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I read Dawkins the Selfish Gene and now I'm derpressed!

  • 19-04-2023 5:51pm
    Registered Users Posts: 3,583 ✭✭✭

    So we are just transport vehicles for some self replicating molecules that were formed in some fart gas billions of years ago. Read??? Is that really the correct past tense?



  • Registered Users Posts: 621 ✭✭✭taxAHcruel

    Certainly seems that is what we are. But I am not sure I find it as depressing as you do. Quite the opposite in fact I find it very inspiring and motivating and self elevating. Neil DeGrasse Tyson sets it out well enough that I probably do not need to reinvent the wheel.

    But some people do get depressed by it which is probably why we need to invent gods and divine plans and souls and all that malarky.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,598 ✭✭✭standardg60

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,937 ✭✭✭indioblack

    "We are stardust, we are golden......."

    Anyone remember Matthews Southern Comfort?

  • Registered Users Posts: 12,930 ✭✭✭✭JRant

    Another way to look at it is, there's been an unbroken line over billions of years from the first life forming right up to now for you. That's mind bending if you take a step back to think about it and shows how incredibly lucky we are all are to be alive today.

    "Well, yeah, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man"

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 12,717 Mod ✭✭✭✭riffmongous

    Well just think, you are probably the part of one of the first generations who are no longer bound by their genes

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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,583 ✭✭✭Montage of Feck

    But if our only purpose is to pass on those very genes, which have travelled down through a mind blowing period of time, doesn't it make you a bit of a failure that isn't fulfilled.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,937 ✭✭✭indioblack

    Indeed. In an interview Dawkins acknowledged that it was survival of the fittest, but also survival of the most cooperative. He also stated that though we emerged from a harsh and unforgiving past with much cruelty, [as we perceive it], we need not be bound by our ancestor's behaviour.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,200 ✭✭✭Ubbquittious

    I find it depressing too. So I did not bother reading it

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 12,717 Mod ✭✭✭✭riffmongous

    The genes don't care if you do or not, they cant physically 'care', nor can they give you a 'purpose', or consider you a failure.

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 12,717 Mod ✭✭✭✭riffmongous

    It's amazing really to think about, it's up there with humans becoming sentient in the first place

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  • Registered Users Posts: 272 ✭✭j2

    We don't know that for sure, although I have heard of a guy who was depressed for a decade after reading the book. I found it interesting and well written. The opening chapter is amazing. Still, I don't assume that we know all the deets regarding the nature of this here gig.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,222 ✭✭✭Nate--IRL--

    The best way I’ve heard it interpreted is, we are the manifestation of the universe becoming self aware.


  • Registered Users Posts: 980 ✭✭✭Fred Cryton

    Crazy to think we are all descended from a long line of people, and before that animals, who lived long enough to reach puberty, then find a mate and reproduce successfully. In every generation there would have been countless people who didn't make it that far, and no-one alive today is descended from them.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,786 ✭✭✭DownByTheGarden

    Always thought it was kind of depressing for your line to just stop with you. If you have no children that is end of line for you, right from the beginning of life right up until the day you die.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,987 ✭✭✭silliussoddius

  • Registered Users Posts: 13,605 ✭✭✭✭Dial Hard

    I genuinely don't understand that way of thinking. I'm childfree by choice. Why would it matter to me that my "line" will end when I die? I'll be dead, I won't care or even know.

  • Registered Users Posts: 593 ✭✭✭slipperyox

    And to think he was "cancelled" when he went to give a talk in a Dublin University recently....

  • Registered Users Posts: 621 ✭✭✭taxAHcruel

    Genetically speaking I do not think I would find this all that depressing really. Although I do have 4 kids so I can check my privilege at the door on that one.

    But at the level of the genome it is worth asking what your "Line" is anyway. We might like to think we have this unique set of genes that makes us "us". Actually the near totality of the human genome is identical across our entire species. The bit making you uniquely you is tiny and only half of that goes to a child.

    According to estimates I am pulling from memory - so apologies if I am off - the differences between individuals are typically on the order of 0.1%. This means that any two individuals are estimated to differ by about 3 million nucleotides out of 3 billion base pairs. Kinda makes a mockery of racism huh?

    So when you realize just how tiny it is - it is hard to maintain any notion of your "Line" at all let alone it being carried on in children. Rather I find that any notion I have of me carrying on after I die lies in the affect I have on the world and people around me - including my own kids and kids I have worked with over recent years as a mentor and trainer.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,102 ✭✭✭greencap

    Dawkins speaks truth, but I very much doubt its the whole truth.

    Matter doesnt care. But you do. You have preferences. You are conscious. Regardless of the mechanism, consciousness exists as a reality. Experiences, sensations and emptions are plentiful proof of this.

    From that undeniable fact there are many ways of viewing the universe.

    Im out of time, but have a look at some of Alan Watts stuff, Ajahn Brahm (theoretical physicist/abbot), Eben Alexander, Jill Bolte Taylor, and half a head dude, and David Lynch talking about transcendental meditation.

  • Registered Users Posts: 980 ✭✭✭Fred Cryton

    Do you ever think about your ancestors, who toiled and suffered to feed and keep their children alive. Day after day after day. Sacrificing for their children so their genes and more importantly their values and culture would endure. And then you rock up and make it all for naught.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 13,605 ✭✭✭✭Dial Hard

    Nope. But if I did, I'd reckon they probabky wouldn't particularly care (these somehow sentient long-dead people) given I have four siblings and nine niblings.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,734 ✭✭✭hoodie6029

    Can’t find the link now but large parts of The Selfish Gene have been debunked by modern research. People aren’t naturally and uncontrollably selfish. Experiments with people of various ages showed a much higher willingness to cooperate and work towards a common goal than to be selfish.

    The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

  • Registered Users Posts: 621 ✭✭✭taxAHcruel

    I am not sure what is in the link you can not find - but it does not sound all that useful for a few reasons.

    1) Firstly the concept of the book is about the "selfish Gene" not selfish people. So it is unlikely that your link has debunked anything that was actually in the book from the sounds of it. It is entirely possible for the gene to be "selfish" and still result it cooperation and reciprocity among the individuals carrying those genes.

    2) Secondly the book is about genetics and evolution as a whole. Not specifically or solely in humans. So the experiments you describe are unlikely to be relevant to much of anything in the book. Let alone debunk it. Because such experiments are relevant to almost nothing actually in the book.

    3) Finally and perhaps most important - the word "Selfish" was chosen for artistic license and Dawkins later wrote it was a poor choice. Because it strays into the realm of being anthropomorphic which ends up confusing people - like above - when it comes to topics like altruism and cooperation in a species.

    Put more accurately therefore the book proposes that genes - not individuals - are the fundamental unit of natural selection and behaviors can be best understood as a means for genes to propagate themselves. So apparently altruistic behavior in animals can be explained by the concept of "reciprocal altruism," and the book discusses the role of many things like for example kin selection, where individuals may act altruistically towards close relatives in order to increase the likelihood that their genes will be passed on to future generations. And the book discusses "Game Theory" which is similar.

    Be interesting to see your link should you find it. But it sounds unlikely _so far_ that whoever wrote it has actually read the book.

  • Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators Posts: 11,310 Mod ✭✭✭✭igCorcaigh

    One way of looking at it is through a reductionist way of thinking... We come from a soup of molecular replicators, and as long as they replicate, nothing else is meaningful...

    The other way of looking at it, is that, from such simple things, great things can come from it; plant, animals, humans, technology, rocket ships to the moon?

    I prefer to think that the universe "tries" everything out, some experiments work, others maybe not.

    But we live in the world that the experiments do work, and we are a part of that creative process. What is there to be depressed about? The future is wide open, and you are an essential part of that project.

    Post edited by igCorcaigh on