Blood and soul: An essay in metagenetics

“We are survival machines-robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” This is Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. His selfish gene theory, he remarked in 1989, “has become textbook orthodoxy,” because it is merely “a logical outgrowth of orthodox Neo-Darwinism, but expressed as a novel image.” The image is misleading. Dawkins doesn’t literally believe that genes are selfish entities with a will to replicate themselves. If they were, they would be like animating souls. In the Darwinian world where Dawkins lives, genes are not souls, but merely molecules ruled by the determinist laws of chemistry. And they are the result of a series of chemical accidents over millions of years, starting from the first self-replicating protein. Notwithstanding scientists’ arrogant claims, the function of genes remains highly mysterious — and overrated. If genes did what the Dawkinses tell us, we would be 99 percent identical to chimps. We are not. On the…