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40th Anniversary of "The Selfish Gene"
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Adam Rutherford writes in The Guardian:

Richard Dawkins has occasionally lamented his own choice of the “selfish gene” title since it has for decades been misinterpreted by detractors and fools. He has said he might have preferred The Immortal Gene. I disagree, as immortality implies foresight, and is for ever. Species go extinct, and genes can be lost even after millennia of success.

I would suggest The Dynastic Gene as a more illuminating title.

 
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  1. “The Selfish Gene” virtually dares the reader to misinterpret it. Or maybe not, as it’s not at all clear when Dawkins is being serious. Don’t change the title, whatever you do, Dick. Misinterpretation has made you a lot of money.

    The bad part of the book has nothing to do with genes, selfish or un-. I shall never forgive Dawkins for inflicting upon humanity (or the gene-perpetuating machines which have been tricked into thinking of themselves as humanity) the concept of “memes.” Which are like genes, except not. They’re the most pseudo-scientasticest thing ever!

    • Replies: @rod1963
    The 'meme" thing was always a hoot. It's amusing he resorted to the same sort of rotten thinking he always accused Christians of. He should hold seminars with Chopra.

    That said, Dawkins is a fine reductionist/mechanist. Basically he reduced people down to nothing. Pretty impressive accomplishment. Even the Muslims and the Po-Mo's couldn't pull it off.
  2. On the first page he explains that we’re still mentally living in a pre-Darwin world, and that genetics should properly be dominant when dealing with human behavior. Cleverest idea in the whole book.

    He and his followers seem to have forgotten that ever happened. Maybe it’s all the compensatory good-talk about feminism and equality sprinkled thoughout the rest of it.

  3. The “Selfish Gene” title is near perfect and, sorry Steve, the “Dynastic Gene” title does not better it.

    • Replies: @Jim
    The title "Selfish Gene" is itself part of the pre-Darwinian view that Dawkins was arguing against. "Selfish Gene" suggests intentionality in evolution. But Dawkins ' fundamental point is that evolution and reality generally are not intentional. Genes are not trying to surive at the expense of other genes Genes are not trying to do anything.
  4. From Rutherford’s article: “… Or as the Anglo-Indian biologist JBS Haldane put it: “Would I lay down my life to save my brother? No, but I would to save two brothers or eight cousins.”

    Now, I don’t know about Indians. But which European/Westerner would act on base of such a calculation, except a crazy biologist?

    • Replies: @dearieme
    WKPD: "John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, FRS was a British-born ... professed socialist, Marxist, atheist, and humanist whose political dissent led him to leave England in 1956 and live in India, becoming a naturalised Indian citizen in 1961". So "Anglo-Indian" is a potentially confusing adjective, presumably intentionally.

    As you'd expect from his surname, his father was a Scot.
    , @Alec Leamas
    It seems pretty clear that he's taken fact that he's genetically fungible for his brother into account in this theorizing, reckoning that his brother is no more important than he biologically. I wonder if he knew that he was sterile, or if his brother was more attractive to the opposite sex whether he'd change his analysis? It seems he's just trying to illustrate his sincere belief in Darwinian theory.

    Of course, human history suggests that humans are not so coldly calculating biologically and (at least men) sacrifice themselves for greater social groups beyond narrow degrees of consanguinity - God, Country, King, Clan, The American Way, Street Gangs, Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs, etc. I find Darwinian theory to be very tautological in application (things that are alive are more fit for living than things that ceased to or never existed, so if something is alive we can backfill a rationale as to why it is so), so I'd imagine we could posit that being part of one of the warring sides or gangs raises one's reproductive fitness or something.
    , @jimmyriddle
    That was a joke. The British sense of humour doesn't always travel well.

    I had no idea Haldane was Anglo-Indian. The "recreational" library at Imperial College was named after him.

    , @Jim
    Natural selection of behavior is in no way dependent on intentionality. Fitness-enhancing behavior is selected for in viruses for example. But we needn't interpret viral behavior in the language of intentionality. Selection for kinship altruism is not dependent on anybody doing mental calculations based on a knowledge of genetics.
  5. You’re really, really bad at marketing for someone who worked in marketing.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    There's a reason i was mostly in market research than marketing.
    , @Carl
    I dunno, he has a popular blog. You're here, aren't you? Jeez.
  6. The original title is good, however it may have helped if it was bylined on the cover…
    ‘A gene-centric view of Darwinian Evolution’.

    A sort of ‘tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em’ one-liner. In the same way that Obama’s book entitled ‘Dreams of My Father’, was bylined ‘A story of race and inheritance’.

  7. “Selfish” also implies some agency that genes don’t have.

    I would have preferred “The Well-adjusted Gene.”

    That would have dove-tailed nicely with the “wrong side of history” meme too.

    Then, I could have told people I have “The Unadjusted Gene” and written “Memoirs of a Superfluous Genome”…

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    “Selfish” also implies some agency that genes don’t have.
     
    If genes don't have agency, then it follows ineluctably that the things they construct don't have agency.
  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Yep.

    And who can forget the great Dawkins/ Stephen Jay Gould battles about the essence of Darwinism?

    Dawkins – with his (actually he was the popularizer) insistence that the ‘gene’ was the unit of Darwinian selection, whilst Gould championed the ‘individual’.

    Esoteric you might think, but no. This detail has profound implications.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    And who can forget the great Dawkins/ Stephen Jay Gould battles about the essence of Darwinism?

    Dawkins – with his (actually he was the popularizer) insistence that the ‘gene’ was the unit of Darwinian selection, whilst Gould championed the ‘individual’.

    Esoteric you might think, but no. This detail has profound implications.
     
    And, of course, they were both wrong!
  9. It is a Law on the Guardian that each article must contain at least one statement that merits a snort of derision: “immortality implies foresight” fits the bill.

  10. Dawkins is in danger (after many years of being a useful stick to beat Christians with) of becoming an unperson to TPTB. One comment on the Guardian mentions “his irrepressible sexism, his attempts to naturalize neo-liberal ideology and his flirtations with racism”.

    As Rutherford says “it is a shame that Dawkins is now perhaps better known for his irritable contempt for religion” – it wasn’t considered a problem before Islam took centre stage, in the days when contempt for religion meant contempt for Christianity.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/15-of-richard-dawkins-most-controversial-tweets_us_56004360e4b00310edf7eaf6

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/sceptics-drop-atheist-richard-dawkins-retweeting-video-mocking-feminists-islamists-1540729

    I like this one.

    “Lost an argument? Don’t worry, just accuse your opponent of being old, white and privileged. That’s the ticket.”

    • Agree: gruff, NickG
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    I had thought he was useless, but recently I noticed he didn't seem to give the pc police too many effs or rats' asses.
    , @Mr. Anon
    I don't remember Dawkins standing up for Watson during his auto-da-fe, and I don't imagine anyone will stand up for Dawkins when he gets watsoned.
    , @Clyde

    Dawkins is in danger (after many years of being a useful stick to beat Christians with) of becoming an unperson to TPTB. One comment on the Guardian mentions “his irrepressible sexism, his attempts to naturalize neo-liberal ideology and his flirtations with racism”.
     
    You are correct that when Dawkins goes after a religion these days it is Islam which takes some ballz in the UK. It also takes intelligence so you phrase things just right. So that the loony left mob cannot go after you legally (hate speech) and in other ways.

    Dawkins' attempts to naturalize neo-liberal ideology.....
     
    Who writes like this except for some stupid f who has been marinating in universities too long?
    , @Dutch Boy
    You forgot his flirtations with pedophilia.
    http://www.salon.com/2013/09/10/richard_dawkins_defends_mild_pedophilia_says_it_does_not_cause_lasting_harm/
  11. But genes don’t have dynasties. As we define them, a copy of the gene is the same gene.

    There’s obviously no single adjective in the English that accurately describes gene behavior. A more neutral title could have been “Gene Selection”.

    But of course all the outrage about those evil selfish genes that makes us do selfish things helped him sell the book much better than with a more dry, academic title. So I’m sure he doesn’t really regret the choice. His publisher knew very well what he was doing.

    • Agree: Travis
  12. @Anonymous Nephew
    Dawkins is in danger (after many years of being a useful stick to beat Christians with) of becoming an unperson to TPTB. One comment on the Guardian mentions "his irrepressible sexism, his attempts to naturalize neo-liberal ideology and his flirtations with racism".

    As Rutherford says "it is a shame that Dawkins is now perhaps better known for his irritable contempt for religion" - it wasn't considered a problem before Islam took centre stage, in the days when contempt for religion meant contempt for Christianity.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/15-of-richard-dawkins-most-controversial-tweets_us_56004360e4b00310edf7eaf6

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/sceptics-drop-atheist-richard-dawkins-retweeting-video-mocking-feminists-islamists-1540729

    I like this one.


    "Lost an argument? Don’t worry, just accuse your opponent of being old, white and privileged. That’s the ticket."
     

    I had thought he was useless, but recently I noticed he didn’t seem to give the pc police too many effs or rats’ asses.

    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
    Dawkins 2004 open letter to the voters of Clark County (Ohio) is illuminating.

    "Now that all other justifications for the war are known to be lies, the warmongers are thrown back on one, endlessly repeated: the world is a better place without Saddam. No doubt it is. But that's the Tony Martin school of foreign policy [Martin was a householder who shot dead a burglar who had broken into his house in 1999]. It's not how civilised countries, who follow the rule of law, behave. "
     
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/oct/13/uselections2004.usa13

    He obviously didn't quite understand his rural audience if he thought they'd be horrified by the thought of shooting a home invader.
  13. Speaking of Dawkins, have you read this history of neo-reaction (https://ia801507.us.archive.org/32/items/the-silicon-ideology/the-silicon-ideology.pdf)?

    It makes a connection between the new-atheists and neo-raction (and the alt-right). The writer also claims that crick and watson stole their greatest idea from franklin.

    • Replies: @Chrisnonymous
    The first sentence was terrible. I didn't get past the first few paragraphs.

    Everyone take note: the author seems to be reasoning backwards to paint libertarianism with the brush of fascism as there is a connection between it and neoreaction.

    What's next? Liberty=oppression?
    , @candid_observer
    The paper starts out thus:

    Content Warnings

    This article contains discussions of fascism, Nazism, white supremacy, and the Holocaust among other topics.
     

    I think any paper that commences with any kind of "Content Warning" has thereby provided the only content warning necessary:

    This article has been written by an SJW for SJWs.

    , @kihowi
    What kind of a goofy-ass font is that? It has an s-t ligature!
    , @candid_observer
    Taking a very quick look at the paper, it seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on Mendacious (sp?) Goldbug -- on whom time spent is almost always inordinate.

    What's the obsession with this crackpot? He can be forgiven for being "Dark" and "Evil", but how can he be forgiven for being so wrong about nearly everything? I mean, monarchy as the best form of government? His "ideas" are a waste of time, and he wastes a stupendous amount of time getting to them.
    , @Divine Right
    "The writer also claims that crick and watson stole their greatest idea from franklin."

    They didn't steal the idea at all. Franklin had x-ray data but no DNA model. Watson and Crick had the original idea and proposed the structure of DNA themselves. Franklin refused to share her data with them, which they wanted in order to verify the idea they had originated. The data was eventually leaked to them and it confirmed what they had already proposed. At worst, they all deserved the Nobel Prize.

  14. I read somewhere that Dawkins once said he perhaps should have called it the ‘Selfless Gene’.

    • Replies: @Dave Shanken
    I agree; a gene doesn't care* whether it survives or an identical gene survives.

    * care in the behavioural sense.
  15. @reiner Tor
    I had thought he was useless, but recently I noticed he didn't seem to give the pc police too many effs or rats' asses.

    Dawkins 2004 open letter to the voters of Clark County (Ohio) is illuminating.

    “Now that all other justifications for the war are known to be lies, the warmongers are thrown back on one, endlessly repeated: the world is a better place without Saddam. No doubt it is. But that’s the Tony Martin school of foreign policy [Martin was a householder who shot dead a burglar who had broken into his house in 1999]. It’s not how civilised countries, who follow the rule of law, behave. “

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/oct/13/uselections2004.usa13

    He obviously didn’t quite understand his rural audience if he thought they’d be horrified by the thought of shooting a home invader.

    • Replies: @Mr. Anon
    "It’s not how civilised countries, who follow the rule of law, behave. “

    Upon what basis does Dawkins, the author of the selfish gene idea, imagine that the rule-of-law rests upon? What America did in Iraq was completely in keeping with the mechanistic biological worldview of Dawkins. I really don't see where he has a right to complain about it.
    , @AndrewR
    Yeah I was confused for a second. What does invading a country based on false pretenses and replacing its regime have to do with killing a home invader??
    , @reiner Tor
    The bigger problem is that Dawkins was wrong about the world becoming a better place after the removal of Saddam.
  16. @JsP
    You're really, really bad at marketing for someone who worked in marketing.

    There’s a reason i was mostly in market research than marketing.

    • Replies: @Stan Adams
    All of the marketing majors I knew in college ended up doing something else, as did all of the journalism majors (myself included).

    As a general rule, undergrads majoring in communications and other "soft" fields a) lack ambition and drive, b) have middling intellects, c) are attending college only because it's what society and their parents expect them to do, and d) have no idea what they want to do with their lives.

    I'd argue that b) doesn't apply to me, but a), c), and d) all were undoubtedly true of my college-age self. I was lazy and unmotivated. (But I didn't party - I was as boringly spergy on Saturday night as I was on Monday morning.)

    I know a guy in his early twenties who graduated last month with a marketing degree. He freely admits that he has little to no interest in the field - his real passion is music. Like umpteen hopeful (or -less) twentysomethings everywhere, his dream is to star in a band. Marketing is nothing more than his fallback option - something to appease his parents. He's good-looking, fairly reliable, and reasonably smart, but you can tell he's the kind of guy who will drift for a long while before he finds his way. (It takes one to know one.)

  17. @anon
    Speaking of Dawkins, have you read this history of neo-reaction (https://ia801507.us.archive.org/32/items/the-silicon-ideology/the-silicon-ideology.pdf)?

    It makes a connection between the new-atheists and neo-raction (and the alt-right). The writer also claims that crick and watson stole their greatest idea from franklin.

    The first sentence was terrible. I didn’t get past the first few paragraphs.

    Everyone take note: the author seems to be reasoning backwards to paint libertarianism with the brush of fascism as there is a connection between it and neoreaction.

    What’s next? Liberty=oppression?

  18. Appears the selfish genes are losing to to the selfish individuals among Europeans and European-Americans. Why have the white people adopted ideologies which will result in the extinction of white genes ? Someone needs to write another book to explain it.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    Appears the selfish genes are losing to to the selfish individuals among Europeans and European-Americans. Why have the white people adopted ideologies which will result in the extinction of white genes ? Someone needs to write another book to explain it.
     
    Dawkins already wrote that book: The Extended Phenotype. The behavior of Whites is being influenced by others.
  19. @anon
    Speaking of Dawkins, have you read this history of neo-reaction (https://ia801507.us.archive.org/32/items/the-silicon-ideology/the-silicon-ideology.pdf)?

    It makes a connection between the new-atheists and neo-raction (and the alt-right). The writer also claims that crick and watson stole their greatest idea from franklin.

    The paper starts out thus:

    Content Warnings

    This article contains discussions of fascism, Nazism, white supremacy, and the Holocaust among other topics.

    I think any paper that commences with any kind of “Content Warning” has thereby provided the only content warning necessary:

    This article has been written by an SJW for SJWs.

    • Agree: ben tillman
  20. I get that Darwinism is the tool he uses to beat up on religion, which is indeed his main project. And certainly inheritance and breeding (what might be called “micro-evolution”) are unquestionable all around us.

    However, Darwinism as an over-arcing theory of the origin of life does not appear to be well-supported by the evidence. If evolution is a blind, continuous project of small, incremental steps (“Dawkin’s staircase”), intermediate forms should be all around us and unsuccessful forms should be ubiquitous in the fossil record. They are not. (And leave aside such deeper objections as to how complex even the “simplest” single-cell organisms are, and how natural selection is supposed to have acted before there was DNA…)

    The problems with a full discussion that might have some clue of getting at the truth are two, as I see it:

    1) The Piltdown Man. When the Piltdown Man was discovered, it was used to shut down discussion for forty-fifty critical years, after which discussion about such things as saltation should have been re-opened, but any attempts to discuss the problems with the theory are greeted with loud cries of “HIIIIIIIICCKKKK!!” instead of any actual arguments.

    2) It’s too useful as a tool for attempting to expelling religion from the public square.

    (You can tell they realize their theory is in trouble, when they are even willing to re-habilitate the crimethinking unperson E. O. Wilson in order to use him as a club to try to beat down question about Neo-Darwinism …)

    • Replies: @Alec Leamas
    As stated above, I find the whole thing tautological - things that survive are good at survival and better at survival than things which ceased to be or never existed. It's like saying "people who are good at basketball are in the NBA, which selects for people who are good at basketball" if the entire human population only consisted of people in the NBA. It just doesn't tell you much about anything but it has the benefit of making dullards feel smart.
  21. The Clannish Gene?

  22. The problem with the title The Selfish Gene is that when the book entered the public arena, its sensationalistic title made for great misunderstanding. The problem with the titles The Immortal Gene and The Dynastic Gene is that the book would never have entered the public arena in the first place.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    The problem with the title The Selfish Gene is that when the book entered the public arena, its sensationalistic title made for great misunderstanding.
     
    How so?
  23. @Anonymous Nephew
    Dawkins is in danger (after many years of being a useful stick to beat Christians with) of becoming an unperson to TPTB. One comment on the Guardian mentions "his irrepressible sexism, his attempts to naturalize neo-liberal ideology and his flirtations with racism".

    As Rutherford says "it is a shame that Dawkins is now perhaps better known for his irritable contempt for religion" - it wasn't considered a problem before Islam took centre stage, in the days when contempt for religion meant contempt for Christianity.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/15-of-richard-dawkins-most-controversial-tweets_us_56004360e4b00310edf7eaf6

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/sceptics-drop-atheist-richard-dawkins-retweeting-video-mocking-feminists-islamists-1540729

    I like this one.


    "Lost an argument? Don’t worry, just accuse your opponent of being old, white and privileged. That’s the ticket."
     

    I don’t remember Dawkins standing up for Watson during his auto-da-fe, and I don’t imagine anyone will stand up for Dawkins when he gets watsoned.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    Actually I remember him coming to the defense of Watson, though not forcefully enough. (The "he was misunderstood/misinterpreted etc." line of defense.)
  24. @Anonymous Nephew
    Dawkins 2004 open letter to the voters of Clark County (Ohio) is illuminating.

    "Now that all other justifications for the war are known to be lies, the warmongers are thrown back on one, endlessly repeated: the world is a better place without Saddam. No doubt it is. But that's the Tony Martin school of foreign policy [Martin was a householder who shot dead a burglar who had broken into his house in 1999]. It's not how civilised countries, who follow the rule of law, behave. "
     
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/oct/13/uselections2004.usa13

    He obviously didn't quite understand his rural audience if he thought they'd be horrified by the thought of shooting a home invader.

    “It’s not how civilised countries, who follow the rule of law, behave. “

    Upon what basis does Dawkins, the author of the selfish gene idea, imagine that the rule-of-law rests upon? What America did in Iraq was completely in keeping with the mechanistic biological worldview of Dawkins. I really don’t see where he has a right to complain about it.

    • Replies: @Alec Leamas
    Disagree with the use of the discretion to invade Iraq all you want, but there existed at the time multiple casus belli consistent with the Law of Nations. Zoologists make awful lawyers.

    From a Darwinian perspective, we would have invaded, killed most of the men and taken the rest and the nubile women for slaves and concubines after a bit of raping, and appropriated any and all things of value, including the oil. This was pretty much how war was waged until rather recently in human affairs.

  25. @anon
    Speaking of Dawkins, have you read this history of neo-reaction (https://ia801507.us.archive.org/32/items/the-silicon-ideology/the-silicon-ideology.pdf)?

    It makes a connection between the new-atheists and neo-raction (and the alt-right). The writer also claims that crick and watson stole their greatest idea from franklin.

    What kind of a goofy-ass font is that? It has an s-t ligature!

  26. You’ve all got it wrong. Dawkins meant that genes were in the piscatorial marketing game.

    • Replies: @kihowi
    That is terrible.
  27. I always took the title as a hat-tip to Adam Smith, another theorizer/populizer who unexpectedly found self-interest at the heart of many phenomena not obviously self-interested.

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
    So thusly The Self-Interested Gene?
  28. @anon
    Speaking of Dawkins, have you read this history of neo-reaction (https://ia801507.us.archive.org/32/items/the-silicon-ideology/the-silicon-ideology.pdf)?

    It makes a connection between the new-atheists and neo-raction (and the alt-right). The writer also claims that crick and watson stole their greatest idea from franklin.

    Taking a very quick look at the paper, it seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on Mendacious (sp?) Goldbug — on whom time spent is almost always inordinate.

    What’s the obsession with this crackpot? He can be forgiven for being “Dark” and “Evil”, but how can he be forgiven for being so wrong about nearly everything? I mean, monarchy as the best form of government? His “ideas” are a waste of time, and he wastes a stupendous amount of time getting to them.

  29. @Stogumber
    From Rutherford's article: "... Or as the Anglo-Indian biologist JBS Haldane put it: “Would I lay down my life to save my brother? No, but I would to save two brothers or eight cousins.”

    Now, I don't know about Indians. But which European/Westerner would act on base of such a calculation, except a crazy biologist?

    WKPD: “John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, FRS was a British-born … professed socialist, Marxist, atheist, and humanist whose political dissent led him to leave England in 1956 and live in India, becoming a naturalised Indian citizen in 1961”. So “Anglo-Indian” is a potentially confusing adjective, presumably intentionally.

    As you’d expect from his surname, his father was a Scot.

  30. OT: Here are pictures of 4 guys who were arrested at the Trump rally in San Jose. Not a Yankee among them: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-arrested-donald-trump-rally-san-jose-20160607-snap-story.html

  31. @guest
    "The Selfish Gene" virtually dares the reader to misinterpret it. Or maybe not, as it's not at all clear when Dawkins is being serious. Don't change the title, whatever you do, Dick. Misinterpretation has made you a lot of money.

    The bad part of the book has nothing to do with genes, selfish or un-. I shall never forgive Dawkins for inflicting upon humanity (or the gene-perpetuating machines which have been tricked into thinking of themselves as humanity) the concept of "memes." Which are like genes, except not. They're the most pseudo-scientasticest thing ever!

    The ‘meme” thing was always a hoot. It’s amusing he resorted to the same sort of rotten thinking he always accused Christians of. He should hold seminars with Chopra.

    That said, Dawkins is a fine reductionist/mechanist. Basically he reduced people down to nothing. Pretty impressive accomplishment. Even the Muslims and the Po-Mo’s couldn’t pull it off.

  32. Dawkins is a classic example of the term “useful idiot”, his crusade was to remove Christian influence from public life, now that this has been achieved he is no longer useful. If anything he is becoming a real problem for the left because he dares question liberal darlings like Muslims.

    • Replies: @Harold
    Used as a useful idiot and all he got was a lousy lifetime of success.
  33. The problem with the title isn’t the “Selfish” part; it’s the “Gene” part!

    The attribution of selfishness is entirely correct, but the focus on genes is too narrow and obscures an understanding of what a “self” that can be selfish is. The proper term is “genetic structures”, which allows the observer to scale up or down as necessary to identity biological organization (or organisms).

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Actually "Selfish" is misleading and confusing because in ordinary, common parlance it connotes a quality or behavior of individuals. "Dynastic" is misleading and confusing for the same reason, as it connotes families. The whole point of "The Selfish Gene" is to present a gene centric view below what Dawkins regards as the ephemera of individual organisms, families, etc.
  34. @anony-mouse
    You've all got it wrong. Dawkins meant that genes were in the piscatorial marketing game.

    That is terrible.

  35. @Chrisnonymous
    "Selfish" also implies some agency that genes don't have.

    I would have preferred "The Well-adjusted Gene."

    That would have dove-tailed nicely with the "wrong side of history" meme too.

    Then, I could have told people I have "The Unadjusted Gene" and written "Memoirs of a Superfluous Genome"...

    “Selfish” also implies some agency that genes don’t have.

    If genes don’t have agency, then it follows ineluctably that the things they construct don’t have agency.

    • Replies: @guest
    No it doesn't.
    , @Desiderius

    If genes don’t have agency, then it follows ineluctably that the things they construct don’t have agency.
     
    Oh, I'd say there's some room for eluction there.
    , @Anonymous
    It doesn't follow at all unless you make all sorts of further metaphysical assumptions.
    , @Jim
    The language of "agency" is useful for talking about the behavior of humans and higher animals. It's not so useful for talking about the behavior of a petunia and even less so for talking about the behavior of electrons, protons and neutrons. It's still true that humans as well as petunias are composed of electrons, neutrons and protons.
  36. @Anonymous
    Yep.

    And who can forget the great Dawkins/ Stephen Jay Gould battles about the essence of Darwinism?

    Dawkins - with his (actually he was the popularizer) insistence that the 'gene' was the unit of Darwinian selection, whilst Gould championed the 'individual'.

    Esoteric you might think, but no. This detail has profound implications.

    And who can forget the great Dawkins/ Stephen Jay Gould battles about the essence of Darwinism?

    Dawkins – with his (actually he was the popularizer) insistence that the ‘gene’ was the unit of Darwinian selection, whilst Gould championed the ‘individual’.

    Esoteric you might think, but no. This detail has profound implications.

    And, of course, they were both wrong!

    • Replies: @Carl
    I was under the firm impression that the gene was the unit of natural selection. Can you enlighten me?
  37. In his lively skeptical book Australian philosopher David Stove took Darwinism and The Selfish Gene over the coals: http://www.amazon.com/Darwinian-Fairytales-Selfish-Heredity-Evolution/dp/1594032009

    • Replies: @Thursday
    Genes don't literally have motives, blah blah blah.
  38. @Anonymous Nephew
    Dawkins 2004 open letter to the voters of Clark County (Ohio) is illuminating.

    "Now that all other justifications for the war are known to be lies, the warmongers are thrown back on one, endlessly repeated: the world is a better place without Saddam. No doubt it is. But that's the Tony Martin school of foreign policy [Martin was a householder who shot dead a burglar who had broken into his house in 1999]. It's not how civilised countries, who follow the rule of law, behave. "
     
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/oct/13/uselections2004.usa13

    He obviously didn't quite understand his rural audience if he thought they'd be horrified by the thought of shooting a home invader.

    Yeah I was confused for a second. What does invading a country based on false pretenses and replacing its regime have to do with killing a home invader??

  39. It will be nice for America if the Prudent Gene kicks in:

    NYT has Nate Cohn basically saying that Trump’s version of the Sailer Strategy could work.

  40. @Steve Sailer
    There's a reason i was mostly in market research than marketing.

    All of the marketing majors I knew in college ended up doing something else, as did all of the journalism majors (myself included).

    As a general rule, undergrads majoring in communications and other “soft” fields a) lack ambition and drive, b) have middling intellects, c) are attending college only because it’s what society and their parents expect them to do, and d) have no idea what they want to do with their lives.

    I’d argue that b) doesn’t apply to me, but a), c), and d) all were undoubtedly true of my college-age self. I was lazy and unmotivated. (But I didn’t party – I was as boringly spergy on Saturday night as I was on Monday morning.)

    I know a guy in his early twenties who graduated last month with a marketing degree. He freely admits that he has little to no interest in the field – his real passion is music. Like umpteen hopeful (or -less) twentysomethings everywhere, his dream is to star in a band. Marketing is nothing more than his fallback option – something to appease his parents. He’s good-looking, fairly reliable, and reasonably smart, but you can tell he’s the kind of guy who will drift for a long while before he finds his way. (It takes one to know one.)

  41. I read “The Blind Watchmaker” in 1994 or so and that really adjusted my thinking. Dawkins finally got it so that now, if he is going after a religion, he spends his time criticizing Islam, instead of Christianity. He even said that knowledge of The Bible is essential to understanding Western Civilization.
    __________________
    Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible
    Richard Dawkins
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/may/19/richard-dawkins-king-james-bible

  42. @ben tillman

    “Selfish” also implies some agency that genes don’t have.
     
    If genes don't have agency, then it follows ineluctably that the things they construct don't have agency.

    No it doesn’t.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    No it doesn’t.
     
    Of course, it does. If you construct something, give it instructions, and it acts in accordance with those instructions, you too are acting, through it. If it has agency, you have agency. Therefore, as a matter of simple logic, if you don't have agency, it cannot.
  43. @Anonymous Nephew
    Dawkins is in danger (after many years of being a useful stick to beat Christians with) of becoming an unperson to TPTB. One comment on the Guardian mentions "his irrepressible sexism, his attempts to naturalize neo-liberal ideology and his flirtations with racism".

    As Rutherford says "it is a shame that Dawkins is now perhaps better known for his irritable contempt for religion" - it wasn't considered a problem before Islam took centre stage, in the days when contempt for religion meant contempt for Christianity.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/15-of-richard-dawkins-most-controversial-tweets_us_56004360e4b00310edf7eaf6

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/sceptics-drop-atheist-richard-dawkins-retweeting-video-mocking-feminists-islamists-1540729

    I like this one.


    "Lost an argument? Don’t worry, just accuse your opponent of being old, white and privileged. That’s the ticket."
     

    Dawkins is in danger (after many years of being a useful stick to beat Christians with) of becoming an unperson to TPTB. One comment on the Guardian mentions “his irrepressible sexism, his attempts to naturalize neo-liberal ideology and his flirtations with racism”.

    You are correct that when Dawkins goes after a religion these days it is Islam which takes some ballz in the UK. It also takes intelligence so you phrase things just right. So that the loony left mob cannot go after you legally (hate speech) and in other ways.

    Dawkins’ attempts to naturalize neo-liberal ideology…..

    Who writes like this except for some stupid f who has been marinating in universities too long?

  44. @JsP
    You're really, really bad at marketing for someone who worked in marketing.

    I dunno, he has a popular blog. You’re here, aren’t you? Jeez.

  45. Added benefit of sociobiology revolution: Campus Marxism shown up as idiotic pseudo-religion it actually is. “It’s all about NURTURE, dammit, because we say it is!” (*stamping foot followed by howling, more stamping foot*) Smart people noticed; hacks and their useful idiots still try to haul the moon from a pond, as evidenced by chimp-cage academia today.

    • Replies: @guest
    Marxism is still there, and in the form of PC the most powerful force on campus. They're routinely shown up in field after field without disappearing. The Blank Slate still ruled the social sciences when I went to school, which wasn't long ago. I learned about sociobiology by reading stuff like Steven Pinker on my own.

    You think they'll tell you about it in Anthropology 101, for instance? Probably too busy gossiping about sexual utopia in Samoa.

  46. This is something for Sailer to talk about:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-if-global-warming-emptied-india/

    Not exactly groundbreaking considering that the Camp of the Saints book had this idea decades ago already, but since its coming from a PC verified authority on what one is allowed to say, this is interesting.

  47. @ben tillman

    “Selfish” also implies some agency that genes don’t have.
     
    If genes don't have agency, then it follows ineluctably that the things they construct don't have agency.

    If genes don’t have agency, then it follows ineluctably that the things they construct don’t have agency.

    Oh, I’d say there’s some room for eluction there.

  48. @ben tillman

    And who can forget the great Dawkins/ Stephen Jay Gould battles about the essence of Darwinism?

    Dawkins – with his (actually he was the popularizer) insistence that the ‘gene’ was the unit of Darwinian selection, whilst Gould championed the ‘individual’.

    Esoteric you might think, but no. This detail has profound implications.
     
    And, of course, they were both wrong!

    I was under the firm impression that the gene was the unit of natural selection. Can you enlighten me?

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    I was under the firm impression that the gene was the unit of natural selection. Can you enlighten me?
     
    There's a lot to be said about this, too much to say at the moment, but, as always, I would recommend that you read David Sloan Wilson's work:

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/188334?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    But that's behind a paywall. In this case, you can even look to Wikipedia:

    A unit of selection is a biological entity within the hierarchy of biological organization (for example, an entity such as: a self-reproducing molecule, a gene, a cell, an organism, a group, or a species) that is subject to natural selection.
     

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_of_selection
    , @Olorin
    You're thinking with a metaphor like the "Child Guidance" brand ball sorting toy of the '70s.

    http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTIwMFgxNjAw/z/BooAAOSw5VFWLTd0/$_1.JPG

    Natural selection is more like the love child of Tess Chess and Miegakure.

    The term "gene" is even more problematic than the pathetic fallacy "selfish." But we have to start somewhere.
    , @RCB
    IMO, The "unit of selection" debate is more philosophical than scientific, and as a consequence I think it's mostly a waste of time. Evolutionary theorists today don't make progress by pontificating about the "true" unit of selection; no one at the frontier spends much time doing this. Instead, they make mathematical models of how they believe the world works, and see what evolves in them. (Then, hopefully, the hypotheses that arise are tested empirically.) The "unit of selection" usually boils down to the viewpoint from which you see the model. You can view the same process from a gene-centric perspective, or an individual-centric perspective. Who cares?
  49. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @ben tillman
    The problem with the title isn't the "Selfish" part; it's the "Gene" part!

    The attribution of selfishness is entirely correct, but the focus on genes is too narrow and obscures an understanding of what a "self" that can be selfish is. The proper term is "genetic structures", which allows the observer to scale up or down as necessary to identity biological organization (or organisms).

    Actually “Selfish” is misleading and confusing because in ordinary, common parlance it connotes a quality or behavior of individuals. “Dynastic” is misleading and confusing for the same reason, as it connotes families. The whole point of “The Selfish Gene” is to present a gene centric view below what Dawkins regards as the ephemera of individual organisms, families, etc.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    Actually “Selfish” is misleading and confusing because in ordinary, common parlance it connotes a quality or behavior of individuals.
     
    It's neither misleading nor confusing. It means exactly the same thing in this context.
    , @guest
    That was Dawkins' whole point: that individual genes are out for themselves. He wasn't serious, of course, because genetic selfishness is ridiculous. But it sells books. I can't see the point in changing the title because the title accurately reflects the content, except the parts where Dawkins says he doesn't mean it.
  50. @ben tillman

    “Selfish” also implies some agency that genes don’t have.
     
    If genes don't have agency, then it follows ineluctably that the things they construct don't have agency.

    It doesn’t follow at all unless you make all sorts of further metaphysical assumptions.

  51. @helena
    I read somewhere that Dawkins once said he perhaps should have called it the 'Selfless Gene'.

    I agree; a gene doesn’t care* whether it survives or an identical gene survives.

    * care in the behavioural sense.

  52. @Anonymous Nephew
    Dawkins is in danger (after many years of being a useful stick to beat Christians with) of becoming an unperson to TPTB. One comment on the Guardian mentions "his irrepressible sexism, his attempts to naturalize neo-liberal ideology and his flirtations with racism".

    As Rutherford says "it is a shame that Dawkins is now perhaps better known for his irritable contempt for religion" - it wasn't considered a problem before Islam took centre stage, in the days when contempt for religion meant contempt for Christianity.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/15-of-richard-dawkins-most-controversial-tweets_us_56004360e4b00310edf7eaf6

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/sceptics-drop-atheist-richard-dawkins-retweeting-video-mocking-feminists-islamists-1540729

    I like this one.


    "Lost an argument? Don’t worry, just accuse your opponent of being old, white and privileged. That’s the ticket."
     
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    From the article:

    In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”

    Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.

    “I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today,” he said.

    Plus, he added, though his other classmates also experienced abuse at the hands of this teacher, “I don’t think he did any of us lasting harm.”
     
    , @Anonymous Nephew
    "You forgot his flirtations with pedophilia"

    I don't think he recommended it.

    The Dawkins genes aren't very selfish at any rate - his three marriages have produced exactly one daughter.

  53. @Stogumber
    From Rutherford's article: "... Or as the Anglo-Indian biologist JBS Haldane put it: “Would I lay down my life to save my brother? No, but I would to save two brothers or eight cousins.”

    Now, I don't know about Indians. But which European/Westerner would act on base of such a calculation, except a crazy biologist?

    It seems pretty clear that he’s taken fact that he’s genetically fungible for his brother into account in this theorizing, reckoning that his brother is no more important than he biologically. I wonder if he knew that he was sterile, or if his brother was more attractive to the opposite sex whether he’d change his analysis? It seems he’s just trying to illustrate his sincere belief in Darwinian theory.

    Of course, human history suggests that humans are not so coldly calculating biologically and (at least men) sacrifice themselves for greater social groups beyond narrow degrees of consanguinity – God, Country, King, Clan, The American Way, Street Gangs, Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs, etc. I find Darwinian theory to be very tautological in application (things that are alive are more fit for living than things that ceased to or never existed, so if something is alive we can backfill a rationale as to why it is so), so I’d imagine we could posit that being part of one of the warring sides or gangs raises one’s reproductive fitness or something.

  54. OT – Ramadan news

    “Refugees” burn down shelter in Dusseldorf because breakfast is served after sunrise – a Ramadama ding-dong.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/09/ramadan-row-behind-fire-at-german-refugee-shelter/

    “During this time of Ramadan, there was one group that wanted to strictly observe the fast, and another that insisted on the usual timetables and usual servings,” said Ralf Herrenbrueck, spokesman for the prosecutors service.

    “This had led on several occasions to disputes and altercations with officials of the German Red Cross,” he said in an interview with public broadcaster WDR.

    “It got to the point where threats were made over what would happen if things didn’t change, and one threat was obviously implemented.”

    Since the start of the year, police had been called 89 times to the 6,000-square-metre (65,000 square feet) hall, which was formerly part of the city’s congress centre, reports said.

    I’m sure the Germans will heed the obvious lesson of this incident, and adjust meal times accordingly.

    Also “a waitress in a cafe in central Nice has filed a police complaint after she was allegedly assaulted by two men because she refused to “stop serving alcohol” on the first day of Ramadan.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/08/waitress-assaulted-on-french-riviera-for-serving-alcohol-on-firs/

  55. @Mr. Anon
    "It’s not how civilised countries, who follow the rule of law, behave. “

    Upon what basis does Dawkins, the author of the selfish gene idea, imagine that the rule-of-law rests upon? What America did in Iraq was completely in keeping with the mechanistic biological worldview of Dawkins. I really don't see where he has a right to complain about it.

    Disagree with the use of the discretion to invade Iraq all you want, but there existed at the time multiple casus belli consistent with the Law of Nations. Zoologists make awful lawyers.

    From a Darwinian perspective, we would have invaded, killed most of the men and taken the rest and the nubile women for slaves and concubines after a bit of raping, and appropriated any and all things of value, including the oil. This was pretty much how war was waged until rather recently in human affairs.

    • Replies: @Mr. Anon
    Evidently, you misunderstood my point.
  56. OT: Refugee camp in Dusseldorf is burned down by migrants ‘who were furious they had not received a wake-up for Ramadan breakfast’

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3632965/Refugee-camp-Dusseldorf-burned-migrants-furious-not-received-wake-Ramadan-breakfast.html

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
    Hungry people are cranky people, heh, heh.
  57. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Dutch Boy
    You forgot his flirtations with pedophilia.
    http://www.salon.com/2013/09/10/richard_dawkins_defends_mild_pedophilia_says_it_does_not_cause_lasting_harm/

    From the article:

    In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”

    Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.

    “I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today,” he said.

    Plus, he added, though his other classmates also experienced abuse at the hands of this teacher, “I don’t think he did any of us lasting harm.”

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Do any English public schoolboys not have stories like this?
    , @Pat Hannagan
    Themes of pederasty are consistent within English elite education.

    Unlike the deserved opprobrium for the Catholic Church's transgressions the English seem to think it was all a jolly good adventure which made them the men they are today.

    It's actually quite often a story of approbation (cf. Christopher Hitchens et al).
  58. @The Only Catholic Unionist
    I get that Darwinism is the tool he uses to beat up on religion, which is indeed his main project. And certainly inheritance and breeding (what might be called "micro-evolution") are unquestionable all around us.

    However, Darwinism as an over-arcing theory of the origin of life does not appear to be well-supported by the evidence. If evolution is a blind, continuous project of small, incremental steps ("Dawkin's staircase"), intermediate forms should be all around us and unsuccessful forms should be ubiquitous in the fossil record. They are not. (And leave aside such deeper objections as to how complex even the "simplest" single-cell organisms are, and how natural selection is supposed to have acted before there was DNA...)

    The problems with a full discussion that might have some clue of getting at the truth are two, as I see it:

    1) The Piltdown Man. When the Piltdown Man was discovered, it was used to shut down discussion for forty-fifty critical years, after which discussion about such things as saltation should have been re-opened, but any attempts to discuss the problems with the theory are greeted with loud cries of "HIIIIIIIICCKKKK!!" instead of any actual arguments.

    2) It's too useful as a tool for attempting to expelling religion from the public square.

    (You can tell they realize their theory is in trouble, when they are even willing to re-habilitate the crimethinking unperson E. O. Wilson in order to use him as a club to try to beat down question about Neo-Darwinism ...)

    As stated above, I find the whole thing tautological – things that survive are good at survival and better at survival than things which ceased to be or never existed. It’s like saying “people who are good at basketball are in the NBA, which selects for people who are good at basketball” if the entire human population only consisted of people in the NBA. It just doesn’t tell you much about anything but it has the benefit of making dullards feel smart.

    • Replies: @RCB
    Nonsense. Evolutionary theory produces predictions, which a tautology cannot do. At the most basic level, it would predict, for example, that organisms who spontaneously decide kill themselves and their close relatives would not be common. And indeed that is the case. It predicts that organisms will tend to like having sex. And indeed that is the case.

    You can find many more hypotheses of much higher sophistication in any evolutionary textbook. Try, in particular, evolutionary genetics or evolutionary ecology textbooks.

    (Similarly, you could predict that the NBA selects for humans that are taller, faster, stronger, and quicker than the average person. And indeed that is the case. )
    , @The Last Real Calvinist

    As stated above, I find the whole thing tautological – things that survive are good at survival and better at survival than things which ceased to be or never existed.

     

    It's even more tautological than that. When you bring in the language of human value judgements -- e.g. 'good at' and 'better at' -- you're getting into swampy territory for the doctrinaire Darwinian.

    Wouldn't it be more accurate from a materialist/Darwinian perspective to say 'Things that exist are the things that have survived, unlike the the things that haven't'?

    , @Mr. Anon
    The mechanism of evolution is often stated as a tautology, but it need not be so stated and it isn't one. Those genomes that confer advantages to survival and reproduction will eventually come to dominate a given gene-pool.
    , @guest
    You're going after Herbert Spencer's catchphrase, not Darwinism as such.
  59. @Anonymous
    From the article:

    In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”

    Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.

    “I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today,” he said.

    Plus, he added, though his other classmates also experienced abuse at the hands of this teacher, “I don’t think he did any of us lasting harm.”
     

    Do any English public schoolboys not have stories like this?

    • Replies: @Alec Leamas
    I was under the impression that the buggery was commonly between schoolboys and not adults and minors?

    I have to wonder if the attitude isn't one of compromise or dismissal - as in a way to deny the homosexual proclivities and behaviors of the scions of great families. After "just a bit of schoolboy buggery" they're expected to marry women and make a male heir and perhaps a few spares, and maybe discrete homosexual relationships on the side were ignored.
  60. @Dutch Boy
    You forgot his flirtations with pedophilia.
    http://www.salon.com/2013/09/10/richard_dawkins_defends_mild_pedophilia_says_it_does_not_cause_lasting_harm/

    “You forgot his flirtations with pedophilia”

    I don’t think he recommended it.

    The Dawkins genes aren’t very selfish at any rate – his three marriages have produced exactly one daughter.

    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
    Talking of evo-type scientists with a low ratio of offspring to marriages - I see Steven Pinker's three marriages have produced zero children.
  61. @Stogumber
    From Rutherford's article: "... Or as the Anglo-Indian biologist JBS Haldane put it: “Would I lay down my life to save my brother? No, but I would to save two brothers or eight cousins.”

    Now, I don't know about Indians. But which European/Westerner would act on base of such a calculation, except a crazy biologist?

    That was a joke. The British sense of humour doesn’t always travel well.

    I had no idea Haldane was Anglo-Indian. The “recreational” library at Imperial College was named after him.

    • Replies: @PiltdownMan

    I had no idea Haldane was Anglo-Indian. The “recreational” library at Imperial College was named after him.
     
    Only technically Anglo-Indian. J.B.S. Haldane, a bit like his father before him, was your basic English eccentric genius, who grew up in Edwardian times.

    In 1956, in protest against Britain's position in the Suez crisis he emigrated to India, where he lived for the last eight years of his life, taking up Indian citizenship a few years before his death.

    The Indian political elite, then thickly populated by Fabian socialists and Laski-ites welcomed him and he found a productive home in the Indian Statistical Institute—in those days a world class institution in that field.

  62. OT- Interesting spin on the migrant crisis.

    Europe’s top soccer teams reflect the power of multiculturalism

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/08/europes-top-soccer-teams-reflect-the-power-of-multiculturalism/

  63. David French claims that Donald Trump supporters threatened to physically harm and even straight up kill his adopted Black daughter if he decided to run for POTUS.

    I doubt very much that actual Trump supporters were sending death threats to his family. They were more likely Left Wing trolls claiming to be Donald supporters. Either that or there were no threats at all and he made it up. A faux hate crime.

  64. @Anonymous
    From the article:

    In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”

    Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.

    “I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today,” he said.

    Plus, he added, though his other classmates also experienced abuse at the hands of this teacher, “I don’t think he did any of us lasting harm.”
     

    Themes of pederasty are consistent within English elite education.

    Unlike the deserved opprobrium for the Catholic Church’s transgressions the English seem to think it was all a jolly good adventure which made them the men they are today.

    It’s actually quite often a story of approbation (cf. Christopher Hitchens et al).

    • Agree: Travis
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Nobody has authored more memoirs than English Old Public School Boys. It's difficult to avoid noticing the pattern.
    , @Anonymous
    I went to Catholic schools my whole life until college, and went to an all-boys Catholic high school. There was absolutely no buggery going on. Nobody even thought of or mentioned it. So it's kind of bizarre when I hear about how prevalent this sort of thing was or is at English boys' schools.
    , @Olorin

    Unlike the deserved opprobrium for the Catholic Church’s transgressions the English seem to think it was all a jolly good adventure which made them the men they are today.
     
    And that is precisely what makes it different from the Catholic Church's transgressions.
  65. @Mr. Anon
    I don't remember Dawkins standing up for Watson during his auto-da-fe, and I don't imagine anyone will stand up for Dawkins when he gets watsoned.

    Actually I remember him coming to the defense of Watson, though not forcefully enough. (The “he was misunderstood/misinterpreted etc.” line of defense.)

  66. @Anonymous Nephew
    Dawkins 2004 open letter to the voters of Clark County (Ohio) is illuminating.

    "Now that all other justifications for the war are known to be lies, the warmongers are thrown back on one, endlessly repeated: the world is a better place without Saddam. No doubt it is. But that's the Tony Martin school of foreign policy [Martin was a householder who shot dead a burglar who had broken into his house in 1999]. It's not how civilised countries, who follow the rule of law, behave. "
     
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/oct/13/uselections2004.usa13

    He obviously didn't quite understand his rural audience if he thought they'd be horrified by the thought of shooting a home invader.

    The bigger problem is that Dawkins was wrong about the world becoming a better place after the removal of Saddam.

  67. @Pat Hannagan
    Themes of pederasty are consistent within English elite education.

    Unlike the deserved opprobrium for the Catholic Church's transgressions the English seem to think it was all a jolly good adventure which made them the men they are today.

    It's actually quite often a story of approbation (cf. Christopher Hitchens et al).

    Nobody has authored more memoirs than English Old Public School Boys. It’s difficult to avoid noticing the pattern.

    • Replies: @Pat Hannagan
    Gene selection at play, I suppose.
  68. @Steve Sailer
    Nobody has authored more memoirs than English Old Public School Boys. It's difficult to avoid noticing the pattern.

    Gene selection at play, I suppose.

  69. Darwin-skeptics at an hbd blog. Interesting.

    • Replies: @Alec Leamas
    Heritability is eminently sensible as well as plainly observable.
  70. @Steve Sailer
    Do any English public schoolboys not have stories like this?

    I was under the impression that the buggery was commonly between schoolboys and not adults and minors?

    I have to wonder if the attitude isn’t one of compromise or dismissal – as in a way to deny the homosexual proclivities and behaviors of the scions of great families. After “just a bit of schoolboy buggery” they’re expected to marry women and make a male heir and perhaps a few spares, and maybe discrete homosexual relationships on the side were ignored.

  71. @Auntie Analogue
    In his lively skeptical book Australian philosopher David Stove took Darwinism and The Selfish Gene over the coals: http://www.amazon.com/Darwinian-Fairytales-Selfish-Heredity-Evolution/dp/1594032009

    Genes don’t literally have motives, blah blah blah.

  72. @reiner Tor
    Darwin-skeptics at an hbd blog. Interesting.

    Heritability is eminently sensible as well as plainly observable.

  73. RCB says:
    @Alec Leamas
    As stated above, I find the whole thing tautological - things that survive are good at survival and better at survival than things which ceased to be or never existed. It's like saying "people who are good at basketball are in the NBA, which selects for people who are good at basketball" if the entire human population only consisted of people in the NBA. It just doesn't tell you much about anything but it has the benefit of making dullards feel smart.

    Nonsense. Evolutionary theory produces predictions, which a tautology cannot do. At the most basic level, it would predict, for example, that organisms who spontaneously decide kill themselves and their close relatives would not be common. And indeed that is the case. It predicts that organisms will tend to like having sex. And indeed that is the case.

    You can find many more hypotheses of much higher sophistication in any evolutionary textbook. Try, in particular, evolutionary genetics or evolutionary ecology textbooks.

    (Similarly, you could predict that the NBA selects for humans that are taller, faster, stronger, and quicker than the average person. And indeed that is the case. )

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Evolutionary theory makes no such predictions. Your example is not a prediction but a tautology. It could be rephrased as "things that don't survive, don't survive".

    Physics makes predictions. It tells us that several billion years from now, the sun will burn out and die. Evolutionary theory doesn't make such predictions, even on scales orders of magnitude less. Nothing in evolutionary theory predicts that this rat from 60 million years ago would evolve into Don Drysdale and my Basset hound:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/science/common-ancestor-of-mammals-plucked-from-obscurity.html
    , @Alec Leamas
    Your examples are every bit as tautological as any. Things that kill themselves tend not to be alive to reproduce. Creatures that reproduce sexually have sex.

    In either event you're not predicting either of these things - you're observing them after they've happened and postulating backwards that a gene or genes or some heritable trait are responsible because they increase the chances of survival.

    Similarly, you're observing basketball and the people who play it at a high level and then "predicting" that people who are good at basketball will be good at basketball. If I gave you the physical stats (height, weight, vertical jump, etc.) for each player on each college Division 1 basketball team without any more information and gave you 60 guesses, you probably wouldn't pick one of the 60 players picked in the June 23 NBA draft. And that's from among a rare pool of highly skilled players from which nearly all of the picks will be made.

    A true prediction would be "since humans have developed cars and hoverboards, legs will no longer be necessary and in fact will be a hindrance, leading to humans evolving to a form no longer having legs." Then, you'd wait however long it takes and see whether this has happened or not.

    Aside from the tautological nature of your predictions - humans routinely commit suicide. In the U.S. it is the 10th leading cause of death. And abortions are routine (not to mention artificial birth control). Humans are the most numerous mammal on Earth, and therefore cannot be said to be uncommon - indeed they are much more common than any other mammal for which suicide is unknown. Your evolutionary prediction has been easily refuted by evidence.
    , @guest
    The major problem with Darwinians is not that they're tautologists, but that they make too many damn predictions. They're wrong a lot, and don't get their comeuppance often enough. Partly this is because they're main enemies--creationists, blank slaters, postmodernists--don't as a rule know what they're talking about.
  74. @Desiderius
    I always took the title as a hat-tip to Adam Smith, another theorizer/populizer who unexpectedly found self-interest at the heart of many phenomena not obviously self-interested.

    So thusly The Self-Interested Gene?

    • Replies: @Desiderius

    So thusly The Self-Interested Gene?
     
    Selfish does have a stronger, more pejorative connotation.

    I do think they're both in the business of reverse apologetics, i.e justifying the ways of man to God, though I could be mistaken, esp. re: Smith.
  75. @t
    OT: Refugee camp in Dusseldorf is burned down by migrants 'who were furious they had not received a wake-up for Ramadan breakfast'

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3632965/Refugee-camp-Dusseldorf-burned-migrants-furious-not-received-wake-Ramadan-breakfast.html

    Hungry people are cranky people, heh, heh.

  76. @Alec Leamas
    As stated above, I find the whole thing tautological - things that survive are good at survival and better at survival than things which ceased to be or never existed. It's like saying "people who are good at basketball are in the NBA, which selects for people who are good at basketball" if the entire human population only consisted of people in the NBA. It just doesn't tell you much about anything but it has the benefit of making dullards feel smart.

    As stated above, I find the whole thing tautological – things that survive are good at survival and better at survival than things which ceased to be or never existed.

    It’s even more tautological than that. When you bring in the language of human value judgements — e.g. ‘good at’ and ‘better at’ — you’re getting into swampy territory for the doctrinaire Darwinian.

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate from a materialist/Darwinian perspective to say ‘Things that exist are the things that have survived, unlike the the things that haven’t’?

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    You don't get the insight of cumulative screening for survivability.
    , @helena
    Things that have survived, found (themselves in) niches. Things that haven't survived, didn't (or didn't realise they had).
  77. @anon
    Speaking of Dawkins, have you read this history of neo-reaction (https://ia801507.us.archive.org/32/items/the-silicon-ideology/the-silicon-ideology.pdf)?

    It makes a connection between the new-atheists and neo-raction (and the alt-right). The writer also claims that crick and watson stole their greatest idea from franklin.

    “The writer also claims that crick and watson stole their greatest idea from franklin.”

    They didn’t steal the idea at all. Franklin had x-ray data but no DNA model. Watson and Crick had the original idea and proposed the structure of DNA themselves. Franklin refused to share her data with them, which they wanted in order to verify the idea they had originated. The data was eventually leaked to them and it confirmed what they had already proposed. At worst, they all deserved the Nobel Prize.

  78. @The Last Real Calvinist

    As stated above, I find the whole thing tautological – things that survive are good at survival and better at survival than things which ceased to be or never existed.

     

    It's even more tautological than that. When you bring in the language of human value judgements -- e.g. 'good at' and 'better at' -- you're getting into swampy territory for the doctrinaire Darwinian.

    Wouldn't it be more accurate from a materialist/Darwinian perspective to say 'Things that exist are the things that have survived, unlike the the things that haven't'?

    You don’t get the insight of cumulative screening for survivability.

  79. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Pat Hannagan
    Themes of pederasty are consistent within English elite education.

    Unlike the deserved opprobrium for the Catholic Church's transgressions the English seem to think it was all a jolly good adventure which made them the men they are today.

    It's actually quite often a story of approbation (cf. Christopher Hitchens et al).

    I went to Catholic schools my whole life until college, and went to an all-boys Catholic high school. There was absolutely no buggery going on. Nobody even thought of or mentioned it. So it’s kind of bizarre when I hear about how prevalent this sort of thing was or is at English boys’ schools.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    In "Brideshead Revisited," an Italian lady in Venice observes that "romantic friendship" between rich schoolboys is an English and German thing, not an Italian thing.

    My guess is that it was tied to England and Germany really idolizing the Ancient Greeks, while Italy and France stayed focused on the Romans as their role models. But it apparently didn't much make the leap over to America, even though American northeastern boarding schools were otherwise closely modeled on their English equivalents.

    , @Pat Hannagan
    Pedophilic activity was fairly rife at the Christian Brothers college (high school) I went to. Several of the Brothers went to jail, two suicided after charges laid, and another I know of died of AIDS related disease.

    At the time it was well known among the students that Brother so and so was a faggot and to be avoided. Kids would cough "poofter" when some of the effeminate ones went by. Others you wouldn't dare as they were quite sadistic with the strap. One of them in 5th grade even had a piece of wood he'd made in the shape of a cricket bat, which he'd make one bend over and touch your toes as he performed a cover drive (cricket term) with it across your arse.

    One of the lay teachers outed that rats nest of degenerates a couple years after I left; to his eternal credit.

    One of my regrets is that I never pieced together what some of the boys were going through. The Brother's victims were the kids from broken homes, or homes where things weren't right. Not only were they copping it from the Brothers after school they'd also be mercilessly ridiculed and picked on in the playground. I never really comprehended what buggery was all about at the time, just thought these Brothers were pretty weird sort of shitheads. I remember first learning what buggery actually was in year 10 and being incredulous.

    The majority of Brothers weren't like that at all, some hard men who'd smash you in rugby, others with a dedication to teaching that was a religion in and of itself.

    Anyway, I get that same sort of sick feeling I got as a student around the pedo Brothers when I read many of these English authors.
    , @Sean
    Conan Doyle said at his elite Catholic school the pupils were never allowed to be alone together. So there was an awareness of those things even in the nineteenth century.
  80. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @RCB
    Nonsense. Evolutionary theory produces predictions, which a tautology cannot do. At the most basic level, it would predict, for example, that organisms who spontaneously decide kill themselves and their close relatives would not be common. And indeed that is the case. It predicts that organisms will tend to like having sex. And indeed that is the case.

    You can find many more hypotheses of much higher sophistication in any evolutionary textbook. Try, in particular, evolutionary genetics or evolutionary ecology textbooks.

    (Similarly, you could predict that the NBA selects for humans that are taller, faster, stronger, and quicker than the average person. And indeed that is the case. )

    Evolutionary theory makes no such predictions. Your example is not a prediction but a tautology. It could be rephrased as “things that don’t survive, don’t survive”.

    Physics makes predictions. It tells us that several billion years from now, the sun will burn out and die. Evolutionary theory doesn’t make such predictions, even on scales orders of magnitude less. Nothing in evolutionary theory predicts that this rat from 60 million years ago would evolve into Don Drysdale and my Basset hound:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/science/common-ancestor-of-mammals-plucked-from-obscurity.html

    • Replies: @RCB
    See my reply to Alec.

    Or google "sex ratio fig wasps" to find one very particular non-obvious hypothesis from evolutionary theory that has held empirically. A tautology wouldn't have predicted that less mate competition in an area would lead fig wasps to produce female-biased sex ratios. But evolutionary theory does, and it turns out to be true. The conclusions follow from the basic evolutionary postulates + mendelian genetics + basic facts of demography.

    Or just read a damn book.

  81. @Alec Leamas
    Disagree with the use of the discretion to invade Iraq all you want, but there existed at the time multiple casus belli consistent with the Law of Nations. Zoologists make awful lawyers.

    From a Darwinian perspective, we would have invaded, killed most of the men and taken the rest and the nubile women for slaves and concubines after a bit of raping, and appropriated any and all things of value, including the oil. This was pretty much how war was waged until rather recently in human affairs.

    Evidently, you misunderstood my point.

  82. @MEH 0910
    So thusly The Self-Interested Gene?

    So thusly The Self-Interested Gene?

    Selfish does have a stronger, more pejorative connotation.

    I do think they’re both in the business of reverse apologetics, i.e justifying the ways of man to God, though I could be mistaken, esp. re: Smith.

  83. Lots of young people might wonder why the elderly and not all that remarkable Dawkins still gets so much interest. Before the internet, the sort of people who now in 2016 read high-information internet content spent lots more time talking with friends about books than they do now – and in the period of 1977-81, when I went to college, the famous Dawkins Selfish Gene book was one of the books that were widely talked about (another science one was Hofstadter on Bach and Godel – and another one was whichever one was the latest by poor sad wisecracking Vonnegut, who we figured was almost a scientist because he wore his hair in a birth-control style and because he wrote science fiction – there were probably more but I remember those three…)

    • Replies: @Travis
    good point. Does anyone under the age of 35 know who Vonnegut was ? I did enjoy reading his books back in the '80s
  84. @Alec Leamas
    As stated above, I find the whole thing tautological - things that survive are good at survival and better at survival than things which ceased to be or never existed. It's like saying "people who are good at basketball are in the NBA, which selects for people who are good at basketball" if the entire human population only consisted of people in the NBA. It just doesn't tell you much about anything but it has the benefit of making dullards feel smart.

    The mechanism of evolution is often stated as a tautology, but it need not be so stated and it isn’t one. Those genomes that confer advantages to survival and reproduction will eventually come to dominate a given gene-pool.

  85. @RCB
    Nonsense. Evolutionary theory produces predictions, which a tautology cannot do. At the most basic level, it would predict, for example, that organisms who spontaneously decide kill themselves and their close relatives would not be common. And indeed that is the case. It predicts that organisms will tend to like having sex. And indeed that is the case.

    You can find many more hypotheses of much higher sophistication in any evolutionary textbook. Try, in particular, evolutionary genetics or evolutionary ecology textbooks.

    (Similarly, you could predict that the NBA selects for humans that are taller, faster, stronger, and quicker than the average person. And indeed that is the case. )

    Your examples are every bit as tautological as any. Things that kill themselves tend not to be alive to reproduce. Creatures that reproduce sexually have sex.

    In either event you’re not predicting either of these things – you’re observing them after they’ve happened and postulating backwards that a gene or genes or some heritable trait are responsible because they increase the chances of survival.

    Similarly, you’re observing basketball and the people who play it at a high level and then “predicting” that people who are good at basketball will be good at basketball. If I gave you the physical stats (height, weight, vertical jump, etc.) for each player on each college Division 1 basketball team without any more information and gave you 60 guesses, you probably wouldn’t pick one of the 60 players picked in the June 23 NBA draft. And that’s from among a rare pool of highly skilled players from which nearly all of the picks will be made.

    A true prediction would be “since humans have developed cars and hoverboards, legs will no longer be necessary and in fact will be a hindrance, leading to humans evolving to a form no longer having legs.” Then, you’d wait however long it takes and see whether this has happened or not.

    Aside from the tautological nature of your predictions – humans routinely commit suicide. In the U.S. it is the 10th leading cause of death. And abortions are routine (not to mention artificial birth control). Humans are the most numerous mammal on Earth, and therefore cannot be said to be uncommon – indeed they are much more common than any other mammal for which suicide is unknown. Your evolutionary prediction has been easily refuted by evidence.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    Aside from the tautological nature of your predictions – humans routinely commit suicide. In the U.S. it is the 10th leading cause of death. And abortions are routine (not to mention artificial birth control). Humans are the most numerous mammal on Earth, and therefore cannot be said to be uncommon – indeed they are much more common than any other mammal for which suicide is unknown. Your evolutionary prediction has been easily refuted by evidence.
     
    You're being too oblique. I don't know what your point is.
    , @vinteuil
    A tautology cannot be refuted by evidence. A tautology is a necessary, or conceptual, truth.
    , @Anonymous
    Again, Alec, feel free to actually read some evolutionary textbooks. You will find ecological predictions and experiments.

    It is easy to imagine a world in which suicide and infanticide and celibacy are very common - at any rate, orders of magnitude more common than they are now. You might wonder why that world is not the one we see. Evolutionary theory provides an extremely simple explanation: heritable genes that cause these tend to die off rather quickly. Of course, mutation and cultural learning and manipulation can keep these things in at low frequency. How low? We have mathematical models. I suspect they are more common in humans than most other organisms.

    You might also wonder why, in most populations of most animals, the sex ratio at birth is around 50-50. It could conceivably be very different; god could have set it at 75-25, no doubt. Evolutionary theory again provides a wonderfully simple explanation for why ~ 50-50 tends to arise under a wide variety of conditions (look up Fisherian sex ratio evolution). It also provides predictions for when sex ratio skew will evolve - and these are generally supported when we look into the world, if not down to the exact % (look up female-sex-biased sex ratios in fig wasps as predicted by population density, if I'm remembering correctly).

    You might also wonder why most plants and animals seem to care more about their kin and offspring than random strangers. Why do parents take care of their offspring at all? (Hell, why have offspring in the first place?) There's a damn good explanation for this - read up on Hamilton's rule, inclusive fitness, and kin selection. God didn't have to make the world this way, but that's the way it is.

    You might wonder why males mammals are usually bigger and stronger than females, and more aggressive, and spend more time growing antlers and getting into fights than females. And why incoming dominant male lions who take over the pride might try to kill the cubs fathered by the previous male. God could have made females bigger and tougher and meaner. Why didn't he? Look up parental investment theory.

    If one of Darwin's postulates did not hold, we wouldn't necessarily predict any of these things. If, say, Zeus ensued zero heritability of every trait, then selection could do nothing, and traits would never change over time; none of the above theory would follow. Or if Zeus ensured that the births in the next generation tended to have the genetic makeup of people who died prematurely, we would see the traits that are *bad* for survival become *more* common. God is all powerful: he could easily ensure that deleterious mutations, like Tay-Sachs disease, were at much higher prevalence - say, 25%. Why doesn't he?

    Because Darwin's basic postulates are true, and they have necessary knock-on consequences. That's why. Evolutionary theory deduces what these consequences are. Feel free to try to learn them.
  86. @Travis
    Appears the selfish genes are losing to to the selfish individuals among Europeans and European-Americans. Why have the white people adopted ideologies which will result in the extinction of white genes ? Someone needs to write another book to explain it.

    Appears the selfish genes are losing to to the selfish individuals among Europeans and European-Americans. Why have the white people adopted ideologies which will result in the extinction of white genes ? Someone needs to write another book to explain it.

    Dawkins already wrote that book: The Extended Phenotype. The behavior of Whites is being influenced by others.

  87. @middle aged vet
    Lots of young people might wonder why the elderly and not all that remarkable Dawkins still gets so much interest. Before the internet, the sort of people who now in 2016 read high-information internet content spent lots more time talking with friends about books than they do now - and in the period of 1977-81, when I went to college, the famous Dawkins Selfish Gene book was one of the books that were widely talked about (another science one was Hofstadter on Bach and Godel - and another one was whichever one was the latest by poor sad wisecracking Vonnegut, who we figured was almost a scientist because he wore his hair in a birth-control style and because he wrote science fiction - there were probably more but I remember those three...)

    good point. Does anyone under the age of 35 know who Vonnegut was ? I did enjoy reading his books back in the ’80s

  88. @Anonymous
    Actually "Selfish" is misleading and confusing because in ordinary, common parlance it connotes a quality or behavior of individuals. "Dynastic" is misleading and confusing for the same reason, as it connotes families. The whole point of "The Selfish Gene" is to present a gene centric view below what Dawkins regards as the ephemera of individual organisms, families, etc.

    Actually “Selfish” is misleading and confusing because in ordinary, common parlance it connotes a quality or behavior of individuals.

    It’s neither misleading nor confusing. It means exactly the same thing in this context.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    No, it doesn't, because Dawkins argues that individuals are mere ephemeral "survival machines" or "robot vehicles".
  89. @guest
    No it doesn't.

    No it doesn’t.

    Of course, it does. If you construct something, give it instructions, and it acts in accordance with those instructions, you too are acting, through it. If it has agency, you have agency. Therefore, as a matter of simple logic, if you don’t have agency, it cannot.

    • Replies: @guest
    But it doesn't act in accordance with instructions. There are no instructions. We don't run programs like computers. When people say our actions are determined by our genes they don't mean it in the literal sense you're using. Even if my genes determined that I be a drunk--though genes don't do that; they merely predispose me to drunkenness--they can't determine that I'll take a shot of Jack Daniels at 8 a.m. next Tuesday, for instance. Something else chooses that.

    I feel silly for having to say this, but yours was a silly post.

    , @guest
    Something without agency can't, in collaboration with thousands of fellows, be part of a causal chain leading to something with agency? Says who?
  90. @Carl
    I was under the firm impression that the gene was the unit of natural selection. Can you enlighten me?

    I was under the firm impression that the gene was the unit of natural selection. Can you enlighten me?

    There’s a lot to be said about this, too much to say at the moment, but, as always, I would recommend that you read David Sloan Wilson’s work:

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/188334?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    But that’s behind a paywall. In this case, you can even look to Wikipedia:

    A unit of selection is a biological entity within the hierarchy of biological organization (for example, an entity such as: a self-reproducing molecule, a gene, a cell, an organism, a group, or a species) that is subject to natural selection.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_of_selection

  91. @ben tillman

    No it doesn’t.
     
    Of course, it does. If you construct something, give it instructions, and it acts in accordance with those instructions, you too are acting, through it. If it has agency, you have agency. Therefore, as a matter of simple logic, if you don't have agency, it cannot.

    But it doesn’t act in accordance with instructions. There are no instructions. We don’t run programs like computers. When people say our actions are determined by our genes they don’t mean it in the literal sense you’re using. Even if my genes determined that I be a drunk–though genes don’t do that; they merely predispose me to drunkenness–they can’t determine that I’ll take a shot of Jack Daniels at 8 a.m. next Tuesday, for instance. Something else chooses that.

    I feel silly for having to say this, but yours was a silly post.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    But it doesn’t act in accordance with instructions. There are no instructions.
     
    Of course, there are instructions. Genes provide them.

    We don’t run programs like computers. When people say our actions are determined by our genes they don’t mean it in the literal sense you’re using.
     
    What "people say" is, of course, completely irrelevant. You have not even attempted to refute my point, because you can't.
  92. @ben tillman

    No it doesn’t.
     
    Of course, it does. If you construct something, give it instructions, and it acts in accordance with those instructions, you too are acting, through it. If it has agency, you have agency. Therefore, as a matter of simple logic, if you don't have agency, it cannot.

    Something without agency can’t, in collaboration with thousands of fellows, be part of a causal chain leading to something with agency? Says who?

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    Something without agency can’t, in collaboration with thousands of fellows, be part of a causal chain leading to something with agency? Says who?
     
    If a genome constructs something and gives it instructions, and it acts in accordance with those instructions, the genome and its constituent collaborators are acting, through the thing they constructed. If that thing has agency, the genome and its constituent collaborators have agency. Therefore, as a matter of simple logic, if the genome or its constituent collaborators don’t have agency, the thing built by the genome cannot.
  93. @San Fernando Curt
    Added benefit of sociobiology revolution: Campus Marxism shown up as idiotic pseudo-religion it actually is. "It's all about NURTURE, dammit, because we say it is!" (*stamping foot followed by howling, more stamping foot*) Smart people noticed; hacks and their useful idiots still try to haul the moon from a pond, as evidenced by chimp-cage academia today.

    Marxism is still there, and in the form of PC the most powerful force on campus. They’re routinely shown up in field after field without disappearing. The Blank Slate still ruled the social sciences when I went to school, which wasn’t long ago. I learned about sociobiology by reading stuff like Steven Pinker on my own.

    You think they’ll tell you about it in Anthropology 101, for instance? Probably too busy gossiping about sexual utopia in Samoa.

  94. @Anonymous
    Actually "Selfish" is misleading and confusing because in ordinary, common parlance it connotes a quality or behavior of individuals. "Dynastic" is misleading and confusing for the same reason, as it connotes families. The whole point of "The Selfish Gene" is to present a gene centric view below what Dawkins regards as the ephemera of individual organisms, families, etc.

    That was Dawkins’ whole point: that individual genes are out for themselves. He wasn’t serious, of course, because genetic selfishness is ridiculous. But it sells books. I can’t see the point in changing the title because the title accurately reflects the content, except the parts where Dawkins says he doesn’t mean it.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    That was Dawkins’ whole point: that individual genes are out for themselves. He wasn’t serious, of course, because genetic selfishness is ridiculous.
     
    To the contrary, the notion of genetic non-selfishness is ridiculous.
  95. @RCB
    Nonsense. Evolutionary theory produces predictions, which a tautology cannot do. At the most basic level, it would predict, for example, that organisms who spontaneously decide kill themselves and their close relatives would not be common. And indeed that is the case. It predicts that organisms will tend to like having sex. And indeed that is the case.

    You can find many more hypotheses of much higher sophistication in any evolutionary textbook. Try, in particular, evolutionary genetics or evolutionary ecology textbooks.

    (Similarly, you could predict that the NBA selects for humans that are taller, faster, stronger, and quicker than the average person. And indeed that is the case. )

    The major problem with Darwinians is not that they’re tautologists, but that they make too many damn predictions. They’re wrong a lot, and don’t get their comeuppance often enough. Partly this is because they’re main enemies–creationists, blank slaters, postmodernists–don’t as a rule know what they’re talking about.

  96. @Alec Leamas
    As stated above, I find the whole thing tautological - things that survive are good at survival and better at survival than things which ceased to be or never existed. It's like saying "people who are good at basketball are in the NBA, which selects for people who are good at basketball" if the entire human population only consisted of people in the NBA. It just doesn't tell you much about anything but it has the benefit of making dullards feel smart.

    You’re going after Herbert Spencer’s catchphrase, not Darwinism as such.

  97. @candid_observer
    The problem with the title The Selfish Gene is that when the book entered the public arena, its sensationalistic title made for great misunderstanding. The problem with the titles The Immortal Gene and The Dynastic Gene is that the book would never have entered the public arena in the first place.

    The problem with the title The Selfish Gene is that when the book entered the public arena, its sensationalistic title made for great misunderstanding.

    How so?

    • Replies: @guest
    "How so?"

    Genes aren't really selfish.
  98. @ben tillman

    Actually “Selfish” is misleading and confusing because in ordinary, common parlance it connotes a quality or behavior of individuals.
     
    It's neither misleading nor confusing. It means exactly the same thing in this context.

    No, it doesn’t, because Dawkins argues that individuals are mere ephemeral “survival machines” or “robot vehicles”.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    No, it doesn’t, because Dawkins argues that individuals are mere ephemeral “survival machines” or “robot vehicles”.
     
    I don't see how that is supposed to support your contention.
    , @guest
    If organisms are robot vehicles for genes how does that mean genes aren't selfish? I don't get your point.
  99. @Alec Leamas
    Your examples are every bit as tautological as any. Things that kill themselves tend not to be alive to reproduce. Creatures that reproduce sexually have sex.

    In either event you're not predicting either of these things - you're observing them after they've happened and postulating backwards that a gene or genes or some heritable trait are responsible because they increase the chances of survival.

    Similarly, you're observing basketball and the people who play it at a high level and then "predicting" that people who are good at basketball will be good at basketball. If I gave you the physical stats (height, weight, vertical jump, etc.) for each player on each college Division 1 basketball team without any more information and gave you 60 guesses, you probably wouldn't pick one of the 60 players picked in the June 23 NBA draft. And that's from among a rare pool of highly skilled players from which nearly all of the picks will be made.

    A true prediction would be "since humans have developed cars and hoverboards, legs will no longer be necessary and in fact will be a hindrance, leading to humans evolving to a form no longer having legs." Then, you'd wait however long it takes and see whether this has happened or not.

    Aside from the tautological nature of your predictions - humans routinely commit suicide. In the U.S. it is the 10th leading cause of death. And abortions are routine (not to mention artificial birth control). Humans are the most numerous mammal on Earth, and therefore cannot be said to be uncommon - indeed they are much more common than any other mammal for which suicide is unknown. Your evolutionary prediction has been easily refuted by evidence.

    Aside from the tautological nature of your predictions – humans routinely commit suicide. In the U.S. it is the 10th leading cause of death. And abortions are routine (not to mention artificial birth control). Humans are the most numerous mammal on Earth, and therefore cannot be said to be uncommon – indeed they are much more common than any other mammal for which suicide is unknown. Your evolutionary prediction has been easily refuted by evidence.

    You’re being too oblique. I don’t know what your point is.

    • Replies: @Alec Leamas
    By way of Darwinian prediction, my interlocutor wrote that creatures which kill themselves and their relatives wouldn't be common.
  100. @guest
    But it doesn't act in accordance with instructions. There are no instructions. We don't run programs like computers. When people say our actions are determined by our genes they don't mean it in the literal sense you're using. Even if my genes determined that I be a drunk--though genes don't do that; they merely predispose me to drunkenness--they can't determine that I'll take a shot of Jack Daniels at 8 a.m. next Tuesday, for instance. Something else chooses that.

    I feel silly for having to say this, but yours was a silly post.

    But it doesn’t act in accordance with instructions. There are no instructions.

    Of course, there are instructions. Genes provide them.

    We don’t run programs like computers. When people say our actions are determined by our genes they don’t mean it in the literal sense you’re using.

    What “people say” is, of course, completely irrelevant. You have not even attempted to refute my point, because you can’t.

    • Replies: @guest
    Genetic instructions don't determine behavior. We don't have any instructions as to what we may or may not drink at 8 a.m. next Tuesday, for instance. What instructions our genes do provide are for constructing our bodies and providing for general personality. Such instructions do not necessarily deprive us of agency.
    , @guest
    What people say is germane to the rhetorical point I was making, which you either ignored or didn't catch.
  101. @guest
    That was Dawkins' whole point: that individual genes are out for themselves. He wasn't serious, of course, because genetic selfishness is ridiculous. But it sells books. I can't see the point in changing the title because the title accurately reflects the content, except the parts where Dawkins says he doesn't mean it.

    That was Dawkins’ whole point: that individual genes are out for themselves. He wasn’t serious, of course, because genetic selfishness is ridiculous.

    To the contrary, the notion of genetic non-selfishness is ridiculous.

    • Replies: @guest
    I don't think you know what it means to be selfish.
    , @Alec Leamas

    To the contrary, the notion of genetic non-selfishness is ridiculous.
     
    But you can always reinterpret selfless behavior as selfish in that it provides a benefit to presumably related creatures. You just change the perspective and a selfless gene becomes selfish.

    For example, when Wildebeest migrate they cross rivers en masse. A proportion of them will be killed by Crocodiles. Instead of acknowledging that going first into the river is suicide and selfless insofar as it occupies a Crocodile so that another Wildebeest can cross the river, you'll say that the seeming selflessness was actually selfish because it allowed other related Wildebeests carrying similar genes to cross the river and prosper.

    See, for example, the post hoc Darwinian rationalization of exclusive male homosexuality as "conferring a benefit" on the homosexual's sisters.

    You're always starting with the conclusion - "these genes help the bearer survive and pass themselves on" - and theorizing backwards from that.
  102. @Anonymous
    No, it doesn't, because Dawkins argues that individuals are mere ephemeral "survival machines" or "robot vehicles".

    No, it doesn’t, because Dawkins argues that individuals are mere ephemeral “survival machines” or “robot vehicles”.

    I don’t see how that is supposed to support your contention.

  103. @ben tillman

    The problem with the title The Selfish Gene is that when the book entered the public arena, its sensationalistic title made for great misunderstanding.
     
    How so?

    “How so?”

    Genes aren’t really selfish.

  104. @ben tillman

    But it doesn’t act in accordance with instructions. There are no instructions.
     
    Of course, there are instructions. Genes provide them.

    We don’t run programs like computers. When people say our actions are determined by our genes they don’t mean it in the literal sense you’re using.
     
    What "people say" is, of course, completely irrelevant. You have not even attempted to refute my point, because you can't.

    Genetic instructions don’t determine behavior. We don’t have any instructions as to what we may or may not drink at 8 a.m. next Tuesday, for instance. What instructions our genes do provide are for constructing our bodies and providing for general personality. Such instructions do not necessarily deprive us of agency.

  105. @ben tillman

    That was Dawkins’ whole point: that individual genes are out for themselves. He wasn’t serious, of course, because genetic selfishness is ridiculous.
     
    To the contrary, the notion of genetic non-selfishness is ridiculous.

    I don’t think you know what it means to be selfish.

  106. @guest
    Something without agency can't, in collaboration with thousands of fellows, be part of a causal chain leading to something with agency? Says who?

    Something without agency can’t, in collaboration with thousands of fellows, be part of a causal chain leading to something with agency? Says who?

    If a genome constructs something and gives it instructions, and it acts in accordance with those instructions, the genome and its constituent collaborators are acting, through the thing they constructed. If that thing has agency, the genome and its constituent collaborators have agency. Therefore, as a matter of simple logic, if the genome or its constituent collaborators don’t have agency, the thing built by the genome cannot.

    • Replies: @vinteuil
    You appear to identify activity with the possession of agency. This seems wrong. Bacteria act in various ways, don' t they? But bacteria do not possess agency, do they?
    , @guest
    It doesn't act according to such instructions, however. Genomic instructions aren't specific enough. The things that genes construct happen to be things with agency, though genes have no agency themselves.
    , @Sam F
    Nihil fit ex nihilo? I know a certain German professor of the last century who would disagree with you. A certain professor you could describe as a...Party animal, so to speak.
  107. @ben tillman

    But it doesn’t act in accordance with instructions. There are no instructions.
     
    Of course, there are instructions. Genes provide them.

    We don’t run programs like computers. When people say our actions are determined by our genes they don’t mean it in the literal sense you’re using.
     
    What "people say" is, of course, completely irrelevant. You have not even attempted to refute my point, because you can't.

    What people say is germane to the rhetorical point I was making, which you either ignored or didn’t catch.

  108. @Anonymous
    No, it doesn't, because Dawkins argues that individuals are mere ephemeral "survival machines" or "robot vehicles".

    If organisms are robot vehicles for genes how does that mean genes aren’t selfish? I don’t get your point.

  109. @Alec Leamas
    Your examples are every bit as tautological as any. Things that kill themselves tend not to be alive to reproduce. Creatures that reproduce sexually have sex.

    In either event you're not predicting either of these things - you're observing them after they've happened and postulating backwards that a gene or genes or some heritable trait are responsible because they increase the chances of survival.

    Similarly, you're observing basketball and the people who play it at a high level and then "predicting" that people who are good at basketball will be good at basketball. If I gave you the physical stats (height, weight, vertical jump, etc.) for each player on each college Division 1 basketball team without any more information and gave you 60 guesses, you probably wouldn't pick one of the 60 players picked in the June 23 NBA draft. And that's from among a rare pool of highly skilled players from which nearly all of the picks will be made.

    A true prediction would be "since humans have developed cars and hoverboards, legs will no longer be necessary and in fact will be a hindrance, leading to humans evolving to a form no longer having legs." Then, you'd wait however long it takes and see whether this has happened or not.

    Aside from the tautological nature of your predictions - humans routinely commit suicide. In the U.S. it is the 10th leading cause of death. And abortions are routine (not to mention artificial birth control). Humans are the most numerous mammal on Earth, and therefore cannot be said to be uncommon - indeed they are much more common than any other mammal for which suicide is unknown. Your evolutionary prediction has been easily refuted by evidence.

    A tautology cannot be refuted by evidence. A tautology is a necessary, or conceptual, truth.

    • Replies: @Alec Leamas
    You're saying a tautology is true because it's impervious to evidence?
  110. @ben tillman

    Something without agency can’t, in collaboration with thousands of fellows, be part of a causal chain leading to something with agency? Says who?
     
    If a genome constructs something and gives it instructions, and it acts in accordance with those instructions, the genome and its constituent collaborators are acting, through the thing they constructed. If that thing has agency, the genome and its constituent collaborators have agency. Therefore, as a matter of simple logic, if the genome or its constituent collaborators don’t have agency, the thing built by the genome cannot.

    You appear to identify activity with the possession of agency. This seems wrong. Bacteria act in various ways, don’ t they? But bacteria do not possess agency, do they?

  111. @The Last Real Calvinist

    As stated above, I find the whole thing tautological – things that survive are good at survival and better at survival than things which ceased to be or never existed.

     

    It's even more tautological than that. When you bring in the language of human value judgements -- e.g. 'good at' and 'better at' -- you're getting into swampy territory for the doctrinaire Darwinian.

    Wouldn't it be more accurate from a materialist/Darwinian perspective to say 'Things that exist are the things that have survived, unlike the the things that haven't'?

    Things that have survived, found (themselves in) niches. Things that haven’t survived, didn’t (or didn’t realise they had).

  112. @Anonymous Nephew
    "You forgot his flirtations with pedophilia"

    I don't think he recommended it.

    The Dawkins genes aren't very selfish at any rate - his three marriages have produced exactly one daughter.

    Talking of evo-type scientists with a low ratio of offspring to marriages – I see Steven Pinker’s three marriages have produced zero children.

  113. @ben tillman

    Something without agency can’t, in collaboration with thousands of fellows, be part of a causal chain leading to something with agency? Says who?
     
    If a genome constructs something and gives it instructions, and it acts in accordance with those instructions, the genome and its constituent collaborators are acting, through the thing they constructed. If that thing has agency, the genome and its constituent collaborators have agency. Therefore, as a matter of simple logic, if the genome or its constituent collaborators don’t have agency, the thing built by the genome cannot.

    It doesn’t act according to such instructions, however. Genomic instructions aren’t specific enough. The things that genes construct happen to be things with agency, though genes have no agency themselves.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    It doesn’t act according to such instructions, however. Genomic instructions aren’t specific enough.
     
    Acting in accordance with inspecific instructions is still acting accordance with instructions.
  114. @Peter Johnson
    The "Selfish Gene" title is near perfect and, sorry Steve, the "Dynastic Gene" title does not better it.

    The title “Selfish Gene” is itself part of the pre-Darwinian view that Dawkins was arguing against. “Selfish Gene” suggests intentionality in evolution. But Dawkins ‘ fundamental point is that evolution and reality generally are not intentional. Genes are not trying to surive at the expense of other genes Genes are not trying to do anything.

  115. @Stogumber
    From Rutherford's article: "... Or as the Anglo-Indian biologist JBS Haldane put it: “Would I lay down my life to save my brother? No, but I would to save two brothers or eight cousins.”

    Now, I don't know about Indians. But which European/Westerner would act on base of such a calculation, except a crazy biologist?

    Natural selection of behavior is in no way dependent on intentionality. Fitness-enhancing behavior is selected for in viruses for example. But we needn’t interpret viral behavior in the language of intentionality. Selection for kinship altruism is not dependent on anybody doing mental calculations based on a knowledge of genetics.

  116. @ben tillman

    Aside from the tautological nature of your predictions – humans routinely commit suicide. In the U.S. it is the 10th leading cause of death. And abortions are routine (not to mention artificial birth control). Humans are the most numerous mammal on Earth, and therefore cannot be said to be uncommon – indeed they are much more common than any other mammal for which suicide is unknown. Your evolutionary prediction has been easily refuted by evidence.
     
    You're being too oblique. I don't know what your point is.

    By way of Darwinian prediction, my interlocutor wrote that creatures which kill themselves and their relatives wouldn’t be common.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    They aren't common, well over 99% of humans don't kill themselves.
  117. @jimmyriddle
    That was a joke. The British sense of humour doesn't always travel well.

    I had no idea Haldane was Anglo-Indian. The "recreational" library at Imperial College was named after him.

    I had no idea Haldane was Anglo-Indian. The “recreational” library at Imperial College was named after him.

    Only technically Anglo-Indian. J.B.S. Haldane, a bit like his father before him, was your basic English eccentric genius, who grew up in Edwardian times.

    In 1956, in protest against Britain’s position in the Suez crisis he emigrated to India, where he lived for the last eight years of his life, taking up Indian citizenship a few years before his death.

    The Indian political elite, then thickly populated by Fabian socialists and Laski-ites welcomed him and he found a productive home in the Indian Statistical Institute—in those days a world class institution in that field.

  118. @ben tillman

    “Selfish” also implies some agency that genes don’t have.
     
    If genes don't have agency, then it follows ineluctably that the things they construct don't have agency.

    The language of “agency” is useful for talking about the behavior of humans and higher animals. It’s not so useful for talking about the behavior of a petunia and even less so for talking about the behavior of electrons, protons and neutrons. It’s still true that humans as well as petunias are composed of electrons, neutrons and protons.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    The language of “agency” is useful for talking about the behavior of humans and higher animals.
     
    There isn't really any language of agency. The term has many different meanings.

    It’s not so useful for talking about the behavior of a petunia and even less so for talking about the behavior of electrons, protons and neutrons. It’s still true that humans as well as petunias are composed of electrons, neutrons and protons.
     

    And what you should conclude from this fact is that, if atomic particles do not have "agency" by the definition you choose to apply, neither do the things they compose. Perhaps what you consider to be agency is an illusion.
  119. @vinteuil
    A tautology cannot be refuted by evidence. A tautology is a necessary, or conceptual, truth.

    You’re saying a tautology is true because it’s impervious to evidence?

    • Replies: @vinteuil
    No, Mr Leamas. I am saying that a tautology is, by definition, a necessary, or conceptual, truth. E.G.:

    A bachelor is unmarried.

    A puppy is a dog.

    These statements are, indeed, "impervious to evidence."

    But that is not what *makes* them true.

    Do you genuinely find this confusing?
    , @Anonymous
    I believe he is saying that if you believe evolutionary theory is tautologous, then how can you have claimed to disprove it with evidence? Either evolutionary theory makes predictions (right or wrong), or it is tautologous. Both can't be true. Hint: the former is true.

    Just to be clear: most of evolutionary theory follows *necessarily* from the postulates that (1) not all organisms in a population produce the same amount of offspring and (2) offspring tend to resemble their parents. It turns out that those are empirical facts - the world didn't *have* to be that way, but it is. The rest of evolutionary follows from those postulates, plus the many details of Mendelian genetics, demography, ecology, and so on. It's very hard to agree with the above assertions and not arrive at evolution as a consequence. But feel free to give it a try.

    Now, you can say that evolutionary theory is still overall pretty weak, in that the predictions are often post hoc (we already know the answer is true) or imprecise (we can predict a thing is "fairly rare", or that the "effect of x is positive on y", but rarely make a precise numerical prediction). This is often true, and it's a fair criticism. Evolutionary theory will never have the precision of mechanics or physics in general. There are lot of details to disagree about.
  120. @ben tillman

    That was Dawkins’ whole point: that individual genes are out for themselves. He wasn’t serious, of course, because genetic selfishness is ridiculous.
     
    To the contrary, the notion of genetic non-selfishness is ridiculous.

    To the contrary, the notion of genetic non-selfishness is ridiculous.

    But you can always reinterpret selfless behavior as selfish in that it provides a benefit to presumably related creatures. You just change the perspective and a selfless gene becomes selfish.

    For example, when Wildebeest migrate they cross rivers en masse. A proportion of them will be killed by Crocodiles. Instead of acknowledging that going first into the river is suicide and selfless insofar as it occupies a Crocodile so that another Wildebeest can cross the river, you’ll say that the seeming selflessness was actually selfish because it allowed other related Wildebeests carrying similar genes to cross the river and prosper.

    See, for example, the post hoc Darwinian rationalization of exclusive male homosexuality as “conferring a benefit” on the homosexual’s sisters.

    You’re always starting with the conclusion – “these genes help the bearer survive and pass themselves on” – and theorizing backwards from that.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    You’re always starting with the conclusion – “these genes help the bearer survive and pass themselves on” – and theorizing backwards from that.
     
    Nothing of the sort. The genes are trying to survive. Whether they help the bearer depends on the circumstances.
    , @Unladen Swallow
    Edward O. Wilson's "gay uncle" theory is not something that quantitatively oriented biologists would use to explain gene level selection, rather it represents the opposite, something that isn't an example of gene selection because it doesn't happen.

    You sound like you are getting your ideas of dismissing evolutionary biology from Gould and his ilk. Look up Gregory Cochran's posts on the topic, or Jayman's summaries of Cochran's critiques on this and similar topics.
  121. @Alec Leamas
    By way of Darwinian prediction, my interlocutor wrote that creatures which kill themselves and their relatives wouldn't be common.

    They aren’t common, well over 99% of humans don’t kill themselves.

  122. @Alec Leamas
    You're saying a tautology is true because it's impervious to evidence?

    No, Mr Leamas. I am saying that a tautology is, by definition, a necessary, or conceptual, truth. E.G.:

    A bachelor is unmarried.

    A puppy is a dog.

    These statements are, indeed, “impervious to evidence.”

    But that is not what *makes* them true.

    Do you genuinely find this confusing?

    • Replies: @Alec Leamas
    A tautology is not a "necessary or conceptual truth." It's a way of saying the same thing twice and fooling yourself into thinking you've made progress. The examples you give are merely defining terms and redundancy. A bachelor is unmarried because we call unmarried men "bachelors." A puppy is a juvenile dog because we call juvenile dogs "puppies."

    If I call juvenile reticulated Quonks "Zabettydoodles," is it true that Zabbettydoodles are Quonks? Only insofar as I have the power to name things that don't exist.
  123. @Alec Leamas

    To the contrary, the notion of genetic non-selfishness is ridiculous.
     
    But you can always reinterpret selfless behavior as selfish in that it provides a benefit to presumably related creatures. You just change the perspective and a selfless gene becomes selfish.

    For example, when Wildebeest migrate they cross rivers en masse. A proportion of them will be killed by Crocodiles. Instead of acknowledging that going first into the river is suicide and selfless insofar as it occupies a Crocodile so that another Wildebeest can cross the river, you'll say that the seeming selflessness was actually selfish because it allowed other related Wildebeests carrying similar genes to cross the river and prosper.

    See, for example, the post hoc Darwinian rationalization of exclusive male homosexuality as "conferring a benefit" on the homosexual's sisters.

    You're always starting with the conclusion - "these genes help the bearer survive and pass themselves on" - and theorizing backwards from that.

    You’re always starting with the conclusion – “these genes help the bearer survive and pass themselves on” – and theorizing backwards from that.

    Nothing of the sort. The genes are trying to survive. Whether they help the bearer depends on the circumstances.

    • Replies: @SPMoore8
    What is the evidence that a gene is "trying" to survive?
  124. @Jim
    The language of "agency" is useful for talking about the behavior of humans and higher animals. It's not so useful for talking about the behavior of a petunia and even less so for talking about the behavior of electrons, protons and neutrons. It's still true that humans as well as petunias are composed of electrons, neutrons and protons.

    The language of “agency” is useful for talking about the behavior of humans and higher animals.

    There isn’t really any language of agency. The term has many different meanings.

    It’s not so useful for talking about the behavior of a petunia and even less so for talking about the behavior of electrons, protons and neutrons. It’s still true that humans as well as petunias are composed of electrons, neutrons and protons.

    And what you should conclude from this fact is that, if atomic particles do not have “agency” by the definition you choose to apply, neither do the things they compose. Perhaps what you consider to be agency is an illusion.

  125. @guest
    It doesn't act according to such instructions, however. Genomic instructions aren't specific enough. The things that genes construct happen to be things with agency, though genes have no agency themselves.

    It doesn’t act according to such instructions, however. Genomic instructions aren’t specific enough.

    Acting in accordance with inspecific instructions is still acting accordance with instructions.

    • Replies: @guest
    "Acting in accordance with inspecific instructions is still acting accordance with instructions"

    Is action in accordance with instructions tantamount to acting without agency?No. There must be a point at which instructions are unspecific enough to allow agency to the instructed. The mere fact that there are instructions of some specificity doesn't mean they're specific enough to exclude agency.

    When I said above that there are no instructions I meant there are no instructions on the level of specificity you seem to impute to genetic code. There are no instructions specific enough to determine my daily actions over the course of my life. My genes won't tell me when and how to finish this paragraph, for instance.

  126. @ben tillman

    You’re always starting with the conclusion – “these genes help the bearer survive and pass themselves on” – and theorizing backwards from that.
     
    Nothing of the sort. The genes are trying to survive. Whether they help the bearer depends on the circumstances.

    What is the evidence that a gene is “trying” to survive?

    • Replies: @C H Ingoldby
    Genes which have the effect of causing its creature to better survive and replicate more genes will tend to be more numerous. Therefore genes generally do act in a way that seems to be 'trying' to survive. It isn't a matter of choice, agency or conscious decision, it's just a matter of selection of traits.
    , @Anonymous
    There is no evidence. It's a way of anthropomorphizing nucleotides which are organic molecules.
    , @Wanderer
    Ahhh, I see. You are a science denier.
  127. RCB says:
    @Anonymous
    Evolutionary theory makes no such predictions. Your example is not a prediction but a tautology. It could be rephrased as "things that don't survive, don't survive".

    Physics makes predictions. It tells us that several billion years from now, the sun will burn out and die. Evolutionary theory doesn't make such predictions, even on scales orders of magnitude less. Nothing in evolutionary theory predicts that this rat from 60 million years ago would evolve into Don Drysdale and my Basset hound:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/science/common-ancestor-of-mammals-plucked-from-obscurity.html

    See my reply to Alec.

    Or google “sex ratio fig wasps” to find one very particular non-obvious hypothesis from evolutionary theory that has held empirically. A tautology wouldn’t have predicted that less mate competition in an area would lead fig wasps to produce female-biased sex ratios. But evolutionary theory does, and it turns out to be true. The conclusions follow from the basic evolutionary postulates + mendelian genetics + basic facts of demography.

    Or just read a damn book.

  128. @SPMoore8
    What is the evidence that a gene is "trying" to survive?

    Genes which have the effect of causing its creature to better survive and replicate more genes will tend to be more numerous. Therefore genes generally do act in a way that seems to be ‘trying’ to survive. It isn’t a matter of choice, agency or conscious decision, it’s just a matter of selection of traits.

    • Replies: @guest
    If there's no choice, agency, or conscious decision, where does the "trying" come in? We find it convenient to explain genes in such terms, but don't let's pretend we mean it. They don't try to do anything. Dawkins knows this, despite his title.
  129. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Alec Leamas
    You're saying a tautology is true because it's impervious to evidence?

    I believe he is saying that if you believe evolutionary theory is tautologous, then how can you have claimed to disprove it with evidence? Either evolutionary theory makes predictions (right or wrong), or it is tautologous. Both can’t be true. Hint: the former is true.

    Just to be clear: most of evolutionary theory follows *necessarily* from the postulates that (1) not all organisms in a population produce the same amount of offspring and (2) offspring tend to resemble their parents. It turns out that those are empirical facts – the world didn’t *have* to be that way, but it is. The rest of evolutionary follows from those postulates, plus the many details of Mendelian genetics, demography, ecology, and so on. It’s very hard to agree with the above assertions and not arrive at evolution as a consequence. But feel free to give it a try.

    Now, you can say that evolutionary theory is still overall pretty weak, in that the predictions are often post hoc (we already know the answer is true) or imprecise (we can predict a thing is “fairly rare”, or that the “effect of x is positive on y”, but rarely make a precise numerical prediction). This is often true, and it’s a fair criticism. Evolutionary theory will never have the precision of mechanics or physics in general. There are lot of details to disagree about.

  130. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Alec Leamas
    Your examples are every bit as tautological as any. Things that kill themselves tend not to be alive to reproduce. Creatures that reproduce sexually have sex.

    In either event you're not predicting either of these things - you're observing them after they've happened and postulating backwards that a gene or genes or some heritable trait are responsible because they increase the chances of survival.

    Similarly, you're observing basketball and the people who play it at a high level and then "predicting" that people who are good at basketball will be good at basketball. If I gave you the physical stats (height, weight, vertical jump, etc.) for each player on each college Division 1 basketball team without any more information and gave you 60 guesses, you probably wouldn't pick one of the 60 players picked in the June 23 NBA draft. And that's from among a rare pool of highly skilled players from which nearly all of the picks will be made.

    A true prediction would be "since humans have developed cars and hoverboards, legs will no longer be necessary and in fact will be a hindrance, leading to humans evolving to a form no longer having legs." Then, you'd wait however long it takes and see whether this has happened or not.

    Aside from the tautological nature of your predictions - humans routinely commit suicide. In the U.S. it is the 10th leading cause of death. And abortions are routine (not to mention artificial birth control). Humans are the most numerous mammal on Earth, and therefore cannot be said to be uncommon - indeed they are much more common than any other mammal for which suicide is unknown. Your evolutionary prediction has been easily refuted by evidence.

    Again, Alec, feel free to actually read some evolutionary textbooks. You will find ecological predictions and experiments.

    It is easy to imagine a world in which suicide and infanticide and celibacy are very common – at any rate, orders of magnitude more common than they are now. You might wonder why that world is not the one we see. Evolutionary theory provides an extremely simple explanation: heritable genes that cause these tend to die off rather quickly. Of course, mutation and cultural learning and manipulation can keep these things in at low frequency. How low? We have mathematical models. I suspect they are more common in humans than most other organisms.

    You might also wonder why, in most populations of most animals, the sex ratio at birth is around 50-50. It could conceivably be very different; god could have set it at 75-25, no doubt. Evolutionary theory again provides a wonderfully simple explanation for why ~ 50-50 tends to arise under a wide variety of conditions (look up Fisherian sex ratio evolution). It also provides predictions for when sex ratio skew will evolve – and these are generally supported when we look into the world, if not down to the exact % (look up female-sex-biased sex ratios in fig wasps as predicted by population density, if I’m remembering correctly).

    You might also wonder why most plants and animals seem to care more about their kin and offspring than random strangers. Why do parents take care of their offspring at all? (Hell, why have offspring in the first place?) There’s a damn good explanation for this – read up on Hamilton’s rule, inclusive fitness, and kin selection. God didn’t have to make the world this way, but that’s the way it is.

    You might wonder why males mammals are usually bigger and stronger than females, and more aggressive, and spend more time growing antlers and getting into fights than females. And why incoming dominant male lions who take over the pride might try to kill the cubs fathered by the previous male. God could have made females bigger and tougher and meaner. Why didn’t he? Look up parental investment theory.

    If one of Darwin’s postulates did not hold, we wouldn’t necessarily predict any of these things. If, say, Zeus ensued zero heritability of every trait, then selection could do nothing, and traits would never change over time; none of the above theory would follow. Or if Zeus ensured that the births in the next generation tended to have the genetic makeup of people who died prematurely, we would see the traits that are *bad* for survival become *more* common. God is all powerful: he could easily ensure that deleterious mutations, like Tay-Sachs disease, were at much higher prevalence – say, 25%. Why doesn’t he?

    Because Darwin’s basic postulates are true, and they have necessary knock-on consequences. That’s why. Evolutionary theory deduces what these consequences are. Feel free to try to learn them.

  131. @SPMoore8
    What is the evidence that a gene is "trying" to survive?

    There is no evidence. It’s a way of anthropomorphizing nucleotides which are organic molecules.

  132. @Alec Leamas

    To the contrary, the notion of genetic non-selfishness is ridiculous.
     
    But you can always reinterpret selfless behavior as selfish in that it provides a benefit to presumably related creatures. You just change the perspective and a selfless gene becomes selfish.

    For example, when Wildebeest migrate they cross rivers en masse. A proportion of them will be killed by Crocodiles. Instead of acknowledging that going first into the river is suicide and selfless insofar as it occupies a Crocodile so that another Wildebeest can cross the river, you'll say that the seeming selflessness was actually selfish because it allowed other related Wildebeests carrying similar genes to cross the river and prosper.

    See, for example, the post hoc Darwinian rationalization of exclusive male homosexuality as "conferring a benefit" on the homosexual's sisters.

    You're always starting with the conclusion - "these genes help the bearer survive and pass themselves on" - and theorizing backwards from that.

    Edward O. Wilson’s “gay uncle” theory is not something that quantitatively oriented biologists would use to explain gene level selection, rather it represents the opposite, something that isn’t an example of gene selection because it doesn’t happen.

    You sound like you are getting your ideas of dismissing evolutionary biology from Gould and his ilk. Look up Gregory Cochran’s posts on the topic, or Jayman’s summaries of Cochran’s critiques on this and similar topics.

  133. Oh dear … sorry to all about the multi-posting!

  134. @Carl
    I was under the firm impression that the gene was the unit of natural selection. Can you enlighten me?

    You’re thinking with a metaphor like the “Child Guidance” brand ball sorting toy of the ’70s.

    Natural selection is more like the love child of Tess Chess and Miegakure.

    The term “gene” is even more problematic than the pathetic fallacy “selfish.” But we have to start somewhere.

  135. RCB says:
    @Carl
    I was under the firm impression that the gene was the unit of natural selection. Can you enlighten me?

    IMO, The “unit of selection” debate is more philosophical than scientific, and as a consequence I think it’s mostly a waste of time. Evolutionary theorists today don’t make progress by pontificating about the “true” unit of selection; no one at the frontier spends much time doing this. Instead, they make mathematical models of how they believe the world works, and see what evolves in them. (Then, hopefully, the hypotheses that arise are tested empirically.) The “unit of selection” usually boils down to the viewpoint from which you see the model. You can view the same process from a gene-centric perspective, or an individual-centric perspective. Who cares?

  136. @Pat Hannagan
    Themes of pederasty are consistent within English elite education.

    Unlike the deserved opprobrium for the Catholic Church's transgressions the English seem to think it was all a jolly good adventure which made them the men they are today.

    It's actually quite often a story of approbation (cf. Christopher Hitchens et al).

    Unlike the deserved opprobrium for the Catholic Church’s transgressions the English seem to think it was all a jolly good adventure which made them the men they are today.

    And that is precisely what makes it different from the Catholic Church’s transgressions.

    • Replies: @Pat Hannagan
    Oh, you think the English have a genetic predisposition towards buggery, especially that of young boys?

    I thought it was just a total submersion in Classical Greek education but you're saying they've also evolved to actually enjoy it?

    Interesting theory. I like it.

  137. @ben tillman

    Something without agency can’t, in collaboration with thousands of fellows, be part of a causal chain leading to something with agency? Says who?
     
    If a genome constructs something and gives it instructions, and it acts in accordance with those instructions, the genome and its constituent collaborators are acting, through the thing they constructed. If that thing has agency, the genome and its constituent collaborators have agency. Therefore, as a matter of simple logic, if the genome or its constituent collaborators don’t have agency, the thing built by the genome cannot.

    Nihil fit ex nihilo? I know a certain German professor of the last century who would disagree with you. A certain professor you could describe as a…Party animal, so to speak.

  138. @SPMoore8
    What is the evidence that a gene is "trying" to survive?

    Ahhh, I see. You are a science denier.

  139. @Olorin

    Unlike the deserved opprobrium for the Catholic Church’s transgressions the English seem to think it was all a jolly good adventure which made them the men they are today.
     
    And that is precisely what makes it different from the Catholic Church's transgressions.

    Oh, you think the English have a genetic predisposition towards buggery, especially that of young boys?

    I thought it was just a total submersion in Classical Greek education but you’re saying they’ve also evolved to actually enjoy it?

    Interesting theory. I like it.

    • Replies: @Olorin
    Absolutely no idea, but I do know that the boys I knew who'd been buggered by priests didn't consider it fun at all. That was my only point.

    Like the one at Joe Biden's HS alma mater who got a $41 million settlement.

    Or the ones in Burlington diocese (VT) that led the diocese to have to cough up about $20 million in a hurry for sexual abuse settlements, so they sold a nice chunk of real estate to President Jane O'Meara Sanders of Burlington College, leading to its bankrupting and closure.

    , @Jonathan Mason
    The English ruling classes had always been educated in single sex boarding schools where adolescents had little opportunity for social or sexual intercourse with the opposite sex, so it assumed that buggery was rife, with older boys using younger boy's anuses as substitute vaginas.

    However, I attended one of these schools from 1964 to 1968 and I would say that there was remarkably little homosexual activity. Of course it was not unknown, but it certainly was not rife, and was strongly disapproved of by most of the boys.

    This was back in the days when homosexuality was regarded as an odious perversion. I suspect that active homosexual behavior in adolescent boys is much more prevalent in today's climate, where loving one's fellow man has become much more respectable.

  140. @C H Ingoldby
    Genes which have the effect of causing its creature to better survive and replicate more genes will tend to be more numerous. Therefore genes generally do act in a way that seems to be 'trying' to survive. It isn't a matter of choice, agency or conscious decision, it's just a matter of selection of traits.

    If there’s no choice, agency, or conscious decision, where does the “trying” come in? We find it convenient to explain genes in such terms, but don’t let’s pretend we mean it. They don’t try to do anything. Dawkins knows this, despite his title.

  141. @ben tillman

    It doesn’t act according to such instructions, however. Genomic instructions aren’t specific enough.
     
    Acting in accordance with inspecific instructions is still acting accordance with instructions.

    “Acting in accordance with inspecific instructions is still acting accordance with instructions”

    Is action in accordance with instructions tantamount to acting without agency?No. There must be a point at which instructions are unspecific enough to allow agency to the instructed. The mere fact that there are instructions of some specificity doesn’t mean they’re specific enough to exclude agency.

    When I said above that there are no instructions I meant there are no instructions on the level of specificity you seem to impute to genetic code. There are no instructions specific enough to determine my daily actions over the course of my life. My genes won’t tell me when and how to finish this paragraph, for instance.

    • Replies: @ben tillman

    My genes won’t tell me when and how to finish this paragraph, for instance.
     
    What did?
  142. @Pat Hannagan
    Oh, you think the English have a genetic predisposition towards buggery, especially that of young boys?

    I thought it was just a total submersion in Classical Greek education but you're saying they've also evolved to actually enjoy it?

    Interesting theory. I like it.

    Absolutely no idea, but I do know that the boys I knew who’d been buggered by priests didn’t consider it fun at all. That was my only point.

    Like the one at Joe Biden’s HS alma mater who got a $41 million settlement.

    Or the ones in Burlington diocese (VT) that led the diocese to have to cough up about $20 million in a hurry for sexual abuse settlements, so they sold a nice chunk of real estate to President Jane O’Meara Sanders of Burlington College, leading to its bankrupting and closure.

    • Replies: @Pat Hannagan
    Ah, right, sorry to hear about that.
  143. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    In a paper for a public health course quite a few years ago now, I once argued that the women in some of Florida’s most socially deprived counties seemed to be the most genetically successful as they started having children younger, continued having children longer, and had the most diverse selection of fathers for their children, and that their genes would be very prominent in the Florida of future generations.

    The thesis seemed rather straightforward and logical to me, but apparently the whole concept of evolution, never mind the kind of ideas given currency in The Selfish Gene, is completely unknown to public health academics in Florida and my paper was scored very low by the instructor who thought it was frivolous.

    Food for thought!

  144. @Pat Hannagan
    Oh, you think the English have a genetic predisposition towards buggery, especially that of young boys?

    I thought it was just a total submersion in Classical Greek education but you're saying they've also evolved to actually enjoy it?

    Interesting theory. I like it.

    The English ruling classes had always been educated in single sex boarding schools where adolescents had little opportunity for social or sexual intercourse with the opposite sex, so it assumed that buggery was rife, with older boys using younger boy’s anuses as substitute vaginas.

    However, I attended one of these schools from 1964 to 1968 and I would say that there was remarkably little homosexual activity. Of course it was not unknown, but it certainly was not rife, and was strongly disapproved of by most of the boys.

    This was back in the days when homosexuality was regarded as an odious perversion. I suspect that active homosexual behavior in adolescent boys is much more prevalent in today’s climate, where loving one’s fellow man has become much more respectable.

    • Replies: @Sean
    Depends on the school, some have or did have the tradition of regarding it as normal, at some it is not tolerated.
  145. @guest
    "Acting in accordance with inspecific instructions is still acting accordance with instructions"

    Is action in accordance with instructions tantamount to acting without agency?No. There must be a point at which instructions are unspecific enough to allow agency to the instructed. The mere fact that there are instructions of some specificity doesn't mean they're specific enough to exclude agency.

    When I said above that there are no instructions I meant there are no instructions on the level of specificity you seem to impute to genetic code. There are no instructions specific enough to determine my daily actions over the course of my life. My genes won't tell me when and how to finish this paragraph, for instance.

    My genes won’t tell me when and how to finish this paragraph, for instance.

    What did?

  146. @Anonymous
    I went to Catholic schools my whole life until college, and went to an all-boys Catholic high school. There was absolutely no buggery going on. Nobody even thought of or mentioned it. So it's kind of bizarre when I hear about how prevalent this sort of thing was or is at English boys' schools.

    In “Brideshead Revisited,” an Italian lady in Venice observes that “romantic friendship” between rich schoolboys is an English and German thing, not an Italian thing.

    My guess is that it was tied to England and Germany really idolizing the Ancient Greeks, while Italy and France stayed focused on the Romans as their role models. But it apparently didn’t much make the leap over to America, even though American northeastern boarding schools were otherwise closely modeled on their English equivalents.

    • Replies: @Harold
    From Pepys’ diary, Wednesday 1 July 1663

    Upon this discourse, Sir J. Mennes and Mr. Batten both say that buggery is now almost grown as common among our gallants as in Italy, and that the very pages of the town begin to complain of their masters for it. But blessed be God, I do not to this day know what is the meaning of this sin, nor which is the agent and which is the patient.
     
    The ‘Italian vice’, Wikipedia,

    1658 appears to have been the key year in which Philippe's sexuality became well defined. Court gossip said that Mazarin's own nephew Philippe Jules Mancini, the Duke of Nevers, had been the "first to [have] corrupted" Philippe in what was referred to as the "Italian vice" – contemporary slang for male homosexuality.
     
    , @Anonymous
    Perhaps it's the Puritan/Congregationalist influence in America.
  147. @neutral
    Dawkins is a classic example of the term "useful idiot", his crusade was to remove Christian influence from public life, now that this has been achieved he is no longer useful. If anything he is becoming a real problem for the left because he dares question liberal darlings like Muslims.

    Used as a useful idiot and all he got was a lousy lifetime of success.

  148. @Olorin
    Absolutely no idea, but I do know that the boys I knew who'd been buggered by priests didn't consider it fun at all. That was my only point.

    Like the one at Joe Biden's HS alma mater who got a $41 million settlement.

    Or the ones in Burlington diocese (VT) that led the diocese to have to cough up about $20 million in a hurry for sexual abuse settlements, so they sold a nice chunk of real estate to President Jane O'Meara Sanders of Burlington College, leading to its bankrupting and closure.

    Ah, right, sorry to hear about that.

  149. @Steve Sailer
    In "Brideshead Revisited," an Italian lady in Venice observes that "romantic friendship" between rich schoolboys is an English and German thing, not an Italian thing.

    My guess is that it was tied to England and Germany really idolizing the Ancient Greeks, while Italy and France stayed focused on the Romans as their role models. But it apparently didn't much make the leap over to America, even though American northeastern boarding schools were otherwise closely modeled on their English equivalents.

    From Pepys’ diary, Wednesday 1 July 1663

    Upon this discourse, Sir J. Mennes and Mr. Batten both say that buggery is now almost grown as common among our gallants as in Italy, and that the very pages of the town begin to complain of their masters for it. But blessed be God, I do not to this day know what is the meaning of this sin, nor which is the agent and which is the patient.

    The ‘Italian vice’, Wikipedia,

    1658 appears to have been the key year in which Philippe’s sexuality became well defined. Court gossip said that Mazarin’s own nephew Philippe Jules Mancini, the Duke of Nevers, had been the “first to [have] corrupted” Philippe in what was referred to as the “Italian vice” – contemporary slang for male homosexuality.

  150. @Anonymous
    I went to Catholic schools my whole life until college, and went to an all-boys Catholic high school. There was absolutely no buggery going on. Nobody even thought of or mentioned it. So it's kind of bizarre when I hear about how prevalent this sort of thing was or is at English boys' schools.

    Pedophilic activity was fairly rife at the Christian Brothers college (high school) I went to. Several of the Brothers went to jail, two suicided after charges laid, and another I know of died of AIDS related disease.

    At the time it was well known among the students that Brother so and so was a faggot and to be avoided. Kids would cough “poofter” when some of the effeminate ones went by. Others you wouldn’t dare as they were quite sadistic with the strap. One of them in 5th grade even had a piece of wood he’d made in the shape of a cricket bat, which he’d make one bend over and touch your toes as he performed a cover drive (cricket term) with it across your arse.

    One of the lay teachers outed that rats nest of degenerates a couple years after I left; to his eternal credit.

    One of my regrets is that I never pieced together what some of the boys were going through. The Brother’s victims were the kids from broken homes, or homes where things weren’t right. Not only were they copping it from the Brothers after school they’d also be mercilessly ridiculed and picked on in the playground. I never really comprehended what buggery was all about at the time, just thought these Brothers were pretty weird sort of shitheads. I remember first learning what buggery actually was in year 10 and being incredulous.

    The majority of Brothers weren’t like that at all, some hard men who’d smash you in rugby, others with a dedication to teaching that was a religion in and of itself.

    Anyway, I get that same sort of sick feeling I got as a student around the pedo Brothers when I read many of these English authors.

    • Replies: @Pat Hannagan
    Though I hate jazz I reckon these are brilliant (kind of soothes regrets and puts things into perspective):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m8oHn9yLQM

    , @PiltdownMan
    That's interesting.

    My Dad point blank refused to have my brothers or me enroll in a well regarded Christian Brothers school in our town, despite my mother's often voiced wishes. Many of our friends in the neighborhood went there. Later, when we asked him about it after our school and college years, Dad, who was an old fashioned sort, grimly voiced the single word "perverts" and changed the topic. He must have heard something.

    But what one reads, usually in oblique literary references, about English public (i.e. boarding) schools seems to be more along the lines of what Dawkins refers to. A sort of "ha-ha-ha that crazy thing we used to do as kids" acknowledgement by British heterosexuals who are now adults about long ago behavior between adolescent schoolboys.

    Also, residential schools and kids develop highly localized micro-cultures. What may have been the norm in one school may have been unknown in another.

    Routine predatory adult on child sexual horror doesn't seem to have been part of what Brits like Dawkins are talking about. Not that it must not have existed. From Dickens onward to Orwell and later, there are plenty of grim memoirs of boarding school life and accounts of twisted schoolmasters. I'm sure many of those experiences must have included pedophilia. Perverts.
    , @Anonymous
    Right, we're all familiar with stories of Catholic priests preying on male students. What I really meant was the culture among schoolboys. It's just not something that ever crossed our minds or would have been considered acceptable. Which is why that whole culture seems so bizarre and alien, despite the ostensible general similarities between all-boys high schools.
    , @Sean
    Yes children from broken homes are often at the centre of these cases, but it is not a Catholic institution problem disproportionately. There is not a children's care home in Britain that did not have worse than any Catholic school, although children taken into state care have not infrequently already been sexually abused. I have read that girls who have been abused are often provocative and never left alone with any male members of staff, because experience has taught that no matter how normal they seem, men are not very good at saying no, even to little girls.
  151. @Pat Hannagan
    Pedophilic activity was fairly rife at the Christian Brothers college (high school) I went to. Several of the Brothers went to jail, two suicided after charges laid, and another I know of died of AIDS related disease.

    At the time it was well known among the students that Brother so and so was a faggot and to be avoided. Kids would cough "poofter" when some of the effeminate ones went by. Others you wouldn't dare as they were quite sadistic with the strap. One of them in 5th grade even had a piece of wood he'd made in the shape of a cricket bat, which he'd make one bend over and touch your toes as he performed a cover drive (cricket term) with it across your arse.

    One of the lay teachers outed that rats nest of degenerates a couple years after I left; to his eternal credit.

    One of my regrets is that I never pieced together what some of the boys were going through. The Brother's victims were the kids from broken homes, or homes where things weren't right. Not only were they copping it from the Brothers after school they'd also be mercilessly ridiculed and picked on in the playground. I never really comprehended what buggery was all about at the time, just thought these Brothers were pretty weird sort of shitheads. I remember first learning what buggery actually was in year 10 and being incredulous.

    The majority of Brothers weren't like that at all, some hard men who'd smash you in rugby, others with a dedication to teaching that was a religion in and of itself.

    Anyway, I get that same sort of sick feeling I got as a student around the pedo Brothers when I read many of these English authors.

    Though I hate jazz I reckon these are brilliant (kind of soothes regrets and puts things into perspective):

    • Replies: @Pat Hannagan
    Lest we forget Joseph Sobran.

    All anyone remembers him for these days is the dread anti-semitism. Worse than pedophilia, he wrote.
  152. @Pat Hannagan
    Though I hate jazz I reckon these are brilliant (kind of soothes regrets and puts things into perspective):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m8oHn9yLQM

    Lest we forget Joseph Sobran.

    All anyone remembers him for these days is the dread anti-semitism. Worse than pedophilia, he wrote.

    • Replies: @Pat Hannagan
    Just a brilliant album. The most underrated of, possibly, all time:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpiefaR65E&index=3&list=PLdhGk7gKuZxZ2drTNPZ1dPoacQmgUh3gS

  153. @Pat Hannagan
    Lest we forget Joseph Sobran.

    All anyone remembers him for these days is the dread anti-semitism. Worse than pedophilia, he wrote.

    Just a brilliant album. The most underrated of, possibly, all time:

    • Replies: @Pat Hannagan
    Sorry, that last link was meant to be Rated X/Billy Preston:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpiefaR65E

    Please substitute the link and delete this comment.

  154. @Pat Hannagan
    Just a brilliant album. The most underrated of, possibly, all time:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpiefaR65E&index=3&list=PLdhGk7gKuZxZ2drTNPZ1dPoacQmgUh3gS

    Sorry, that last link was meant to be Rated X/Billy Preston:

    Please substitute the link and delete this comment.

  155. @Pat Hannagan
    Pedophilic activity was fairly rife at the Christian Brothers college (high school) I went to. Several of the Brothers went to jail, two suicided after charges laid, and another I know of died of AIDS related disease.

    At the time it was well known among the students that Brother so and so was a faggot and to be avoided. Kids would cough "poofter" when some of the effeminate ones went by. Others you wouldn't dare as they were quite sadistic with the strap. One of them in 5th grade even had a piece of wood he'd made in the shape of a cricket bat, which he'd make one bend over and touch your toes as he performed a cover drive (cricket term) with it across your arse.

    One of the lay teachers outed that rats nest of degenerates a couple years after I left; to his eternal credit.

    One of my regrets is that I never pieced together what some of the boys were going through. The Brother's victims were the kids from broken homes, or homes where things weren't right. Not only were they copping it from the Brothers after school they'd also be mercilessly ridiculed and picked on in the playground. I never really comprehended what buggery was all about at the time, just thought these Brothers were pretty weird sort of shitheads. I remember first learning what buggery actually was in year 10 and being incredulous.

    The majority of Brothers weren't like that at all, some hard men who'd smash you in rugby, others with a dedication to teaching that was a religion in and of itself.

    Anyway, I get that same sort of sick feeling I got as a student around the pedo Brothers when I read many of these English authors.

    That’s interesting.

    My Dad point blank refused to have my brothers or me enroll in a well regarded Christian Brothers school in our town, despite my mother’s often voiced wishes. Many of our friends in the neighborhood went there. Later, when we asked him about it after our school and college years, Dad, who was an old fashioned sort, grimly voiced the single word “perverts” and changed the topic. He must have heard something.

    But what one reads, usually in oblique literary references, about English public (i.e. boarding) schools seems to be more along the lines of what Dawkins refers to. A sort of “ha-ha-ha that crazy thing we used to do as kids” acknowledgement by British heterosexuals who are now adults about long ago behavior between adolescent schoolboys.

    Also, residential schools and kids develop highly localized micro-cultures. What may have been the norm in one school may have been unknown in another.

    Routine predatory adult on child sexual horror doesn’t seem to have been part of what Brits like Dawkins are talking about. Not that it must not have existed. From Dickens onward to Orwell and later, there are plenty of grim memoirs of boarding school life and accounts of twisted schoolmasters. I’m sure many of those experiences must have included pedophilia. Perverts.

  156. And to close, Catholic Schools in the 80s and our dedication to drinking and fighting:

  157. @vinteuil
    No, Mr Leamas. I am saying that a tautology is, by definition, a necessary, or conceptual, truth. E.G.:

    A bachelor is unmarried.

    A puppy is a dog.

    These statements are, indeed, "impervious to evidence."

    But that is not what *makes* them true.

    Do you genuinely find this confusing?

    A tautology is not a “necessary or conceptual truth.” It’s a way of saying the same thing twice and fooling yourself into thinking you’ve made progress. The examples you give are merely defining terms and redundancy. A bachelor is unmarried because we call unmarried men “bachelors.” A puppy is a juvenile dog because we call juvenile dogs “puppies.”

    If I call juvenile reticulated Quonks “Zabettydoodles,” is it true that Zabbettydoodles are Quonks? Only insofar as I have the power to name things that don’t exist.

  158. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Pat Hannagan
    Pedophilic activity was fairly rife at the Christian Brothers college (high school) I went to. Several of the Brothers went to jail, two suicided after charges laid, and another I know of died of AIDS related disease.

    At the time it was well known among the students that Brother so and so was a faggot and to be avoided. Kids would cough "poofter" when some of the effeminate ones went by. Others you wouldn't dare as they were quite sadistic with the strap. One of them in 5th grade even had a piece of wood he'd made in the shape of a cricket bat, which he'd make one bend over and touch your toes as he performed a cover drive (cricket term) with it across your arse.

    One of the lay teachers outed that rats nest of degenerates a couple years after I left; to his eternal credit.

    One of my regrets is that I never pieced together what some of the boys were going through. The Brother's victims were the kids from broken homes, or homes where things weren't right. Not only were they copping it from the Brothers after school they'd also be mercilessly ridiculed and picked on in the playground. I never really comprehended what buggery was all about at the time, just thought these Brothers were pretty weird sort of shitheads. I remember first learning what buggery actually was in year 10 and being incredulous.

    The majority of Brothers weren't like that at all, some hard men who'd smash you in rugby, others with a dedication to teaching that was a religion in and of itself.

    Anyway, I get that same sort of sick feeling I got as a student around the pedo Brothers when I read many of these English authors.

    Right, we’re all familiar with stories of Catholic priests preying on male students. What I really meant was the culture among schoolboys. It’s just not something that ever crossed our minds or would have been considered acceptable. Which is why that whole culture seems so bizarre and alien, despite the ostensible general similarities between all-boys high schools.

    • Replies: @Sean
    Aprosecution for homosexual offense that got publicity was of Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, the reporting of the case apparently gave some boys in a Borstal ideas and they went on a rape spree. Anyway I think it explains why that kind of thing was deliberately kept out of the papers and the minds of the public.
  159. @Steve Sailer
    In "Brideshead Revisited," an Italian lady in Venice observes that "romantic friendship" between rich schoolboys is an English and German thing, not an Italian thing.

    My guess is that it was tied to England and Germany really idolizing the Ancient Greeks, while Italy and France stayed focused on the Romans as their role models. But it apparently didn't much make the leap over to America, even though American northeastern boarding schools were otherwise closely modeled on their English equivalents.

    Perhaps it’s the Puritan/Congregationalist influence in America.

  160. @Jonathan Mason
    The English ruling classes had always been educated in single sex boarding schools where adolescents had little opportunity for social or sexual intercourse with the opposite sex, so it assumed that buggery was rife, with older boys using younger boy's anuses as substitute vaginas.

    However, I attended one of these schools from 1964 to 1968 and I would say that there was remarkably little homosexual activity. Of course it was not unknown, but it certainly was not rife, and was strongly disapproved of by most of the boys.

    This was back in the days when homosexuality was regarded as an odious perversion. I suspect that active homosexual behavior in adolescent boys is much more prevalent in today's climate, where loving one's fellow man has become much more respectable.

    Depends on the school, some have or did have the tradition of regarding it as normal, at some it is not tolerated.

  161. @Anonymous
    I went to Catholic schools my whole life until college, and went to an all-boys Catholic high school. There was absolutely no buggery going on. Nobody even thought of or mentioned it. So it's kind of bizarre when I hear about how prevalent this sort of thing was or is at English boys' schools.

    Conan Doyle said at his elite Catholic school the pupils were never allowed to be alone together. So there was an awareness of those things even in the nineteenth century.

    • Replies: @SPMoore8
    Octave Mirbeau wrote a novel, "Sebastien Roch" about a boy who was sexually abused by a Jesuit priest in 1890. I think there was an autobiographical component to it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A9bastien_Roch
  162. @Anonymous
    Right, we're all familiar with stories of Catholic priests preying on male students. What I really meant was the culture among schoolboys. It's just not something that ever crossed our minds or would have been considered acceptable. Which is why that whole culture seems so bizarre and alien, despite the ostensible general similarities between all-boys high schools.

    Aprosecution for homosexual offense that got publicity was of Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, the reporting of the case apparently gave some boys in a Borstal ideas and they went on a rape spree. Anyway I think it explains why that kind of thing was deliberately kept out of the papers and the minds of the public.

  163. @Pat Hannagan
    Pedophilic activity was fairly rife at the Christian Brothers college (high school) I went to. Several of the Brothers went to jail, two suicided after charges laid, and another I know of died of AIDS related disease.

    At the time it was well known among the students that Brother so and so was a faggot and to be avoided. Kids would cough "poofter" when some of the effeminate ones went by. Others you wouldn't dare as they were quite sadistic with the strap. One of them in 5th grade even had a piece of wood he'd made in the shape of a cricket bat, which he'd make one bend over and touch your toes as he performed a cover drive (cricket term) with it across your arse.

    One of the lay teachers outed that rats nest of degenerates a couple years after I left; to his eternal credit.

    One of my regrets is that I never pieced together what some of the boys were going through. The Brother's victims were the kids from broken homes, or homes where things weren't right. Not only were they copping it from the Brothers after school they'd also be mercilessly ridiculed and picked on in the playground. I never really comprehended what buggery was all about at the time, just thought these Brothers were pretty weird sort of shitheads. I remember first learning what buggery actually was in year 10 and being incredulous.

    The majority of Brothers weren't like that at all, some hard men who'd smash you in rugby, others with a dedication to teaching that was a religion in and of itself.

    Anyway, I get that same sort of sick feeling I got as a student around the pedo Brothers when I read many of these English authors.

    Yes children from broken homes are often at the centre of these cases, but it is not a Catholic institution problem disproportionately. There is not a children’s care home in Britain that did not have worse than any Catholic school, although children taken into state care have not infrequently already been sexually abused. I have read that girls who have been abused are often provocative and never left alone with any male members of staff, because experience has taught that no matter how normal they seem, men are not very good at saying no, even to little girls.

  164. @Sean
    Conan Doyle said at his elite Catholic school the pupils were never allowed to be alone together. So there was an awareness of those things even in the nineteenth century.

    Octave Mirbeau wrote a novel, “Sebastien Roch” about a boy who was sexually abused by a Jesuit priest in 1890. I think there was an autobiographical component to it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A9bastien_Roch

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