Magazine article The Spectator

Gene Genie

Magazine article The Spectator

Gene Genie

Article excerpt

From Edward Frostick Sir: I find myself agreeing with Mary Midgley rather than Philip Hensher ('A good book and the Good Book', 25 March). If Richard Dawkins had not intended to imply that genes are selfish, then he should not have said so in the title of his book. The fact is that The Selfish Gene is not a scientific textbook; it's a mixture of science and personal opinion: one could describe it as 'Charles Darwin meets David Hume'. For example, Dawkins fails to give a satisfactory explanation of why sometimes one animal group will, without gain, give survival assistance to another group -- even to another species.

As for his theory of memes, namely that ideas can infect the mind rather like a computer virus, I strongly doubt that Dawkins would have developed the theory had he not lived in the computer age. However, to suggest that ideas can spread in a similar way to a computer virus shows little understanding of computers or their viruses. Let us take Dawkins's pet hate, the religion 'memes'. People frequently change their religion, give up religious belief altogether or adopt religious belief after an agnostic or atheist upbringing. Now let us look at a political 'meme'. …

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