on 20 November 2012
In line one Dawkins confesses that he has worked out the reason for his existence: 'the evolutionary theory of Darwinism'. He explains, with immodest piety, that a society acknowledging Darwinism symbolizes its civilization. He says that we no longer have to resort to superstition to understand `why we are people'. Without any evidence he says, `the theory of evolution is as much open to doubt as the earth goes around the sun'. These are fascinating insights to the imperialistic mindset of the academic who at the stroke of his pen sets a significant proportion of the globe's population, including Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, along with many Africans from many different cultures and beliefs, as less than his standard of being civilized. Given that worldview the reader will not be surprised when Dawkins betrays the low value he places on human life. He shamelessly suggests that the fetus, which he describes as a bunch of cells without thought or feeling, is less valued than a chimpanzee which has the capacity to think and feel (p10, line15.)
In the second chapter the author seeks to take us through his understanding of the evolutionary theory. Key to his understanding are replicators, molecules that have the remarkable ability to replicate themselves. The chapter starts well with an explanation of the complexity of molecules. Atoms come together in a `definite invariant structure.' He goes on to tell us about the hemoglobin molecule and its complex and orderly structure which looks like a thorn bush. This is helpful and informative but suddenly we are taken on an amazing flight of fantasy where Professor Dawkins supposes these atoms fall into order, not by design or purpose, but by accident! His analogy being while you may not expect to win the lottery in a lifetime if you waited around millions of years you could win several times over. A more helpful analogy to understanding just how implausible it is that complex life should accidentally materialize would be: "if you set of an explosion in the Library of Congress, how likely is it that the Declaration of Independence would be produced as a consequence?"
I am not sure how easy it might be to miss the unscientific vocabulary that litters the narrative, terms such as: `a more complex possibility', `Must of', `must have', `probably not too far from the truth', `must have given rise to the primeval soup', `almost certainly', probably been an evolutionary trend' and so on. Unscientific much of Dawkins' story certainly is and his choice of analogy becomes even more peculiar when he turns to the writers of the Bible. Dawkins offers the strange notion that the translators of the Septuagint, the first seven books of the Bible, miss-translated the Bible, interpreting the Hebrew for young woman into the Greek word for virgin. Of course Dawkins is reinforcing the urban myth that somehow the prophecy that Jesus Christ would be born to a virgin is false. I cannot imagine, given his interest in opposing Christianity, that this is anything but deliberate. He must know that the correct translation from the Hebrew is young maiden, and in the cultural context of the time a young maiden was a virgin. What could Dawkins' motive be for seeking to discredit the Biblical account? Whatever the reason it reinforces my impression, revealed throughout Dawkins writing, that this scientist has an unrevealed agenda.
It is reasonable that Dawkins should use his writing to promote his political leanings and this book is no exception. He says, "The welfare state is probably the greatest altruistic system that the animal kingdom has ever known" (my italics). Put this statement alongside another of his political gems; "people who have more children than they are capable of rearing are probably too ignorant in most cases of malevolent exploitation"; before he goes on to blame leaders and politicians for mankind's mess. If you were looking for better insights into Dawkins' worldview, this is the book. It is his sincere belief that we, mankind, are large lumbering machines controlled by our genes. He explains how computers play chess, with programmers as their fathers, as we are survival machines, with genes being our creators. He invests effort in de-humanizing mankind who are referred to as `survival machines' throughout the book, a position necessary given his criticism of those who oppose abortion.
Interestingly much of the scientific writing corroborates the Biblical worldview that says God makes order out of chaos and designed the magnificent creation we see around us. The final sentence of the chapter called, `battle of the generations' is helpful as it supports the Bibles' insights to mankind's nature that says. `we are born into iniquity' (Psalm 51:5) and `wicked from our womb' (Job 1:21) when Dawkins says, " if there is a human moral to be drawn, it is that we must teach our children altruism, for we cannot expect it to be a part of their biological nature.
This book is not, as it claims, for anyone looking for insights into mankind's meaning and purpose. It has plenty of helpful biological information, for example in the last chapter we learn: `almost all genetic side effects are bad and a new mutation will normally spread only if its bad effects are outweighed by its good effects. If both good and bad effects apply to the whole body, the net effect can still be good for the body. But if the bad effects are on the body, and the good effects are on the gene alone, from the bodies point of view the net effect is all bad. This is an impressive admission by an author who professes the theory that proposes one species can change into another species. One of the cornerstones to the macro-evolutionary theory is genetic mutation. However, one of the fundamental flaws in the theory is that in mutations new information, required to make a new species, is not created. Dawkins, in his final chapter, mentions nothing of mutations adding more genetic information and reports, factually, that they do not further natural selection (page 237.)
The book illustrates many things. It details insights to the wonder of creation. It shows the leap of faith required to accept the idea that from nothing came the primeval soup, from which the complexity of life we see today is supposed to come (sic). It corroborates many of the Biblical accounts of human behaviour and how infinitely different we are from the animal kingdom. If ever a book shows that mankind by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (Romans 1:18) then the `Selfish Gene' is it.