The Selfish Gene

One of the recent books I read is ‘The Selfish Gene’ by Richard Dawkins. It has changed the way I think and, in some cases, the way I act.

I don’t intend to provide a review here, especially because Richard Dawkins does such a good job of not digressing, making it virtually impossible condense his ideas further. While I will suggest you go ahead and read his book yourself, a word of caution for the intelligent seems necessary.

It is not difficult to understand the ideas Dawkins has expressed in his book, both due to the lack of boring technical details and his brilliant writing style. However, it does take a minimum amount of intelligence to comprehend their impact. In his book Dawkins attacks our fundamental philosophical question – ‘Why are we here? What is our purpose?’. The answer, as Dawkins proceeds to prove with rigour, seems to be far more meaningless and cynical than most of use would like it to be. In a stroke of brilliance and a flash of genius, Dawkins reduces all our glory, all our achievements and all our pride to the survival struggle of molecules we cannot even see.

Of course, he never says so directly. In fact, he almost goes out of his way to show that it is the other way around – that the feeble acts of altruism our race sometimes attempts to partake implies that there still is hope.

In a way, the idea is like global warming – while everyone knows what it is only a handful realize its true nature, how it will ultimately ensure our grandchildren die a slow painful death. Not many people are intelligent enough to be able to conclude how meaningless our existence is. Those select few better have the emotional strength to absorb the shock of the same.

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2 Responses to The Selfish Gene

  1. sindhu says:

    try ayn rand’s virtue of selfishness, better listened to as an audiobook though.

    • theDigitalAngel says:

      I don’t like audio-books – I find them too slow.

      From what I understood from the review I just glanced through; Ayn Rand argues about how we must be selfish to live a virtuous life, using a slightly counter-intuitive definition of selfishness. Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, talks, not about how we should be selfish, but about how our evolution ensures we are so, in the conventional sense of the word (kill others to make space for yourself). You could argue how these two viewpoints complement each other, but they are really looking at selfishness in two entirely different ways. Ayn Rand (again, from what I could make out from the review) talks about how selfishness is a choice we should make to live a prosperous life. Dawkins tells us that evolution has already made the choice for us – altruism is not, technically speaking, an evolutionary stable strategy; selfishness is.

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