Monday, October 14, 2013

Quote from the Selfish Gene

I am currently re-reading the Selfish Gene which is a book I think everyone should read. Few books are simultaneously beautifully written, clear in thought, and dense with information at the same time, but the Selfish Gene is certainly all this. As a teaser, take this often cited quote from the end of chapter two. Dawkins is talking about ancient molecules capable of making copies of themselves (replicators). These replicators are the rulers of the world, whereas we humans are just their machines that they build to benefit their own survival. Take it away Dr. Dawkins...

“Was there to be any end to the gradual improvement in the techniques and artifices used by the replicators to ensure their own continuation in the world? There would be plenty of time for improvement. What weird engines of self-preservation would the millennia bring forth? Four thousand million years on, what was to be the fate of the ancient replicators?

They did not die out, for they are past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea; they gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control.

They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.”

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