Monday, May 11, 2009

The Selfish Gene

Now, Richard Dawkins is actually writing about Darwin's theory of the 'selfish gene.' I admit that although I've had the book for ages, I've forgotten much of what I read. Now and then, I go back to it to read something that has 'popped up' in my memory bank and I want to learn a little more - or refresh my memory of what I DID read.

In the Endnotes of The Selfish Gene, Dawkins states that he is not advocating selfishness as a principle by which we should live. He writes that "perhaps because they [the reader] read the book by title only or never made it past the first two pages, have thought that I was saying that, whether we like it or not, selfishness and other nasty ways are an inescapable part of our nature." He is not advocating that at all.
"In fact genes 'determine' behaviour only in a statistical sense. A good analogy is the widely conceded generalization that 'A red sky at night is the shepherd's delight'. It may be a statistical fact that a good red sunset portends a fine day on the morrow, but we would not bet a large sum on it. . . . It is a statistical forecast only. We don't see red sunsets as irrevocably determining fine weather the next day, and no more should we think of genes as irrevocably determining anything. There is no reason why the influence of genes cannot easily be reversed by other influences."

This brings to mind a situation a dear niece and her husband are facing. They will (hopefully) be adopting a newborn baby girl who was born to a mother who has seen a World of Trouble and has not had many advantages at all. Now, this baby is in an orphanage. However, if my niece and her husband adopt and raise the child, she will be raised in a loving, nurturing, intellectually stimulating environment. The circumstances of her birth will not determine her future.
God bless these caring folks in our midst who adopt children who otherwise would (in all likelihood) have a life with no promise at all.
Postscript: am I bothered by the fact that Richard Dawkins is an atheist? I wouldn't say that I am bothered by it; I am actually more puzzled by his atheism, I suppose.
It baffles me that there are some who do not believe in God; it is so far from my known world. I see God in everything. I 'feel' God in everything. He is everpresent.

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