The Selfish Gene

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Nin', Sep 30, 2008.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    SAM:

    Many people in the past (where I live anyway) were forced to write with their right hand, for example, even though their natural inclination was to use their left hand. So, they learned to write with their right hand. But that doesn't stop the same people from preferentially using their left hand for other tasks, such as lifting and grasping.

    Other people are ambidextrous, and perhaps being forced to use one hand may bias such a person so that in practice they tend to use one hand over the other. They may even swap over their preferential hand during their lifetime.

    It doesn't really effect anything I've said above, though. Handedness was only an example.

    Fine, but it seems to me that you're knocking down a straw man argument rather than addressing anything Dawkins actually argues in The Selfish Gene.

    Certainly, he goes to great lengths to carefully disabuse his readers of any notion that he is arguing that genes "want" to do things in any conscious way, or that they act as conscious agents.
     
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  3. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    I simply responded to your example of the effect of a gene.

    I think it is a misrepresentation [for example] to pretend that a variation of a gene, or a parallel pathway is an "adaptation", since they would have to precede the environmental system the organism must survive in. A gene that protects from a nuclear explosion for example, would not be of much use if it arose after an explosion.
     
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  5. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    SAM:

    I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. I would describe a bird's wings, for example, as being an adaptation for flight.

    Clearly, wings evolved from creatures that were not able to fly, by a gradual process of development. The genetic changes that led to the morphological changes in the animals that eventually led to them being capable of full flight took were cumulative and took place over many generations. However, each change along the evolutionary path was obviously in some way "adaptive", or else there would have been no natural selection process favouring the change.
     
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  7. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Its putting the cart before the horse. What came first? I consider the term adaptation to be a response [and hence a misnomer here], ie I adapted to a warmer climate. Can I "adapt" to a warmer climate before I move to a warm place?
     
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    What comes first? The genetic variation comes first. Whether that genetic variation then turns out to be beneficial or harmful is then determined by environmental factors. Useful variations that are cumulative are the ones called "adaptations".
     
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Useful variations? That is an anomaly, there are no useful variations, thats a retrospective outlook, only useless ones. Variations, in and of themselves have no aim or direction.
     
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Wings are not useful for flying?
     
  11. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Only if you use them. They have to be present first, of course. You can't wish them if you feel like flying.

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    I know my opinion is not concurrent with the current dogma, it just seems to me that its an upside down way of looking at things.
     
  12. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    SAM:

    I don't quite know where to start with you on "current dogma".

    I still get the uncomfortable impression that you have not actual read The Selfish Gene, despite your protestations to the contrary.
     
  13. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    I have, I am just not satisfied with the explanations he has given, if you recall our very first conversations about the book, I had issues with it even then. I just consider it great literature rather than great science:

    http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?p=1073059&highlight=Selfish gene#post1073059


    Its been some time since I read it though, which is probably why I remember my own reactions to it more clearly than I remember the details of the book.

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    I am not entirely satisfied with my own reasoning either. Since I am not an evolutionary behaviourist, I tend to look at it from the viewpoint of my experiences in nutrition and molecular biology. If the gene variation through mutations and drift is not with direction, how is it that people are so closely adapted to their environment? What determines that direction? I'm just using y'all to sound out my views.

    P.S. "dogma" is how we refer to any entrenched interpretation in science. I can't believe you haven't heard it before.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=scie...s=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2008
  14. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    maybe it is a problem with the word produced. But, surely, we agree that all emotions, ideas, are derived, at some point, from interactions of various physical stuff?
     
  15. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Are you sure? Whats the stimulus?
     
  16. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    yes and the stimuli are other physical stuff.
     
  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Now if you quit sliding around between the organism and the gene while overlooking the central role of reproduction, you will find yourself in perfect agreement with Dawkins. Maybe you have read him, after all.
    Genetic adaptation is obviously different from somatic adaptation, which is in turn different from learned behavioral adaptation. Perhaps we should avoid using words that confuse the willfully confusable – another one would be “ reproduction”, which among larger animals is of course the creation of a quite different being, not a reproduction at all, if someone wants to belabor the point.

    But it’s hard to find better words. And among the sincerely interested, there appears to be little trouble.

    For example, most people would consider the changes involved in fitting an aquatic animal to dry land living to be adaptations, even if they aren’t exactly a “response” – which came first being one of those questions that serve to confuse. Most of those changes – the really important ones – would be in the genome of the being involved. New genes, modified genes, discarded genes, etc. Those changes in the genome are the stuff of evolution – in that genome is where the evolution took place. The animals lived and died. The genome evolved.
    You have few visible “issues” with the book other than misunderstandings of it.
    Depends on how high a level of pattern you are still willing to call “physical stuff”. Ideas cause ideas, after all.
     
  18. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    hmmmm... ideas are created somewhere and that somewhere is created of physical stuff.

    Hows that?
     
  19. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Why do you call it genetic adaptation? Is it a response to the environment?
     
  20. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    Actually, no. Not in a variable environment, they aren't. Stochasticity and randomization in genetic function or activity can be advantageous either from the perspective of individual fitness or from that of sire/dam fitness via hedge-betting offspring phenotype against local or general environment. This would be particularly true of organisms that experience their environment as 'patchy'.

    The relegation of variation to anomaly or even detrimentality assumes a static environment, which is true of no living system (both generally and especially over ontogeny).
     
  21. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    Gould would have called these spandrels, possibly. My newer thesis is a bit different than that, though. Not mentioning it until the revised MS gets submitted, though.

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  22. sniffy Banned Banned

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    :worship:
     
  23. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    Yep. That five years was alllll worth it.

    *sticks fingers in belt, smokes pipe, stares at sunset*
     

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