Sunday, October 11, 2009

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is an annoying little fucker. All the more annoying since people respect him yet can't take seriously the ludicrous position he believes in and advocates. Can't take seriously the fact that he believes in something so stupid. I'm talking about Dawkins' belief that nothing exists but genes. That's right, according to him organisms do not exist. Or if they exist at all, they are irrelevant and of no significance whatsoever to analysis.

It's not just some esoteric technical detail of biology. It's something he completely believes in and it is WRONG. 100% totally WRONG. People can't seem to grasp that Richard Dawkins, a respected biologist, could be so totally wrong on such a fundamental issue of biology. Yet he is. To prove it, let's try to play Dawkins' own game against him. Let's pretend that genes and even molecules don't exist.

Hunch over as I impart to you this amazing secret: it's all about atoms! It's all about atoms moving and reacting and forming bonds and whatnot. These things called "molecules" don't exist, or if they exist then they're irrelevant to analysis. This thing called Condensed Matter Physics surely doesn't exist! How could it when only atoms and their interactions are of any relevance?

The obvious counter to this preposterous position is that molecules and condensed matter exist since they have properties and behaviour which individual atoms do not have and cannot be reasonably attributed to atoms. Just take a look at high temperature superconductors. Or evolution. And yet, this exact same counter applies to Dawkins' preposterous position on genes. It is organisms that feel, see, hear and smell their environment. And it is organisms that eat, breathe, seek out mates and reproduce.

Genes don't reproduce because individual genes don't have any will of any kind. That's another fundamental mistake of Dawkins, that he considers genes individually instead of seeing the spread of genes in a population. If organisms are nothing to genes then only entire populations of organisms can matter to them. Yet Dawkins fails, again, to convey this bizarre statistical view of biology since he's obsessed with conferring free will and personal responsibility to inanimate strings of chemicals. The moron can't even keep his story straight.

That's Richard Dawkins. Too stupid to figure out the implications of his position. Too stupid to figure out what's wrong with his position. Too stupid to abandon it. And how many decades is it now?

This blog entry brought to you by watching David Attenborough's Life In The Undergrowth: Super-Organisms. Yeah, it really makes you think about the fuzzy line between an individual organism and a society. Or maybe not so fuzzy since organisms are physically contiguous whereas societies are not. This provides a nice, sharp, and arbitrary line between organisms and societies.


Veil said...

Are you hinting at something akin to group selection here?

Richard Kulisz said...

Natural selection occurs at all levels. Genetic, individual, group, and species. To try to reduce it to any one level is inane and wrong. Reductionism really has no fucking place in something as inherently holistic (ie, non-linear and emergent) as biology.

Now when looking at the individual level and above, at least you can say that there is an agent which makes decisions. Even bicameral humans (lacking in consciousness) had gods (hallucinations from the other side of their brain) that made the decisions for them.

But at the level of genes we're talking about a string of chemicals. It doesn't decide anything. It doesn't ACT because it isn't alive. It encodes information, pure and simple. Like a CD-ROM can't be said to be alive or to act or to make decisions. So anthropomorphizing genes as Richard Dawkins does is a ridiculously idiotic thing to do and the mark of an inferior mind.

Once you've washed away the folksy crap that Dawkins tries to instill, THEN you can ask how to best analyze genes. And it makes far more sense to look at them as sets. The set of gene 1843 in this population. Does this set of genes gain prominence or is it dying out? What does it cause to happen in the population? It doesn't MATTER what happens to one particular gene in a single person. It's not like it fucking cares. But it does matter and it is an interesting question to ask about "the" gene throughout a population.

If you look at them right, genes have a distributed, non-corporeal existence. But Dawkins is such a fuckhead, intent on painting human characteristics onto them, characteristics such as "selfishness" that this picture fades into the background to become invisible.

So no, it's not group selection of genes. What it is about is much deeper than that. It's about acknowledging that genes don't have any individual existence. If you strip the individual (person or animal) out of the analysis, then you're left with ... non-individuals. And we're not talking about a group of genes either. Groups imply that their members matter. Genes' instances don't matter. A gene *is* a distributed entity. Like a cloud or something.

Richard Kulisz said...

An algorithm can decide things. But the minimal criterion to be an algorithm is that it must be capable of producing different outcomes depending on different inputs. A gene isn't capable of altering what it produces based on different inputs. It's not just dead. It's deader than dead.

A gene is no more alive than a gun that sometimes rips paper targets, sometimes spallates rock and sometimes kills people. Dawkins is a liar. I hate that son of a bitch.

Veil said...

My understanding is that, yes, natural selection occurs at all levels but that as you go from gene to individual to group to species, the selection pressures decrease significantly.

Care to respond to this article?

Veil said...

Here's a link to the article. (Assuming the HTML works.)

Richard Kulisz said...

This guy is wrong on an awful lot of details. I've only begun a cursory reading of that article and already I can spot two.

> Even human capacities that we take for granted, such as the communicative nature of our eyes, our ability to point, and awareness of others that emerges early in infancy, are forms of cooperation that appear to be uniquely human.

Umm no they don't appear to be uniquely human. Dogs can point. Or at least, attend to something that's pointed to them.

Communicativeness of the eyes? Yeah as opposed to gorillas which have all-brown eyes. But you know, cats and many dog breeds also have whites around the eyes.

The whole notion that there is One Thing that is Uniquely Human is incredibly obsolete and ludicrous. There isn't. It's thhe synergy of a hundred different things, the FLUIDITY with which we do them that makes us human.

> It was a rare event, occurring only once among primates. It had momentous consequences; cooperation enabled our ancestors to spread over planet, eliminating other hominids and many other species along the way.

Yeah right. And I'm sure the fact that we are weak with almost no muscle mass for our size (compare neanderthals which have normal muscle mass for animals -- about like a bodybuilder) had nothing to do with it. We outcompeted others not due to intelligence or any other crap, we just ate less food. The whole notion that neanderthals were intellectually inferior to us is ludicrous, risible, chauvinistic and has no basis in reality.

This guy is supposed to be an expert in the field, right? Why should I read his article, why should I take it seriously, when he's holding onto ancient prejudices? If I can spot enormous errors in his thinking and in his facts, and I'm not even an amateur anthropologist, what credibility does this moron have?

I don't think it's worth it for me to even consider his theory since any "facts" he brings to bear on it could easily be blatant lies.

And off the top of my head, without having read anything, I can think of several reasons why your / his thesis might be very wrong.

Have you considered that selection pressure is measured in terms of generations? And that the generation at the genetic level is defined by cellular division?

And then there's the empirically measured fact that genetic evolution has been SPEEDING UP, not slowing down over the last few millenia. Despite cooperation and complexity markedly increasing.

Do I really need to spend my time figuring out the *specific reason* why this guy with no credibility is wrong?