Review: The Selfish Gene

The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I felt the book was very selective of scientific evidence on how the writer came up with his theory. Many times he would use analogies which he uses to compare other animal classes with us and how it should be thought that our genes are the ones controlling our evolution and therefore our future as a species. Being a scientific work, the writer negates many factors which shaped and will shape animal/human evolution in the modern era and mostly focuses on a select number of examples which he uses as analogies and metaphors to describe his point of view. This method of writing misleads the readers into thinking that many things are best compared and defined in popularized scientific commentary.

I felt that if the theory must be proven universally true, he should refrain from avoiding “hiding” behavioural experiments of other animals that would debunk his research.

One example was when he came to the menopause topic in women. And I quote:

This seems a good moment to mention the puzzling phenomenon known as the menopause, the rather abrupt termination of a human female reproductive fertility in middle age. This may not have occurred too commonly in our wild ancestors, since not many women would have lived that long anyway. …
… there is something genetically ‘deliberate’ about the menopause-that it is an ‘adaptation’. It is rather difficult to explain.

See what he did there? After two sentences he dismissed the issue and went on to continue expounding the Medawar theory of ageing in connection to how he assumes it explains menopause. The flaw here is he can’t explain why in other classes in our own animal family, this is not present at all. I am not a zoologist, biologist etc or something of a person who deals with scientifically proven facts in the internet but I do remember when I was in high school, my biology teacher told us humans are unique in that menopause is only experienced by female humans. I did a quick google search and here it is:

“Survival of the fittest” hypothesis
This hypothesis suggests that younger mothers and offspring under their care will fare better in a difficult and predatory environment because a younger mother will be stronger and more agile in providing protection and sustenance for herself and a nursing baby. The various biological factors associated with menopause had the effect of male members of the species investing their effort with the most viable of potential female mates. One problem with this hypothesis is that we would expect to see menopause exhibited in the animal kingdom.
“Other animals
Menopause in the animal kingdom appears to be uncommon, but the presence of this phenomenon in different species has not been thoroughly researched. Life histories show a varying degree of senescence; rapid senescing organisms (e.g., Pacific salmon and annual plants) do not have a post-reproductive life-stage. Gradual senescence is exhibited by all placental mammalian life histories.
Menopause has been observed in several species of nonhuman primates, including rhesus monkeys, and chimpanzees. Menopause also has been reported in a variety of other vertebrate species including elephants, short-finned pilot whales, killer whales,and other cetaceans, the guppy, the platyfish, the budgerigar, the laboratory rat and mouse, and the opossum. However, with the exception of the short-finned pilot whale, such examples tend to be from captive individuals, and thus they are not necessarily representative of what happens in natural populations in the wild.
Dogs do not experience menopause; the canine estrus cycle simply becomes irregular and infrequent. Although older female dogs are not considered good candidates for breeding, offspring have been produced by older animals. Similar observations have been made in cats.

There are numerous parts in the book of this sort.
He quickly dismissed it and that he can’t explain why there is some sort of phenomenon in humans but not in most other animals. If genes do master the control of our biological well being, why then can’t he explain that mystery and if it really is by chance that women has a distinct control switch not found in men(which is also another mystery being in the same species)…why does he always digress and keep on following his theory already flawed from the start.

Another one:

When it finally breaks down I shall introduce other metaphors. Incidentally, there is of course no ‘architect’. The DNA instructions have been assembled by natural selection.

If I remember it right, this was is Chapter 2. My question is: did the writer just jumbled letters in his mind and let natural selection make the paragraphs, outlined chapters, sentences, punctuations, spelling to come up with a book so organized and defined to be published and printed for mass market appeal? We are complex beings and yet he does refuse the fact that he himself is a by-product of this mind-boggling feat. If he is produced by natural selection only, why is it that we are so very different from the rest? We can’t even deal proving that chimpanzee to human is 100% gapless in evolution. How else could we be certain that nothing happened in that gap?

An underlying problem with this book is that he uses scientific investigation to prove that everything is by chance and what is confusing all the more is that the reader is misled by his case in point that everything is controlled by genes without external help from environment, climate, events, culture, technology, ecology, morality, affection and so on. Oh my, we have a lot of things to think of to consider if we are to study even one species, and that is us. Humans are not solely controlled by a limited number of these gene theory or Meme as he calls it as we are capable of higher knowledge than most of what we see around us. The writer lacks clearness in his definite approval of his subject.

Dawkins’s own position is somewhat ambiguous: he welcomed N. K. Humphrey’s suggestion that “memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically” and proposed to regard memes as “physically residing in the brain”. Later, he argued that his original intentions, presumably before his approval of Humphrey’s opinion, had been simpler. At the New Directors’ Showcase 2013 in Cannes, Dawkins’ opinion on memetics was deliberately ambiguous.

Finally the most flawed statement which could be found at the final pages:

The only kind of entity that has to exist in order for life to arise, anywhere in the universe, is the immortal replicator(DNA).

Wow! an ethologist, evolutionary biologist speaking as if he knew how the universe works. Even Stephen Hawking or Carl Sagan aren’t certain of how life came to be in our own planet, more so on other galaxies which might have possible life probabilities existing on their own. You’ve got to have a clear sense of knowledge and expertise in cosmology to even include the universe in your own biological research done in your small home called Earth which is but a tiny piece in the vastness of existence.

That’s conceited.

That’s insulting.

You can’t just rely on Charles Darwin’s concepts and theories in evolution and force your way through your own hypothesis without proving salient notes for all living things in the planet. With his final statement, he just gave away his true intentions of writing this book and that is: he has no belief in a creator who created everything. Everything he has to say leads to this premise which fails miserably on all points. Ultimately, he disguises his theory in the form of misdirection.
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