It is enigmatic to be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the best-selling, The Selfish Gene since it is not just bad popular science but plain bad science. Though written by an Oxford University graduate and don, it is outmoded genetics, false evolutionary theory, poor social theory, vapid anthropology and, bad moral philosophy.
“The selfish gene” is a catchy anthropomorphic metaphor for a basic truth about evolution; namely that survival gives priority to genetic continuity over the welfare of whatever beings produced those genes. Metaphors are useful in explaining obscure processes but they are loaded with booby traps. Used as a title, as Dawkins has done, they turn into slogans – those enemies of thought.
(Full disclosure note: I share Dawkins’ publisher, Oxford University Press, for my book ”The Bridge to Humanity; How Affect Hunger Trumps the Selfish Gene.” I return to it later.)
Originally published in Science and Theology news, June 2006 (more…)