03 October, 2006

My Heroes (19) Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is the author of 'The Selfish Gene' and 'The Blind Watchmaker'. The subjects of his books are evolution and genetics and he is a devout atheist, which is not the reason he is one of my heroes. He makes the list because of the way he writes and manages to make a difficult subject accessible. For example, it has long been a staple arguement of creationists that something as complex as the human eye could not have 'evolved'. Dawkins meticulously and patiently explains how some lowly life form would have, by chance genetic mutation, have created a single cell that was slightly light-sensitive and this gave it a tiny 'edge' over it's competitors because it could hide from predators when it detected their presence via the light-sensitive cell. Thousands of generations later this advantage would have spread through the population and then a second mutation would have produced another light-sensitive dot on an animals surface and two light-sensitive spots gives you a knowledge of direction of light source through stereoscopic 'vision'. It's a slow, bit by bit, progress over millions of years but eventually - the eye!
Dawkins was also the originator of the idea of the meme a kind of cutural gene that passes through the population and grows if successful and dies if not in an exacly parallel way to the gene.
Most genetic mutations kill their host but the very rare ones that benefit the host are passed on through DNA to the next generation and slowing spreads through the gene pool if it is advantageous.

10 Comments:

Blogger jim said...

I am sure Dawkins is a very clever, creative and original thinker, and he would have to be very studious and disciplined.

Thanks for more exposure to him Bazza, I wish I had the time to read all these things that are available and interesting, alas.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

Thanks for explaining that about the eye.

I wonder....do memes sometimes kill their hosts?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger serenity said...

Bazza,
Very interesting, a book I will look for.

I've never understood the "either or" necessity of the human mind's contemplations of the origins of life. A broader question for me is this necessity that humans seem to have to narrow things down into neatly contained boxes. I don't understand creationists who insist that evolution does not exist. I don't understand atheists who are so sure that God does not exist. We are gifted with a complex mind, capable of complex thought, and to limit the capabilities of that mind by making such concrete absolute decisions seems to me a shame and a waste.

I guess I just wonder why everything has to be an argument. I can read many things and see the value in them all, gently let pass what doesn't align with me personally, and value the minds that gifted me with their thoughts.

Anyway, I hope you are having a beautiful day, Bazza, and that the magic of something you saw today through those complex organs of Light you were gifted with have revealed to you something of blessing, joy and Love.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Imemine said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Imemine said...

An itinerant selfish gene said:
'Bodies a-plenty I've seen. You think
you're so clever But I'll live for ever.
You're just a survival machine.'

-- from the Ancestor's Tale, R. Dawkins

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

jim: One does not have to accept his ideas to realise the power of his intellect, of course. I truly admire his ability to make really complex ideas comprehensible; he is a superb communicator.

rob: The crucial point to understand is that chance genetic mutation is what drives evolution. It either kills the host or, much less likely, gives it a better chance of reproducing and therefore perpetuating itself.
I suppose a meme could damage it's host fatally if it's crazy enough!

serenity: I love the way your comments are so carefully considered and though-provoking!
I don't think one can use scientific methodology to prove or disprove things like the existence of God. It's a matter of faith and one must follow one's spirtual leanings. Descartes tried to use logical deduction to 'reason' the proof of God's existence starting from 'I think, therefore I am' and building layers of 'facts' until he found his answers.

imemeine: That's clever! I never saw that before. I wonder if J. Dawkins is related to Richard Dawkins.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger "Angeldust" said...

Hello there
I think Dawkins will be on my reading list.
Have you read Brian Green's "The Elegant Universe"?

Found the art book at the Vancouver Library - waiting to makes its way DT for me to pick up - 1992 Edition!

Yeah... there's a lot of ya here.
Kits is very nice (it used to be nicer when it wasn't so crowded, you can tell I'm getting older!) Way back in the 70's I used to live on Point Grey Road and Alma... those were the days!
The Islands are al lovely too!
This IS a spectacular area/province I must say... our claim to be "Super Natural" is one thing the Gov. is right about.

All my best to you and yours

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Deepak Gopi said...

Hello Sir;
I am hearing of that man for the first time.I will try to read his works.
Have u read a book"The Monk who sold his Ferrari" by Robin Sharma.It is an excellent book.

Thursday, October 05, 2006  
Blogger Imemine said...

It was an honest mistake. I thought Dawkins first name was Jim. It turned out to be Dick. Sorry about that. ;>)

Thursday, October 05, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

"Angeldust": I know Point Grey Road well, it's a nice part of Vancouver.
I haven’t read ‘The Elegant Universe’ but I should because I am interested in String Theory.
Thanks for the good wishes which I return to you and yours.

deepak: I just checked that book out - it looks like a good read. Thanks, Deepak.

imemine: I see you have corrected the comment. No harm done!

Thursday, October 05, 2006  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home