Talk:The Selfish Gene

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Biology (Rated C-class)
WikiProject icon The Selfish Gene is part of the WikiProject Biology, an effort to build a comprehensive and detailed guide to biology on Wikipedia.
Leave messages on the WikiProject talk page.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
 
WikiProject Books (Rated C-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Books. To participate in the project, please visit its page, where you can join the project and discuss matters related to book articles. To use this banner, please refer to the documentation. To improve this article, please refer to the relevant guideline for the type of work.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 
edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for The Selfish Gene:

Here are some tasks awaiting attention:
  • Expand : *Synopsis of book needed (with a brief summary of each chapter); this could probably replace the first three sections we have now.

Survival machine[edit]

This is only a brief article, which I think should be merged here unless this one becomes around 30kb or more. An adequate discussion of survival machines can probably be given here even then. Richard001 11:02, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

  • support merge If the section here ever grows too large, the redirect can always be undone. – ornis 09:21, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
  • support merge. Snalwibma 09:56, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

I don't think there's anything really worth merging, so I'll just redirect it. We should probably have a brief summary of each chapter, however, in which case 'The Gene Machine' would cover this area in better detail than it currently is. Richard001 10:47, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

I'd forgotten about this. I've just re-read the book, and the concept of the outward body being the mechanism whose sole purpose is genetic propagation, basically a survival machine for the gene, is repeated throughout the book. Again, I think survival machine should have its own article or have a description in the book's article. However, consensus should prevail, and I don't have a background in genetics. --ML5 (talk) 00:26, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

In coining the term "meme" (or adopting it from 19th Century usage) Dawkins is aware of the apposite punning significance of "me me"

AdrianHeadingley (talk) 14:42, 25 January 2011 (UTC)AdrianHeadingley 25 January 2011

Fair use rationale for Image:Selfish Gene 3.jpg[edit]

Nuvola apps important.svg

Image:Selfish Gene 3.jpg is being used on this article. I notice the image page specifies that the image is being used under fair use but there is no explanation or rationale as to why its use in this Wikipedia article constitutes fair use. In addition to the boilerplate fair use template, you must also write out on the image description page a specific explanation or rationale for why using this image in each article is consistent with fair use.

Please go to the image description page and edit it to include a fair use rationale. Using one of the templates at Wikipedia:Fair use rationale guideline is an easy way to insure that your image is in compliance with Wikipedia policy, but remember that you must complete the template. Do not simply insert a blank template on an image page.

If there is other fair use media, consider checking that you have specified the fair use rationale on the other images used on this page. Note that any fair use images lacking such an explanation can be deleted one week after being tagged, as described on criteria for speedy deletion. If you have any questions please ask them at the Media copyright questions page. Thank you.

BetacommandBot (talk) 07:07, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

Someone corrected this already. Fred Hsu (talk) 03:51, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

Fair use rationale for Image:How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think.jpg[edit]

Nuvola apps important.svg

Image:How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think.jpg is being used on this article. I notice the image page specifies that the image is being used under fair use but there is no explanation or rationale as to why its use in this Wikipedia article constitutes fair use. In addition to the boilerplate fair use template, you must also write out on the image description page a specific explanation or rationale for why using this image in each article is consistent with fair use.

Please go to the image description page and edit it to include a fair use rationale. Using one of the templates at Wikipedia:Fair use rationale guideline is an easy way to ensure that your image is in compliance with Wikipedia policy, but remember that you must complete the template. Do not simply insert a blank template on an image page.

If there is other fair use media, consider checking that you have specified the fair use rationale on the other images used on this page. Note that any fair use images lacking such an explanation can be deleted one week after being tagged, as described on criteria for speedy deletion. If you have any questions please ask them at the Media copyright questions page. Thank you.

BetacommandBot (talk) 23:46, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

I added fair-use rationale to the image. But that is only for the article on the book, not The Selfish Gene. Perhaps we will need to remove this image from this article. Fred Hsu (talk) 03:51, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

Section Ontological criticism[edit]

Quote: "The philosopher David Stove argues in 'Genetic Calvinism' in the book Against the Idols of the Age Published by Transaction Publishers in 2001, that The Selfish Gene introduces unsubstantiated metaphysics, and accuses Dawkins of establishing a religion." The Genetic Calvinism here links to http://books.google.com.au/books?id=aZJIbcvhRj0C&printsec , a chapter on Google Books. I'm not sure that this is according to Wikipedia guidelines. I would also like to include a summary of the arguments against Dawkins, including what makes this argument(s)"Ontological." Glancing over the essay, it seems a bit too unfocussed (It starts by attacking the use of the word "selfish," which Dawkins actually spends a great deal of text explaining in the book.) Cuvtixo (talk) 16:54, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

Unit of selection[edit]

These three edits by Wotnow have introduced good material on what Gould and Eldredge thought about the gene as a unit of selection. Similar material is in Gene-centered view of evolution, which is the correct place to spell out the argument. I think the new text here should be drastically cut back, with a link to a suitable article, because it is not appropriate to rehash the issues about the unit of selection in an outline of a book. Comments? Johnuniq (talk) 02:42, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

The whole premise of the book is the gene as the unit of selection.

Savagedjeff (talk) 03:02, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

Yes, but that doesn't mean the entire subject of the gene as unit of selection needs to be detailed in this article - similarly the book is solely about living organisms, but the article does not seek to explain in great depths every aspect of a living organism. Hence in an encyclopaedia there are different articles exploring different aspects of different disciplines, which may overlap to a greater or lesser degree, but are nonetheless treated distinctly, without every aspect being repeated ad infinitum in each article.--JohnArmagh (talk) 14:44, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

Aging[edit]

A recent edit added "citation needed" to "A more controversial example is aging, in which an old organism's death makes room for its offspring, benefiting its genes at the cost of the organism." I just had a look and I do not think there is anything like that claim in the book. There is an interesting section around p.40 including "Medawar first dismisses traditional arguments such as: 'Old individuals die as an act of altruism to the rest of the species, because if they stayed around when they were too decrepit to reproduce, they would clutter up the world to no good purpose.'" Note that the claim is dismissed and is certainly not proposed by the book, so I would be quite happy for the cn sentence to be removed. Johnuniq (talk) 04:04, 18 October 2009 (UTC)

Popular culture[edit]

The anime Ghost in the Sell makes a cameo of this book being read by robots. Maybe would be smart to point it on the article. http://imgur.com/NcA3W.png —Preceding unsigned comment added by 168.255.251.50 (talk) 23:24, 12 February 2010 (UTC)

Jeff Skilling and Enron[edit]

Would it be appropriate to include the fact the Jeff Skilling used this book to craft the competative and aggressive environment at Enron. I know that Skilling misinterpreted the book, but as long as that fact is made clear, I see no reason not to include how this book became involved in such a large event. Any ideas? JakeH07 (talk) 02:23, 9 June 2010 (UTC)

I am not familiar with the issue you mention, but it may be unwarranted here because it does not seem particularly useful to describe how some individuals have misunderstood the book, and then misapplied their thoughts in entirely different fields. Also, did the book really influence their behavior, or was the book merely used by someone to support their beliefs? If important, the information should be presented in an article on the person. Johnuniq (talk) 03:05, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
Good points. It is my understanding (which my be wrong, granted) Skilling saw the book as "justification" for the "sink or swim" culture he built at Enron. In this case, I see that presenting the information in this article would be inappropriate, as it would lead someone to believe the book (and by default, its authors) are responsible for the Enron collapse. Besides, the issue is already mentioned on the Skilling page. If no one else has any ideas, I will consider the issue closed and delete this topic. Thanks a lot Johnuniq!!! JakeH07 (talk) 21:36, 24 July 2010 (UTC)
You should mention that Dawkins himself held up Enron as an example of a misapplication of evolutionary theory in his TV series. I'll try to remember which one. BillMasen (talk) 10:10, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
Great idea! This would present the fact without presenting Skilling's theory as correct. I'll also try to find the source for a ciatation. JakeH07 (talk) 03:24, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
Also, Dawkins mentions in his introductions to later editions that people wrongly took him to mean that selfishness was immutable and total in all animals. In fact, one of his prime concerns was to explain the existence of altruistic behaviour, which (he felt) was incomprehensible if we view evolution as competition between individuals rather than genes. BillMasen (talk) 10:35, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
Yes that's true, the incongruence of apparently altruistic behaviour. That is, that the gene don't care what body it in, as long as it get there. Si Trew (talk) 10:43, 27 July 2010 (UTC)
I think its somewhat misleading to say "apparently". The point is, the gene's imperative doesnt manifest itself as a subconscious selfish motivation; the gene itself is selfish, and manifests itself as a consciously altruistic impulse, at all levels.
I've found the Dawkins documentary where he singles out Enron as a misconception of evolution (though Dawkins doesn't specifically mention his own interpretation of evolution, the Selfish Gene).
THE GENIUS OF CHARLES DARWIN
http://www.american-buddha.com/geniusdarwin.153.htm - contains the specific repudiation of Enron.
http://www.american-buddha.com/geniusdarwin.146.htm - the beginning of the passage leading up to it. BillMasen (talk) 11:04, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

Frans De Waal[edit]

The article presents Dawkins as responding to critics (like Frans de Waal) as saying that he doesn't believe evolution should decide ethics, while this is right, it is not a response to De Waal. De Waal argues that Dawkins tries to seperate morality from biology, which is what De Waals disagrees with. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.146.248.139 (talk) 00:51, 29 August 2010 (UTC)

Power Struggles are Rare[edit]

I'm not sure I understand the significance of the example used to show an "intelligent" organism having a true battle with his or her genes. Aren't condoms and birth control pills quite common? How does this illustrate the "rarity" of an organism "struggling" against the interests of his or her genes? To me, it seems like abstinence would be the real struggle against genes, rather than just slipping on a condom or popping some pills. I am curious what the wiki community thinks about the appropriateness of this example. ExistentialBliss (talk) 03:02, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

The article is paraphrasing the book, so the issue of whether it is sensible or not is not relevant. The book claims that selection acts on genes, and genes which cause their host to "succeed" (by passing the genes to the next generation) are "rewarded" by becoming more common. Birth control is a rare example of where the product of genes (intelligence) can choose to take actions that do not reward the genes. Johnuniq (talk) 03:41, 20 January 2011 (UTC)
Okay, that makes sense. I have only read quotes from the book, so I didn't realize that the example came right from the book and that the intelligence that the human animal has inherited is indeed rare and gives him the paradoxical freedom to "defy" his own genes. ExistentialBliss (talk) 02:37, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

distinguishing the importance of the 1976 book from that of the ideas it popularized[edit]

It is all very well to say that Dawkins coined the term "selfish gene". That is about as far as his original contribution goes. Titles like Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think are hagiography, and about as objective as making Edison the inventor of the light bulb. I am saying that more effort should be made to link the content of the book to the history of research by the people who actually came up with these ideas. --dab (𒁳) 15:49, 5 August 2012 (UTC)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Antifragile (Chapter 4: What Kills Me Makes Others Stronger), though perhaps provocatively, does not even mention Richard Dawkins when he writes "Robert Trivers figured out the presence of competition between gene and organism in his idea of the "selfish gene."" (my emphasis), which is supported in the article for Robert Trivers in a quote from Steven Pinker ("Both bestselling authors openly acknowledged that they were popularizing Trivers' ideas and the research they spawned."), yet the article doesn't mention Robert Trivers in "popularising ideas developed during the 1960s by W. D. Hamilton and others" (only relating to his foreword). I don't know the history enough to change that list, myself: should it be "W. D. Hamilton, Robert Trivers, and others", or something else still? RFST (talk) 13:17, 29 September 2013 (UTC)

The enactivist rebuttal of Dawkins' thesis[edit]

Here is a proposed summary of the enactivist position:

Enactivist objections[edit]

In Mind in Life philosopher Evan Thompson has assembled an extensively sourced enactivist objection to the "selfish gene" idea.1 The enactivist view and others too take issue with Dawkin's reduction of "life" to "genes" and "information":

"Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information"2
— Richard Dawkins: River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life p. 19
"On the bank of the Oxford canal...is a large willow tree, and it is pumping downy seeds into the air...It is raining instructions out there; it's raining programs; it's raining tree-growing, fluff-spreading algorithms. That is not a metaphor, it is the plain truth"3
— Richard Dawkins: The Blind Watchmaker, p. 111

Thompson's lengthy discussion includes authors that point out the gene cannot operate by itself, but requires an environment, a cell for instance. Thompson quotes Sarkar:4

"there is no clear technical notion of "information" in molecular biology. It is little more than a metaphor that masquerades as a theoretical concept and ...leads to a misleading picture of the nature of possible explanations in molecular biology."
— Sahotra Sarkar Biological information: a skeptical look at some central dogmas of molecular biology, p. 187

Thompson follows with a well-sourced examination of the concept of DNA as a look-up-table and the role of the cell in orchestrating the DNA-to-RNA transcription, indicating that by anyone's account the DNA is hardly the whole story. Thompson's presentation goes on to support the fact that the cell-environment interrelationship has much to do with reproduction and inheritance, and that a focus on the gene as a form of "information [that] passes through bodies and affects them, but is not affected by them on its way through"5 is tantamount to adoption of a form of material-informational dualism that has no explanatory value and no scientific basis.6 The enactivist view, by contrast, is that information results from the probing and experimentation of the agent with the agent's environment subject to the limitations of the agent's abilities to probe and process the result of probing, and DNA is simply one mechanism the agent brings to bear upon its activity.

Sources
1Evan Thompson (2007). "Chapter 7: Laying down a path in walking: Development and evolution". Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. Harvard University Press. pp. 166 ff. ISBN 9780674025110. }}
2Richard Dawkins (2008). River out of Eden: A Darwinian View (Paperback reprint of 1995 ed.). Basic Books. p. 19. ISBN 9780786724260. 
3Richard Dawkins (1986). The Blind Watchmaker. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 111. ISBN 9780393315707. 
4Sahotra Sarkar (1996). "Biological information: a skeptical look at some central dogmas of molecular biology". The philosophy and history of molecular biology: New perspectives 183: 187–232. 
5Richard Dawkins (2008). River out of Eden: A Darwinian View (Paperback reprint of 1995 ed.). Basic Books. p. 4. ISBN 9780786724260. 
6 Thompson, p. 187

Comments[edit]

Dicklyon has reverted this contribution to the (very extensive) existing subsection Reception with the one-line comment: Inappropriate without secondary sources on Evan Thompson's criticisms. No Talk-page discussion was provided.

In response, there is the following:

1. Evan Thompson's chapter in Mind in Life pp. 166-216 is a scholarly discussion of 50 pages containing references to dozens of scholarly articles. It is replete with sources, and certainly is not the unsupported view of Evan Thompson.
2. As a major topic in modern philosophy, the enactivist response deserves attention in this article.
3. Evan Thompson is a very well known philosopher in this arena himself, and has coauthored several of the early papers on the subject with its founder Francisco Varela.

It seems that Dicklyon would like a fuller account of Evan Thompson's presentation to include his sources: I think this brief version alerts readers to the existence of the enactivist response to the The Selfish Gene without too much detail. At a minimum, the enactivist view deserves discussion in this article along with the other Responses. Instead of peremptory removal, perhaps Dicklyon could provide a proposal more to his liking that satisfies his desire for "secondary sources"? Brews ohare (talk) 16:39, 28 February 2015 (UTC)

As an aside, the scathing dismissal of Dawkins' use of the concept "selfish" and his lamentable lack of grasp of genetics ("There is nothing empirical about Dawkins. Critics have repeatedly pointed out that his notions of genetics are unworkable"), and his omissions described in "How Richard Dawkins went further than Hobbes and ended up ludicrously wrong", is not the purpose of Thompson's work, which is focused upon the role of the cell in modifying the activity of the gene. Brews ohare (talk) 17:17, 28 February 2015 (UTC)

Article suggests credibility, while controversy is more the case[edit]

This article is constructed in two major divisions: a beginning that purports to say what Dawkins has said, and a follow- on that purports to describe the "reception" of this work. However, the portion about presentation is written in a manner suggesting Dawkins' views are the modern and accepted ones, by making assertions without caveats. Placing all objections in the later portion disconnects them from the first, and leaves the impression they are piecemeal, rather than basic refutations of Dawkins' claims. I have reworded a few of these sentences, but the problem is not cured.

Perhaps some rewording, or perhaps combining the opposition to Dawkins' assertions in proximity to his claims, would provide a more realistic view? Brews ohare (talk) 16:10, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

This article is about a book (a book, incidentally, that has sold over a million copies, and is mentioned in zillions of scholarly publications). Make some other article if you want a generic discussion about how evolution works. I know Mary Midgley's views were in the article before your edits, but I am reminded how pathetic is the result when the thoughts of random philosophers are used to pad out articles on evolution, as if semantics will answer all mysteries. Johnuniq (talk) 03:21, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes, this article is about the book The Selfish Gene and it quite properly contains material about the book's reception, which includes remarks about how many copies sold. Some of the material under the header "Reception" is not directed carefully at the book, and appears more to be an exposition of alternative approaches. Of course, the mere existence of alternative approaches suggests some resistance to The Selfish Gene, but I'd agree that this section should make direct connection with Dawkins and not simply wander off into other explanations. Of course, Thompson's discussion, on the other hand, is very directly pointed at Dawkins' views, and so belongs in this section. The work by Wilson, on the other hand, uses the term "selfish gene" but attributes it to W.D. Hamilton (12), not Dawkins, and never cites or mentions Dawkins at all. Mary Midgley's views are entirely pertinent to the reception of The Selfish Gene and although they point out a number of shortcomings of Dawkins' efforts, what is more pertinent here is that they represent a negative reception by some philosophers and geneticists.
So I've suggested in the thread below that this section be revamped. Brews ohare (talk) 03:43, 2 March 2015 (UTC)

Section on reception largely not on topic[edit]

The first paragraph of the subsection Reception addresses the topic. The subsection Moral arguments also relates to the reception of The Selfish Gene. However the section Other types of selection suggested and the section Unit of selection or of evolution do not directly address the subject of reception of the book, but instead provide rather inadequate guidance to alternative views of how evolution works, and do not clearly and directly take issue with The Selfish Gene. And of course, this section on Reception ignores entirely the direct arguments against The Selfish Gene contained in the Mind in Life discussion of The Selfish Gene by Evan Thompson.

The section on Reception needs a serous overhaul. Brews ohare (talk) 03:33, 2 March 2015 (UTC)

Enactive arguments[edit]

The subsection on "enactive arguments" cites Evan Thompson's discussion in Mind and Life and summarizes its content. This discussion is not unique to Thompson, and his Chapter cites dozens of supporting sources, as well as challenging material. In addition, of course, Thompson is a pre-eminent spokesperson for the enactivist view, and has co-published with Varella and other pioneers of this 'ism. Antireductionism in general supports opposition to Dawkins' thesis on the role of the gene as the inanimate force of life. However, there is no better summary of how this opposition relates to The Selfish Gene than Thompson's. Brews ohare (talk) 15:21, 22 March 2015 (UTC)

Last edits[edit]

Unfortunately I do not have time here, but the latest changes by Brews were rather doubtful. So, reverting this to an older version was a good idea. One should really support this. My very best wishes (talk) 01:36, 26 July 2015 (UTC)