Monday, February 11, 2008

The Selfish Gene

Richard Dawkins' seminal 1976 work The Selfish Gene makes an excellent companion book to VAS. Where the latter explores the consequences of our evolutionary psychology, Dawkins' book took the first stab at explaining the causes.

The concept of the "selfish gene" is that gene's that are passed on manage to do so by serving their own interest in some way, and not necessarily by aiding the S&R (survival and replication) of the organism, or species at large.

This is sort of an oversimplification (you should read the book to get the whole picture), but helps to understand why, for example, some members of a species (homo sapiens) would want to sterilize other members of the same species (those who don't share the same "good" genes.)

It is also interesting that humans have become pretty much the only organism with enough intelligence to act against the interests of their genes (for example, contraception and vasectomies.)

1 comment:

christo said...

yeah that's a good point... not only that but we are the only organisms I can think of that actually care about members of our species that aren't exactly up to par with the rest of us. Humans are hardly living out the idea of survival of the fittest -- at least in a life/death sense. We have psychiatric hospitals for the mentally ill, charities for the poor, etc. Hmmm but I hate saying that the poor are genetically inferior to those who can support themselves because that's not what I think. Human society is not as equal as other animal societies. All animals are born and grow up in relatively equal conditions. Humans are born to poor families, middle-class families, rich families -- all with a different degree of education, parental nourishment, perceptions about how the world works.