Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Richard Dawkins on E.O. Wilson’s “The Social Conquest of Earth”

Posted 12 Jun 2012 / 0

Prospect MagazineThe descent of Edward Wilson

First comment on this: what’s up with the ad hominem attacks on Wilson implying (not-so-subtly) that he is somehow slipping (look here for another example) in his old age? Given the massive departure that Dawkins has made from science in his writings on religion, he is the last one who should be suggesting that E.O. Wilson is not aging well as a scientist!

What I find so fascinating about Dawkins is that he just cannot get beyond his own metaphors. In his mind the gene is the fundamental replicator and it has only one potential vehicle: the individual organism. He pulls this fascinating reversal that goes something like this:

The gene is carried within individual organisms, which act as vehicles for the genes which float around in a gene pool, whose fate is determined by what vehicle they end up in, but only individuals can be vehicles for genes because vehicles have to be organisms and everyone knows that other forms of groups — while they could influence the replication of genes within gene pools — are not organisms and organisms are the fundamental vehicle for genes.

Seriously, that is what his argument amounts to. How do we convince the mainstream media that this man has no intellectual authority upon which to be speaking about these matters?

Oh, and is this a book review? There is almost nothing in here that tells me anything about E.O. Wilson’s book. I would suggest that Dawkins is in decline if I had any sense that he ever made sense on these issues. Dawkins is dogmatic, and dogma is — in the words of David Sloan Wilson — unbefitting to a scientist.

A Minor Post, Articles, Books, Cooperation, Group Selection, Human Evolution, Human Uniqueness, Superorganisms

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