Progressive politics, ideas & culture


an evolutionary meander

This Magazine Staff

Perusing Andrew Potter’s blog can be such a fruitful exercise sometimes.
This post from yesterday sent me off to the online Asia Times to read about New York Times writer Nicholas Wade’s book Before the Dawn, which, according to the Times “charts the recently compiled genetic evidence for the evolution and history of our species” and, more to Potter’s point I think, also offers a critique of popular views of primitivism.
Which reminded me of the article I read in the Times Literary Supplement while camping this past weekend at Presqu’ile Provincial Park in Lake Ontario. I’d link you directly to the article but even though I’m a subscriber I have yet to scale the TLS’ byzantine online subscriber wall. Anyway, the TLS was rather joyously celebrating the 30th anniversary edition of The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, the book that legendarily explained evoluton to a generation (the one slightly older than me). My generation learned most of what we know about evolution from Richard Dawson (pictured above), host of the Family Feud and former charming POW on Hogan’s Heroes.
Then, of course, I had to check out more on the Wade book, which brought me word of this critique of evolutionary theory — Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity, and Other Fables of Evolution by Australian philosopher David Stove, of whom I had not heard, so I looked ‘im up on wikipedia, which brought me this gem:
Stove’s attack on Darwinism was not as radical as it appeared – he accepted evolution was true of all living things, and said he had no objection to natural selection being true of more primitive organisms. What he wanted to attack was the distorted view of human beings put about by some Ultra-Darwinists. For example, W. D. Hamilton, the Oxford biologist and (Richard Dawkins’ mentor) famously said that no-one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but that everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers, a claim for which Stove thought was false, or at the very least, unverified.
Which reminded me of how happy I sometimes am to be both out of university and not living in a rural Kansas school district.
So you see, Andrew Potter makes me smarter and happier. He’s, like, an agent of my own personal evolution.

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