06 January 2012

A Reading on Selfish Genes

From Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works, p. 44

The confusion between our goals and our genes' goals has spawned one muddle after another. A reviewer of a book about the evolution of sexuality protests that adultery, unlike the animal equivalent, cannot be a strategy to spread the genes because adulterers take steps to prevent pregnancy. But whose strategy are we talking about? Sexual desire is not people's strategy to propagate their genes. It's people's strategy to attain the pleasures of sex, and the pleasures of sex are the genes' strategy to propagate themselves. If the genes don't get propagated, it's because we are smarter than they are. [...] Just as blueprints don't necessarily specify blue buildings, selfish genes don't necessarily specify selfish organisms. As we shall see, sometimes the most selfish thing a gene can do is to build a selfless brain. Genes are a play within a play, not the interior monologue of the players.

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