David Dobbs mucks up evolution, part I

Wise words on evolution and science journalism

Why Evolution Is True

Although I haven’t read much by David Dobbs, I’m told he’s a good science writer. But you couldn’t prove that from his latest effort in Aeon magazine: “Die, selfish gene, die” (the subtitle is “The selfish gene is one of the most successful science metaphors ever invented. Unfortunately, it’s wrong.”) I was going to write a critique in a single post, but I see that it would be too long, so I’ll divide it into two parts.

When I read Dobb’s title and subtitle, I thought “Whoa!” I keep up with evolutionary biology, and I wasn’t aware of any serious objections to the selfish gene metaphor. (Granted, there are misguided folks like Mary Midgley who don’t understand the metaphor, but they don’t count.) After all, the metaphor simply means that, during the process of natural selection, genes “act” as if they were selfish.  And that means that those…

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