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The Robotic Mind

As I was reading the comment section to “Our Anthropomorphic  Bias” I was struck by the...

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A year or so back Carl Zimmer asked the science world if life could be defined in three words.I...

Naive Group Selection

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A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of Matt Ridley’s The Origins of Virtue at a second-hand bookstore, (never give a gene-centric a royalty, I always say!) but I must say that it is well-written, interesting, loaded with facts without being tedious, and worthy of a royalty. It’s worthwhile because it is an honest attempt (in the main) at tackling issues of evolution that deserve to be tackled.

The very issues I have covered in my articles here in fact, and there’s a reason for that.
News Flash !!

News Flash !!

Jan 14 2010 | comment(s)

 Exciting news just in from Oxford University. A previously obscure lecturer in cinematography has published a book titled The Selfish Dot, in which the author challenges the established view that films are the most important feature in the history of filmmaking.  He says the most important element is not the camera or the subject or the film or the images, but the dots that make up the images! His reason for this revolutionary view of film production is simple yet profound and undeniable – images on the film come and go, but the dots remain! The film, the author explains, is merely a vehicle used by dots to perpetuate their existence.
    It’s all true! He was right! He was totally, hopelessly wrong about selfish genes, but he was right about memes. Well…he was a little bit right. He was wrong to equate the evolution of memes to the evolution of organisms, meme evolution being Lamarckian in character. But he was right to point out the potential capacity for memes (i.e cultural concepts) to prevent logical thought in the minds of their hosts. To ‘colonise’ those minds as Fred Phillips puts it. Dawkins likes to use religion to illustrate this point, but I prefer his own pet theory of   selfish genes.

In an earlier article titled What is Life?, I took the reader through a reasoning process to finally arrive at the conclusion that, contrary to general expectation, finding a definition of life is not an overwhelmingly difficult problem at all because life  is a remarkably simple concept – independent spontaneous cooperation.
I think that finding a definition has been seen as difficult because those considering it have confused the definition with the underlying significance of life, which some might call life’s purpose, when the two are almost separate questions.
This confusion, this perception that life is just too hard to explain, has reduced our most inspiring thinkers to the status of mere mortals.

I’ve been putting the case for some months now, that evolutionary biology is in a deplorable state due to an uncritical acceptance of the unrealistic assumptions that lie at the heart of selfish gene theory, by those who are directing current research. (See also Gerhard Adam’s articles on Hamilton’s Rule, Selfish Gene Theory, and Biology.) Contributing biologists have responded by telling me that my fears are groundless, that biology has moved on, that the influence of selfish gene theory has waned, that I should concentrate on the current literature and not dwell on the past. So I went to the trouble of checking out the Oxford University Zoology Department’s very good selection of papers available online, that deal with current research in this area.

The Struggle for Existence was the title Charles Darwin gave to Chapter Three of On The Origin of Species, and he went to some trouble to explain exactly what he meant by this struggle. Throughout the chapter we find:

“I use the term Struggle for Existence in a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another, and including (which is more important) not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny.”


“there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence,”