I listened to the broadcast The Life Scientific: Richard Dawkins (Radio 4 September 3) previewed in the Morning Star. I would like to raise some points concerning the view that Dawkins "wrote one of the most important books on evolution in modern times - The Selfish Gene."
The book needs to be placed in historical and ideological context published as it was originally in 1976.
The work has to be seen as part of the "reductionist" platform of its time. Its underlying thesis is misleading and borders on philosophical absurdity. The concept of the "selfish gene" implies genes themselves have a sense of purpose, an awareness of self.
This is not only particulate inheritance this is genetic determinism with a vengeance. No lip-service to a claimed altruistic purpose or outcome can hide the the social pessimistic import of such "science."
Selfish gene theory is the application of the "doctrine of ends" to evolutionary theory - which can be called teleological reductionism.
This "nothing but..." trend of the 1960s and '70s included the media-popularised works of the pseudo-science raconteurs Desmond Morris and Robert Ardrey who argued human beings were nothing but "naked" or "aggressive" apes bent on gene-driven war and territorial imperatives.
The naked ape myth was ably demolished by the Marxist writer John Lewis in his book Naked Ape Or Homo Sapiens?
Such views which were and still are enthusiastically embraced by the mass media, are not to be dismissed lightly. The media publicises such social pessimism and biological determinism because it is part of the ideological arsenal of the ruling class.
It serves their interests to convince the working class we are nothing but "apes" and there is nothing we can do to change things.
I wonder if Dawkins knows anything about the use of the hand and co-operative labour in the evolution of mankind?