My TL,DR version of “Die, Selfish Gene, Die”

Many have liked  “Die, Selfish Gene, Die,” my Aeon piece challenging Richard Dawkins “Selfish Gene” meme. Quite a few readers have objected to and disagreed with the story, sometimes sharply. Some readers have both liked it and objected to it. At least one objected both rudely and inaccurately; I answer that here

I want to thank everyone who’s read it, and to acknowledge right here at the top (as well as later, at bottom) the extra energy and goodwill extended by those who objected in constructive spirit. The hardest but most necessary sort of reading is to read charitably, and with a sincere, sustained effort to understand, something that sharply challenges you.

Those readers and others, such as some who managed to read my piece as a case for Lamarckianism (which it is not; nay nay nay), make it clear to me that I muddled much of my message. Most crucially, I seem to have not made clear that my challenge was less to an technical account of nature than to a metaphor and story used to describe those technicalities. To put it another way: I apparently did not make clear that “Die, Selfish Gene, Die” is a story less about how genetics and evolution work than about the stories we tell about how genetics and evolution work — and, most crucially, about how those stories about nature percolate out beyond academia and into the minds of the lay public. I could write for pages to try to clarify all this. Possibly I may. But I do want to give here a tl,dr attempt to clarify.

Here then, are first a truly short tl,dr version of “Die, Selfish Gene, Die”; then one slightly longer; and a key passage from the original in which I meant to convey what is here reduced to these tl,dr versions:

“Die, Selfish Gene, Die,” the truly short version

Richard Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene,” both book and concept, is an achingly beautiful story about how genes and evolution work. Even at almost 40 years old, it’s still mostly right about how genes and evolution work. But as story and meme, its power has come to obscure newer understanding of how genes and evolution work. As a metaphor for how genetics and evolution work, the Selfish Gene needs to be replaced.

For those who want slightly more and bigger words:

“Die, Selfish Gene, Die,” the slightly longer tl,dr version

The dominant story science tells about genetics and evolution these days — certainly the dominant story that reaches the public — comes from Richard Dawkins’ ‘selfish gene’ conceptualization of genetics and evolution. “The Selfish Gene,” both book and concept, is one of the most elegant and powerful framings of genetics and evolution ever published or disseminated. It remains largely correct and accurate about how genes and evolution operate. It’s compatible, if sometimes uncomfortable, with most findings since it was published. Alas, the very power of the selfish gene story, and especially its rhetorical and conceptual focus on the role of the single gene (please note book’s title), so strongly encourage an emphasis on the power of single genes that it is now hindering both scientific and — more dangerously — public understanding of how genes and evolution works. Accordingly, “the selfish gene,” as metaphor and story, needs to go.

For those who want even more, see the real thing: “Die, Selfish Gene, Die

Again: I offer these now because it seems my Aeon story did not make these things  clear. Many readers  — both those who loved the story and those who objected — seemed to miss this. So I seem to have muddled something, possibly several things, and even if some people misunderstood because they were bringing to my story a wish to confirm some story they wanted to be true, then I failed to get them to set those stories aside, which is part of my job. Apologies all around. As a couple of generous critics (conscientious objectors?) noted early this morning on Twitter, I was trying to do a lot, and not all of it came clear.

However, if you read my shorter version above and ask yourself, “Why the fuck didn’t Dobbs say that to start with?” I ask you to consider this passage from the original, which is the crux passage of the entire piece, and which is the very spot in which the piece comes closest to saying Dawkins had everything wrong. (It’s what journo-types call ‘the nut ‘graf,’ meaning nut paragraph, which, true to the perversity of that ugly and perversely misspelled jargon, can actually be several paragraphs.) Crucial bits in bold this time around:

By the time you’ve finished his book, or well before that, Dawkins has made of the tiny gene — this replicator, this strip of chemicals little more than an abstraction — a huge, relentlessly turning gearwheel of steel, its teeth driving smaller cogs to make all of life happen. It’s a gorgeous argument. Along with its beauty and other advantageous traits, it is amenable to maths and, at its core, wonderfully simple.

Unfortunately, say Wray, West-Eberhard and others, it’s wrong.

Wray and West-Eberhard don’t say that Dawkins is dead wrong. They and other evolutionary theorists — such as Massimo Pigliucci, professor of philosophy at the City University of New York; Eva Jablonka, professor of mathematics education at King’s College, London; Stuart Kauffman, professor of biochemistry and mathematics at the University of Vermont; Stuart A Newman, professor of cell biology and anatomy at the New York Medical College; and the late Stephen Jay Gould, to name a few — have been calling for an ‘extended modern synthesis’ for more than two decades. They do so even though they agree with most of what Dawkins says a gene does. They agree, in essence, that the gene is a big cog, but would argue that the biggest cog doesn’t necessarily always drive the other cogs. In many cases, they drive it. The gene, in short, just happens to be the biggest, most obvious part of the trait-making inheritance and evolutionary machine. But not the driver.

I recognize that other elements in the story, along with reader expectations set by all sorts of factors, may have led some readers to miss that passage or what I meant to be its centrality. For my failings there, I apologize. I’d likewise ask readers to consider why, if they missed this, they did so.

Some readers have complained that part of the problem is the story’s title and subtitle — that those, by implying or (end of subtitle) that Dawkins had everything wrong, obscure my point above about this being about stories about nature rather than about nature. I stand by the title but agree we might have found a better end to the subtitle — that it might have been wise to run with something other than “it’s wrong.” Fair enough.

Yet in answer to any really strident objections to a title that threatens to obscure a richer aragument — to any charges that I can hardly expect people to hear my deeper argument if I lead with title like “Die, Selfish Gene, Die” —I would answer: Let us examine more closely “The Selfish Gene.”

Finally, let me again thank all the many, many readers who came to both article and ensuing discussion with a sincere wish to understand first, argue second, and to argue, when it seemed necessary, with a continued determination to reach, if not agreement, at least a mutual understanding of the others’ deeper argument and intentions, and a desire not just to change the other’s thinking, but expand their own.

I won’t attempt to name all who’ve done that despite disagreeing with me, but am happy to name as examples of such engagement Graham Coop, Karen James, Aylwyn Scally, Emily Willingham, Razib Khan, and Hopi Hoekstra. Even amid ugly shouting from various corners, these people have engaged in spirited disagreement with the intent not just to tear something down, but to build something new. They have listened as much as they have spoken. They have sought to understand as much as to be understood. Despite discord they have engaged under the noble assumption that drives all the best science and all the best writing: That, absent evidence otherwise, we are all here trying to tell true and constructive stories about a nature gorgeously and maddeningly complicated. Cheers to you lot.

22 Comments

  1. David, thanks for your engagement and responsiveness to the various criticisms that have been made of your piece. I still fundamentally disagree with the premise, even of your shortest version: that the selfish gene meme obscures a deeper understanding of the true complexities of evolutionary dynamics of real species in real environments. In fact, it remains the most potent conceptual metaphor in anyone’s cognitive arsenal in attempting to understand these complexities.

    This includes understanding how stable changes in gene expression arise (through changes in DNA, which, if adaptive, will be selected for) and also how dynamic control and flexibility of gene expression is itself a trait that is encoded in the genome (of a grasshopper for example). This flexibility has been selected for, mutation by mutation, on the basis of whether such mutations conferred a fitness advantage on the organism (across whatever range of environments its carriers found themselves in).

    Phenotypic plasticity and genetic accommodation are absolutely fascinating elements in evolutionary dynamics, but do not challenge the view that evolution acts by changing allele frequencies, nor are the complexities of these issues in any way obscured by the central premise of The Selfish Gene. The use of the singular in the title does not imply some kind of single gene isolationism. Of course evolution acts in context – both environmental and genetic – the selective effect of any mutation depends on all the other genetic variants in whichever individuals it finds itself in, as well as the particular environments they find themselves in.

    1. Thanks, Kevin. I take your points, and were I doing this over, I would find a way to include that gene expression control is of course itself coded in DNA, as you note above. I did not omit that to deceive. It was one of many things, including examples of dynamics other than genetic accommodation that are arguably obscured (esp to the nonspecialist) by an overly gene-centric view. I agree it in retrospect that it was one of those things I shouldn’t have left on the Not In list.

      I do disagree directly with you about the use of the singular in the title. Dawkins may not have meant the singular to imply single-gene primacy (just as he didn’t mean what most people feel would be the most obvious meaning of ‘selfish’); but that doesn’t prevent the use of the singular from implying the primacy of single genes as independent actors who occasionally collaborate, rather than do most of the time or even in ways essential to their function. I think that remains a major problem with the phrasing and its implications. I think that because I am told that by biologists and as well as people who deal with the implications of our popular conceptions of genetics, such as genetic counselors.

      Thanks for chiming in, and good luck with your own splendid work.

      1. OK, so what we have here is a meta attack on what is perceived to be a popular trope that is claimed may have a negative societal effects on behavior. The key trope being moralistic notions of “selfish.” Dawkins published played this same rhetorical trick by titling the book as well. Fair enough.

        So we have three lies here:

        First, the science is sophomoric – but all popular science is, by definition. It is used to support the rhetorical screed. Screeds are fine for getting attention but useless in terms of knowledge or addressing real problems.

        Reading stuff and interviewing fringe professionals is useless for any serious topic and especially biological medical ones. Fair enough. It appears the bio ideas carried the piece away and “The Attack on the Trope’. So there is no real attack on evolution models but on the title to Dawkins book…..

        Let me get to the meta, meta issue based on brain science – subjective experience, therefore any word based behavior is likely trivial in terms of behavior. Therefore, if the real concern is harmful behavior the trope “selfish” is likely meaningless.

        moral will lead to immoral behavior. It has been a catchy head for all of erecorded history.

  2. Two quotes to share straight off the bat. The first is from Bucky Fuller and, I believe, is relevant to the situation:

    “In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.”

    The second speaks to what you aimed for as your main point about the importance of metaphors and how their profound affect on our worldview and thinking, feeling, behaving, etc… It comes by way of one of the greatest intellectuals of our time, Joseph Campbell:

    “In order to change the world, you have to change the metaphor.”

    Alan Watts solidified this point quite clearly and concretely in a lecture about the various (and shifting) prevailing “myths” (as in images) of the world that we have lived by and which have been (and continue to be) guiding lights for various cultures and intellectual climates:

    Our Image of the World
    http://youtu.be/INVjMaoA-yg

    Now, there is another layer worth recognizing here that I haven’t really seen mentioned elsewhere (in articles or comments). And while it may appear broad, it rings true right down to particulars. Firstly, the current dialogue of the particulars is certainly worth having, as Aldous Huxley notes:

    “The world is a continuum; but in order to act upon it successfully, we have to analyse it into easily comprehensible elements. The cake of experience can be cut in many different ways, and none of the systems of slicing can express the molar fact completely; each, however, may be useful for some particular purpose. There have been literally hundreds of analyses of human nature, some excellent, others less good, others again positively misleading.”

    So, genes, the genome, plenotypes, epigenetics, the microbiome, the “external” environment…all factors of the continuum worthy of analysis. But, I think it’s important to fundamentally recognize and remember – and I’m sure I’ll be accused of “high-order thinking” – that, to paraphrase Alan Watts, the world doesn’t come “bitted,” and we won’t fully grasp its processes with a linear mode of thought. Some have made note of this and mentioned that singular genes are involved in larger processes, and pointed to Dawkins’ “The Extended Phenotype” and how genes “respond to” and/or “influence” their environment, but it extends beyond that in this way:

    Self implies other. Or, to put it in relevant terms, selfish implies (and involves and includes) everything else there is. In other words, it’s foolish to think in terms of “selfish” without a re-examination of “self” – which ultimately shows us that the world is really full of self-others. In the same way, every gene “in an environment” is in all actuality a gene-environment. It doesn’t just “respond to” or “influence” it, it ultimately and fundamentally is it.

    For example, one might readily acknowledge the interdependent relationship between bees and flowers. They might also be willing to take it a step further and recognize that interdependence truly suggests they are one continuous organism – for where there are no flowers there are no bees, and where there are no bees (or a similar pollinating organism) there are no flowers. They go-together in the same way a head goes with feet on a human body. So the “bee genome” really involves and includes the “flower genome.”

    In somewhat the same way, we’re all very familiar with the idea of having “internal” organs, but hardly anyone recognizes on our dependence on “external” organs. Half of our lungs could be said to exist outside of us in the form carbon dioxide-inhaling and oxygen-exhaling trees (and similar plant life). So the “human genome” goes-with the “tree genome.” To paraphrase Watts again, rocks are just as much you as your fingernails. You need rocks. What are you going to stand on?

    But, then, it goes even further than that simple relationship and includes any and all other organisms. From pollinators, to seed dispersers, to fertilizing ruminants, to the microbes, insects, and nutrient recycling mycelium in the soil, to the sea and the ecosystem and hydrologic cycle that sustain it – it’s a mutually arising, supportive, dependent, and functioning process. Any seemingly “individual” organism is an aspect of one “continuous organism,” as it were:

    Organism-Environment, the transactional nature
    http://youtu.be/nLI54vXxfic

    In other words, you don’t just inherent “your” genes when you are born, you inherent your entire environment (and all the genes therein that exist or have existed).

    It all goes together
    http://youtu.be/qml1-xzPpxY

    How do we define ourselves?
    http://youtu.be/lXRPjdXGjjg

    To expand on that last parenthetical, the genes that exist today are not something that is cut-off and the result at the end of the process, they are still part the process that required any and all other genes to have existed and done their thing. There is no “selfish” without other, even those that seemingly “lost” the “competition” (especially those that lost, actually). Which is why, to bring it around, the “selfish gene” is truly a misguided and misleading metaphor, and even the meat of the argument behind it fails to take into account a greater picture and understanding.

    So, while science has made wonderful strides in the examination of evolution and rightly does so breaking it down to its various components – genes, the microbiome, and the like – I think it’s just as important to emphasize and facilitate a shift in the “sense of self”.

    1. For some reason you want to talk about the “whole” to the exclusion of the “parts”. But there ARE genes. And atoms, and subatomic particles. They are legitimate subjects. After all, the “parts” make up the “whole”. The Selfish Gene addresses the “parts”. It’s a legitimate subject and an explanatory metaphor at this level.

      1. From my post:

        “So, genes, the genome, plenotypes, epigenetics, the microbiome, the “external” environment…all factors of the continuum worthy of analysis.”

        “So, while science has made wonderful strides in the examination of evolution and rightly does so breaking it down to its various components – genes, the microbiome, and the like – I think it’s just as important to emphasize and facilitate a shift in the “sense of self”.”

        Also, in quoting Huxley:

        “The world is a continuum; but in order to act upon it successfully, we have to analyse it into easily comprehensible elements.”

        So I agree – and tried to convey – that there is a great degree of usefulness and actionability involved with a “parts”-analyzing approach, I was just attempting to offer a deeper and more fundamental (and largely unrecognized) understanding of “a” gene. And not just in how this gene effects or works with that gene, but that this gene is part and parcel with that gene (and, in fact, entirety itself).

        In other words, we cannot separate isolated unities in these universal networks of interrelationships and interconnections. In any level of the evolutionary scale, there are no “parts” really separated. Hard lines don’t exist in nature, and the words (and metaphors) we use create borders and boundaries that don’t truly exist. On the contrary, as in a holographic plate, each “fragment” of the world is not any other thing than a concrete expression of the same and unique totality (or, in short, an expression of totality). With that in mind, from Alan Watts:

        “You become aware also in the same moment and at the same time that you’re not only beating your heart, but that you are shining the sun. Why? Because the process of your bodily existence and its rhythms is a process, an energy system which is continuous with the shining of the sun, just like the East River. Here is a continuous energy system, and all the waves in it are activities of the whole East River, and that’s continuous with the Atlantic Ocean, and that’s all one energy system and finally the Atlantic ocean gets around to being the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, etc., and so all the waters of the Earth are a continuous energy system. It isn’t just that the East River is part of it. You can’t draw any line and say ‘Look, this is where the East River ends and the rest of it begins,’ as if you can in the parts of an automobile, where you can say ‘This is definitely part of the generator, here, and over here is a spark plug.’ There’s not that kind of isolation between the elements of nature.”

        So, for example, one would recognize that rather than saying you have a green caterpillar in an environment, your perspective shifts to see the entirety of the environment is “green caterpillar-ing” at present circumstance – it’s an event, not a “thing.” It’s John Muir’s “try to pick out anything by itself and find it hitched to the rest of the universe,” but conceptualized in a different/biological way. Again, from Watts:

        “Upon reflection, there seems to be nothing unreasonable in seeing the world in this way. The agent behind every action is itself action. If a mat can be called matting, a cat can be called catting. We do not actually need to ask who or what ‘cats,’ just as we do not need to ask what is the basic stuff or substance out of which the world is formed—for there is no way of describing this substance except in terms of form, of structure, order, and operation. The world is not formed as if it were inert clay responding to the touch of a potter’s hand; the world is form, or better, formation, for upon examination every substance turns out to be closely knit pattern. The fixed notion that every pattern or form must be made of some basic material which is in itself formless is based on a superficial analogy between natural formation and manufacture, as if the stars and rocks had been made out of something as a carpenter makes tables out of wood. Thus what we call the agent behind the action is simply the prior or relatively more constant state of the same action: when a man runs we have a ‘manning-running’ over and above a simple ‘manning.’ Furthermore, it is only a somewhat clumsy convenience to say that present events are moved or caused by past events, for we are actually talking about earlier and later stages of the same event. We can establish regularities of rhythm and pattern in the course of an event, and so predict its future configurations, but its past states do not ‘push’ its present and future states as if they were a row of dominoes stood on end so that knocking over the first collapses all the others in series. The fallen dominoes lie where they fall, but past events vanish into the present, which is just another way of saying that the world is a self-moving pattern which, when its successive states are remembered, can be shown to have a certain order. Its motion, its energy, issues from itself now, not from the past, which simply falls behind it in memory like the wake from a ship.”

        Again, this isn’t to discount insights gleaned – or future understanding to be had – by examining the particulars. But it offers a deeper view of the particulars. For example, it tells me that the gravitational pulls of Jupiter keeps the asteroid belt in check and prevents them from bombarding earth – which allows life to evolve and flourish. So every “selfish” gene involves and includes Jupiter. If that’s still too cosmic in scope, it was found somewhat recently that sand from the Sahara desert fertilizes soil in the Amazon rainforest (http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100809/full/news.2010.396.html ) – which effects every organism (and gene) in that environment in an evolutionary way.

        “Selfish genes” frame the world in a rather narrowly circumscribed manner, and even if it intends to include aspects of the environment, it still limits consideration to the immediate environment. Further, a good metaphor (if one were to just consider it in that regard) shouldn’t be so confusing as to require a footnote the length of a book. Genes themselves are a legitimate study, but they can also encourage a limited perspective. They address “a” part, but not necessarily “the” part with the greatest level of significance – which the “selfish” gene suggests.

  3. I loved the spirit of the article–my take on the @David_Dobbs kerfuffle: the genetic accommodation he describes is genetic assimilation (a type of accomodation)– genetic accommodation can be either an increase in genetic control of a plastic response (assimilation) or a *decrease* (i.e., when reaction norms evolve such that traits become under environmental rather than genetic control–for example, West Eberhard talks about sex determination in turtles)…a decrease in genetic inputs in phenotypic production is at odds with selfish gene perspective that leads @Evolutionistrue to state “the only way that adaptive evolution can occur is through the ‘selfish’ behavior of genes.” Ultimately I think that focus on genes throws out lots of babies with evolutionary bath water and blinds us to interesting questions about the evolution of flexibility per se or evolution vis a vis flexibility.

  4. Right smarmy, journalistic cant..hyping rhetoric to mask a complete lack of critical ability and real study.

    Pretty standard web “journalistic “tricks to get eyeballs to sell…..it’s all about, actually, clicks to sell…ho hum..

  5. Having arrived late to this party I thought I’d skip to the TL;DR to save time, but the shortest version didn’t tell me why the selfish gene metaphor needs to be replaced.

    So I tried the next-shortest. That added a hint that it was something to do with singular “gene” rather than plural “genes”. But I’m none the wiser as to what the problem is, so I had to read the whole article. I can’t find anything in it about a problem with single gene vs. multiple genes as the crux of the metaphor (and on turning to the book in question, I find quite a lot of stuff about how genes interact – it’s interesting that whenever someone says “The Selfish Gene is great but falls to address X”, I flick through it and find a ton of stuff about X).

    It seems to me that your TL;DR summaries are in fact summaries of a different article that hasn’t been written yet. The real crux of your article is about gene expression “driving the train”. This would be, I think, a representative TL;DR:

    “For example, suppose you’re a predator… You needn’t be fast… Then a big event… forces you into a new environment [where running fast is an advantage, and your body happens to have the ability to be trained to run faster, so you do]… You mate with another fast hunter, and your kids, hunting with you from early on, soon run faster than you ever did… And all this has happened without taking on any new genes. Then a mutation occurs in one grandkid… [The Selfish Gene has the rest of the details]… [You now possess an] adaptive trait you originally developed through gene expression alone. But the new gene didn’t create the new trait. It just made it easier to keep a trait that a change in the environment made valuable. The gene didn’t drive the train; it merely hopped aboard.”

    Reading this (or rather, your original long-form version), it comes across as an argument that the environment is “driving the train”. It was an environmental change that caused “running fast” to become a valuable trait, and that is why the new gene stuck.

    As for gene expression, my body already has the ability to become better at running faster just by doing more of it (sounds right). What causes it to have that ability? There must be some instructions somewhere, instructions for building “trainable muscles”. They’re in my genes.

    How did they get there? It seems that my ancestors needed to keep their options open, either devoting resources to building muscles, or to other actives whenever running fast wasn’t as useful. They were in an unpredictable environment: like a coin being flipped, and it’s some evenly balanced mixture of heads (run fast!) and tails (don’t bother). Now my environment has changed so that the coin is biased toward heads. My existing ability to train up better muscles will get me so far in responding to that, of course (just as it has done in the past for my ancestors – why else would I possess such trainability?)

    But random mutations in genes will start to “write down” the fact of the new bias in the environment. Genes record facts about the environment. But genes also *define* part of the environment. A new gene only makes sense in the context of the environment – and that includes the other genes in the genome.

    A naive question demonstrates this: if the environment is “driving the train” and it makes me run faster, why doesn’t it also make trees run faster (or at all?). Clearly it’s because of our (mine and the tree’s) existing genes. In the design-space of all possible solutions to living on Earth, trees are a very long distance away from things that can run really fast. Humans are pretty close by. The environment can only “make” us run faster because we are loaded with a bunch of genes that put us in close proximity to that solution.

    Are you sure you didn’t misrepresent West-Eberhard’s work? If your summary is accurate, then no conspiracy-of-the-successful is needed to explain why it is struggling to get attention. You speak of an “adaptive trait you originally developed through gene expression alone”, but your example is a trainability that I already have, because it’s in my genes.

    1. The answer seems to be that trees don’t have any legs. Are all animals similar with regard to leg, undercarriage genes? I don’t know anything about the genetic basis of all limbs. My guess is that it would be possible for something genetically dissimilar but with leggy appendages to end up running faster in an attempt to exploit the same niche. In this case the environment would be the common factor and not the genes. So whilst genes are at play in both cases, the thing being selected would be ambulatory running stumps ‘underwritten’ by whatever genetic stuff happens to be doing that work. Does that help?

      1. “My guess is that it would be possible for something genetically dissimilar but with leggy appendages to end up running faster in an attempt to exploit the same niche.”

        Of course – a similar example: image-forming eyes have evolved independently many dozens of different ways.

        “In this case the environment would be the common factor and not the genes.”

        Clearly not, because (still) plants don’t run, even though they been surviving in an environment where running is apparently a possibility, and they’ve been surviving just fine without running, for much longer than there have been animals that can run. Why did “the environment” work as a “common factor” on your two hypothetical independently evolved runners and yet not have the same effect on any of millions of plant species over a much longer period? The runners clearly had something in common, *apart* from the environment.

        Way back at the time of a common ancestor of plants and animals, a single-celled form of life was floating around in water and it was so simple and “unbiased” between survival solutions that its offspring could veer either towards plant-like or animal-like survival solutions, depending on what arbitrary, random mutations their genes were subject to. These two pathways were taken in parallel by two different sub-groups of decedents.

        In this way, quite random chance mutations to the genes (caused by copying errors, or damage from nuclear radiation or UV light) have the effect of changing how lifeforms are affected by their environment.

        The place these random mutations get recorded, and thus are able to affect the future lineage of living things, is in the genes. The genes are the locus, the definitive copy of the information being carried forward as life survives and reproduces, the record of all mutations that led to the present form, the instructions for reproducing that form and thus the determinant of how a living thing responds differently to its environment compared with other living things, *including* how its offspring will evolve differently to the offspring of others living things, despite them being physically located in the same environment.

  6. I have to say that a lot of the merit in your first article probably got swamped when you ran off the rails into a personal attack of Dawkins and called him a buffoon. You ask us to question why we may have misunderstood the original article. The personal attacks, the title, the seeming ignorance on your part of other works by Dawkins which address a number of the points you raised…

    I’m a geologist, not a biologist and I don’t claim to have a really in-depth understanding of all of these issues, but for me, (and I’m not really a defender of a lot of things that Richard Dawkins has said publicly) this article would have been much more useful if written less aggressively. You discredit your own work when you make personal attacks, rather than sticking to the science.

  7. Thanks for your good wishes. What comment do you mean? I generally allow all comments not profane, ad hominem, or otherwise sharply uncivil. Email me at david.a.dobbs at gmail if u wish.

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