I figured out what pisses me off so much about Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. It's because he's a magical thinker and magical thinking is stamped right through his thesis.
Richard Dawkins thinks that individual strings of nucleotides in individual organisms compete against other strings of nucleotides in the same organism. He thinks these utterly mindless, thoughtless and passive strings of information are "selfish" and that they "seek to replicate themselves". He thinks these strings, no different from the string 0103202010102310001 have a will, have something that they want.
Of course, none of that is true. The big problem is that it's not even true as a metaphor. You see, Richard Dawkins thinks of genes as constrained within organisms. He thinks the string 0103202010102310001 in organism Dave Thompson has a magical essence which will get passed on to Dave Thompson's biological children, and maybe Dave Thompson's other cells in the case of genes that manage to duplicate themselves across chromosomes.
But that's all crap. The truth is that the string 0103202010102310001 in Dave Thompson has no magical essence, has no essence of any kind. It is exactly identical as the string 0103202010102310001 in Chen Xian Lue on the other side of planet. Exactly identical. So when you talk about genes, it's completely illogical to talk about "the gene 0103202010102310001 in Dave Thompson" or even "the individual gene in such and such organism". When you talk about genes, the MEANING of "the individual gene" is "all of the strings matching this in all of the organisms on the planet".
When you imagine an individual string of nucleotides in an organism, the correct way to think about it isn't that they are selfishly competing against all other strings of nucleotides. Because if you're going to drag in competition into this, you can equally say that each string of nucleotides is a fanatical cooperator with all other matching strings of nucleotides across every organism on the planet. At most you can only say that strings of nucleotides are competing against non-matching strings of nucleotides. And even that is only a metaphor.
Consider what would happen in an environment with 90% infant mortality if a gene guaranteed 90% survival at the cost of 10% of infants that would die because their entire DNA liquefied. Basically, consider what would happen if 10% of copies of a gene sacrificed themselves for the other 90%. They would be wildly successful!
Yet this little insight completely passed Richard Dawkins by. If Dawkins understood what genes are in the first place, he would never have entitled his oeuvre "the selfish gene" because "selfish" is hopelessly reductionist and inaccurate to describe something that is by its nature fanatically cooperative. Assuming it had a will at all, which it doesn't.
Richard Dawkins is a fairly mindless little freak who believes in magic. As biologists must be since Biology is fairly mindless & random and makes no sense at all. What is infuriating about him is that he got one thing right (that natural selection means genes compete against non-matching genes) and used this truth to push forth a much greater lie (that there are these things called genes contained inside you). And the lie is the exact opposite of the truth since genes aren't contained inside you. They're spread out across all organisms.
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