Re: Selfish memes?

From: Wade T. Smith (
Date: Thu Jan 24 2002 - 01:51:56 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Selfish memes?
    Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 20:51:56 -0500
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    Another source, with some quibbling.

    - Wade


    From- Genes and Determinism: An interview with Richard Dawkins

    Jeremy Stangroom

    Stangroom: It is striking, I think, that after more than 20 years your
    work is still frequently misrepresented. For example, in a recent
    Guardian profile, it was stated that The Selfish Gene advocates the view
    that life is simply a means of propagating DNA, with every creature
    ruthlessly determined to continue its own life. But isnıt that an
    oversimplification of your position?

    Dawkins: Actually, in some ways thatıs not an oversimplification! In the
    sense that tautologically the DNA which survives in the world, being a
    self-replicating entity, is that which survives. So we expect the world
    to become filled with those varieties of DNA that are good at surviving.
    And good means programming organisms to assist in that process. What is
    an oversimplification is to say, therefore, that organisms are expected
    to be selfish. Organisms are not expected to be selfish. Selfish genes is
    a way of saying that in the service of those genes organisms may be
    selfish, but the organisms themselves may be anything but selfish. You
    can assure, or at least assist, the persistence of selfish genes by
    making organisms show a whole gamut of behaviour, from being altruistic
    in extreme ways right through to selfish.

    Stangroom: In The Extended Phenotype you give the example of organisms
    apparently acting against their own self-interest because they have been
    affected by the genes of other organisms.

    Dawkins: Thatıs right. One of the messages of The Extended Phenotype is
    that you have to ask whose DNA is being served by a particular
    adaptation. And I expressed this by saying that the phenotypic expression
    of a piece of DNA might not even be in the body of the organism where the
    DNA itself resides. It may, for example, be the DNA of a parasite which
    is finding phenotypic expression in the body of a host. And it may even
    be that the parasite is not living inside the body of the host - it might
    be a cuckoo that is, as the chapter in The Extended Phenotype called it,
    acting at a distance. But the fundamental rule that DNA is selfish and
    looking after its own interests shines through, and all else is
    complication, although it can be very extreme complication (among which
    are individual altruism, and acting at a distance).

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