefit from the support of my friends and family, and I 'naturally' (seems programmed into me) try and support my friends and family when I can! I have never really taken the time to figure out why I and others behave that way, and just accepted that was just people being nice to one another. Now I find that view challenged, almost like the door to the machine has been openned a little, and the real motivation for the altruistic behavior I am seeing is actually selfishly motivated - and I am talking for myself as well as for my friends and family!

I don't know why, but I want to believe that people do good things because they are good people and really do want to be good and self sacrificing! Now I find myself thinking that NO, their selfish genes have programmed them to be nice simply because it helps the genes survive! I am not denying that the result is the same, i.e. people help and are nice to each other, its just that what I wanted the motivation to be has changed!

I would definitely think differently to the following two statements...

Bob sacrificed himself for Alice because he loved her more than himself and never expected to benefit in any way. In fact, Bob is really pissed off that anyone even knows about his self sacrificial behavior for Alice because there may now be the suggestion that he is doing it for some self recognition!

Bob sacrificed himself for Alice because his genes had programmed his brain to participate in the best Evolutionary Stable Strategies and ultimately it selfishly served his own genes better to self sacrifice rather than put himself first! Love just seems like the way that particular ESS express their programming! Of course, this wasn't stated in the book, but it is the message I am getting!

By the way, I find this statement revulsive too...

Bob sacrificed himself for Alice because he expected to get a reward of some sort in a later life!

I used to hear statements such as 'Without god, life is meaningless', or 'without god there is no motivation at all for doing good or feeling fulfilled' - I probably believed these statements myself at one time! Since being an atheist I would simply dismiss such statements as bullshit. While reading TSG I find myself really understanding why religious people make such statements - even though I don't think everyone that says them actually understands what they are saying!

I guess I have never really 'naval gazed' at the meaning and motivation of morals and goodness before, and I am going to have to figure out a new 'internal framework' for understanding this aspect of human behavior!

I will have to think some more about the comments pointing out my misunderstandings, and I do take the points about 'Half Full' versus 'Half empty'. Of course, what freewill do I really have to resist my gene's innate selfishness?

Comment 17 by Outrider

This definitely speaks loud, as I don't think that I really knew where my morals came from until reading TSG! Just when you think you have finally thrown off the years of Xian indoctrination you realise that there is still crap left over.

Don't get me wrong, TSG hasn't changed my mind about god, or science, it is just that I had so many aha moments and most of them were aha that explains that bad stuff, and that bad stuff, and that bad... It also seemed to be explaining the good stuff with bad / selfish explanations!

I can definitely see how altruism and 'good stuff' can evolve out of selfishness, and maybe that was the shocking part and it has challenged my (hidden until now) belief that altruism and meaning are external instead of realising that I really do have to create my own meaning and morals!

Unweaving the rainbow is definitely my next book, and don't forget that every time someone reads a book they rewrite it!

BTW: Czar.Bernstein... Not sure if you have read the TSG, but you should compare it to the Bible's explanation of sin? In terms of acuracy, TSG is like comparing the new Airbus 380 to the Wright Brothers first plane! TSG makes so much sense and explains things SO MUCH BETTER! TSG isn't selling a cure, or using guilt to keep you buying more books that will help you get better, or lieing about reality, it just provides a really very simple explanation for the animal and human condition!

Now if god does exist he has even more explaining to do for creating evolution as the vehicle for life and as a means of ultimately creating man over billions of years - and then to tell us it is all our fault that we are the way we are!

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 02:06:05 UTC | #581828

Michael Fisher's Avatar Comment 25 by Michael Fisher

I'm with JuJu [comment 4] "Finish the book then report back"

Michael

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 02:09:25 UTC | #581833

blitz442's Avatar Comment 26 by blitz442

Do you have the 30th anniversary edition? Please read the introduction.

Read about the other possible titles for the book that were considered, such as "The Immortal Gene", or even, "The Altruistic Gene".

Excise the "rogue sentences" (as Dawkins later described them) about being "born selfish", and replace them with an understanding of the difference between replicators (unconsciously selfish by definition) and their vehicles (not doomed to be selfish). A distinction that Dawkins himself admits was not as clearly spelled out in the original version of the Selfish Gene (although it is there) as we would come to see in later books.

The book should not make you pessimistic at all!

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 02:14:52 UTC | #581836

Stevezar's Avatar Comment 27 by Stevezar

Comment 24 by 0penM1nded :

...I don't know why, but I want to believe that people do good things because they are good people and really do want to be good and self sacrificing! Now I find myself thinking that NO, their selfish genes have programmed them to be nice simply because it helps the genes survive! I am not denying that the result is the same, i.e. people help and are nice to each other, its just that what I wanted the motivation to be has changed!

I would definitely think differently to the following two statements... Bob sacrificed himself for Alice because he loved her more than himself and never expected to benefit in any way. In fact, Bob is really pissed off that anyone even knows about his self sacrificial behavior for Alice because there may now be the suggestion that he is doing it for some self recognition!

Bob sacrificed himself for Alice because his genes had programmed his brain to participate in the best Evolutionary Stable Strategies and ultimately it selfishly served his own genes better to self sacrifice rather than put himself first! Love just seems like the way that particular ESS express their programming! Of course, this wasn't stated in the book, but it is the message I am getting!

I can see how this can bother you initially, on first finding it out. I have known about this for a long time. I have no problems thinking in terms of the emotions rather than the ultimate causes, because, however we got the emotions, they are real to us. Knowing the explanation does not alter their presence. I love my children and would sacrifice my life for them without hesitation - knowing the boi-mechanics as to why I would do so does not alter it in the slightest for me, atleast not anymore. Maybe it just takes getting used to the idea.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 02:20:08 UTC | #581839

TuftedPuffin's Avatar Comment 28 by TuftedPuffin

You're worried that people do good because their genes predestine it, and not because they care about other people. The way to get through that worry is to realize that they're the same thing. Caring is something we can do because of our evolutionary history. That doesn't make it not caring. Love is caused by hormones finely honed by evolution to get people to work together...but that doesn't make the feeling of Love any less real. Don't forget that you're not your history, you're you.

Once you get to the chapter on memes you'll see another side of the picture, namely that our ideas have potentially as much hold on us as our genes do, and that they too contribute to our desire to act altruistically. But whether it's memes or genes that gave you the ability to care for others, remember that you're still a conscious, active human being doing the caring. Every situation can be looked at at multiple scales, and morality tends to do its best on the personal scale.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 03:19:27 UTC | #581850

biame's Avatar Comment 29 by biame

Hi Openm1nded, when reading something like "The Selfish Gene," it must be readily understood, it isn't science, and holds no scientific value, other than the scientific record it tries to tap into. Just one persons, personal view (perception) of how things are tied together, the "selfish gene," the analogy the author came up with. In essence, the modern human hasn't changed as far back as fossil records allow us to trace, which is some million + years. Recent finds suggest this could be extended to 2 million years.

What we do know has changed is knowledge. Knowledge can be factual, perceptual, or knowingly false. The longer humans have survived the more knowledge of each specific type, we have accumulated.

I understand what you are getting at pertaining to "dark and dismal". The way it is portrayed in "The selfish gene," says our dna has complete control over us, and can bounce either way, depending on the selfishness of the gene in question as it pertains to natural selection. This is one educated opinion based on the personal assumptions and power of suggestion used by the believer to tie their evidence together.

Another educated opinion, which is gaining momentum by weight of evidence, is that of gene expression (See Lamarck et al). What gene expression suggests, we can determine which way our dna will evolve down certain lines, ethical values etc, by way of the use it or loose it, scenario, providing of course the environment is kind to us. It further suggests, dna can be expressed on, by the environment, that as the environment changes we adapt by way of gene expression, to suit the new environment, or at least to the extent that the human genome will allows before it completely dies off and becomes extinct. The new gene modifications providing what is necessary to suit and adapt to the new environment. This adaptation by way of gene expression, remaining in place, as long as the environment says it should, before the environment changes again, and the genes are expressed on again.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 03:38:15 UTC | #581854

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 30 by Schrodinger's Cat

For the first time I am concluding that although impersonal, in its desconstructionist approach, science may be revealing in terms of knowledge but very destructive in terms of meaning!

I feel like the floor has just been pulled out from under me and I am struggling to find a basis for why I (still) believe in goodness, and love and joy! I think I can understand why religion prefers emotion over reason and feeling over evidence!

As I said, I no longer believe in redemption and salvation, but I am now looking for any book recommendations which can help me understand the reality of why there is so much good in the world, and (on the whole) why people love and help one another so much - I find the message that 'they love because of selfishness' that 'altruism is only a result of selfishness' very disconcerting.

I think you are viewing your genes as if something different and alien to you.....whereas in fact your genes are you. Those genes contain the very coding that gives you a brain capable of thinking thoughts like love and empathy and joy. Consider how amazing it is that the ability to do all that can be coded and wrapped up in the nucleus of a cell ! I don't see a reductionism at all.....I see quite the reverse. It might not say so in English....but right there in the heart of that cell is coded love, joy, meaning...oh and selfishness too. The ability of those gene molecules to encode billions of unique human beings is a 'miracle' that makes those in the Bible look decidely paltry by comparison.

That's not 'dark and dismal'....it's a cause for awe and wonder. My advice is don't get too hung up on reductionism. It's a scientific tool, and a good one, but not necessarily 'the way the world actually is'. In my view the era of science bashing the universe to bits has had its ( extremely useful ) day and it's high time to start putting the bits back together again.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 05:34:58 UTC | #581866