Last week my senior students and I were talking about the books we had read during summer. Following the example from their coursebook, they had to write a short book review for the next lesson. Among the usual selection of romances, crime and horror stories there was a review of a science book. It did not take me by surprise, though as I know how much one of my students is interested in science. Here is his assignment.
The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and zoologist, the leader of ”Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science” and one of four horsemen of the new atheism movement. Richard is also a great proponent of science, education, reason, and truth.
His experience and knowledge covers plethora of evolutionary topics mentioned in this book, ranging from the origin of the first replicators, although that is not an issue relevant to evolution (it is most briefly mentioned) to topics most demanding in terms of elaboration, such as the concept of altruism, for example. As Richard says in his book: ”In the beginning there was simplicity”, it also includes the macroscopic effects of gene selection.
The main idea in his reasoning is that the evolution does not operate on individual organisms but upon genes. We are, loosely paraphrasing his words, vehicles for our genes. We are survival machines. We and every living creature for that matter are a single link in a colossal chain of evolutionary success. Just imagine the immensity of the case presented, more than 99% of all species to have ever lived on this single, in words of Carl Sagan, blue dot in the vastness and emptiness of dark space, are now extinct. Every living creature had a successful ancestor and, by induction, each and every ancestor up to that point.
It is tremendously thankless to lessen the value of his work by reducing his book to a book review, the best you can do is to read it. You can, as well as I did, listen to the audio book version. There are some sixteen hours of his soothing voice narrating. Richard is the author of many other works such as: ” The God Delusion”, ”The Blind Watchmaker” and ”The Greatest Show on Earth”. In all honesty, I have not read or listened to any of his other books. Most of my time is taken by listening to the debates he takes part in. I just cannot get enough.
I will leave you with the following video documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I71mjZefg8g