Greta wrote:Re: the Selfish Gene's accuracy, most observers today would side with EO Wilson in the group selection debate, and the mutability of genes was not known at the time of writing, which changes a great deal.
Very much so. Even in 1976 I thought Dawkins' argument in rejection of group selection was a weak one but subsequent research by Wilson and others has effectively killed it off completely. I also felt that he paid insufficient heed to Eldredge and Gould's notions of punctuated equilibrium which more precisely defines evolution as an information theory. However Dawkins still deserves most of the credit for the future direction of biology more generally as an informational paradigm and specifically for his precise definition of genes as information carriers. I've noticed time and time again in science history that scientific theories always seem to emerge in their own place in time to accord with the intellectual zeitgeist of the era and this was a very good example. The decade following the publication of The Selfish Gene saw a complete re-alignment of the biological sciences towards complexity theory and informational modelling, basically consigning Darwinism and neo-Darwinism to mere subsets of evolutionary theory. Unfortunately this paradigm shift doesn't yet seem to have been reflected in the wider lay community, whose understanding of evolutionary theory remains woefully ill-informed. In a way the creationists are being handed a free kick because of the extremely narrow way in which evolutionary theory is mostly discussed in the public debate and Dawkins is making a serious error of judgement if he thinks that logic can be used to combat a belief.
Greta wrote:Genes are not necessarily our destiny, just a collection of tendencies.
Science is still merely scratching at the surface of the full implications of this. It turns out that 96% of our DNA isn't "junk" after all but actually performs a useful function in gene adaptation and expression. That's close to 4 billion base pairs of nucleotides whose function still needs to be unravelled so we'd best not be too impatient. In all likelihood this will forever remain a non-computable task so the precise physical nature of a human being will always be an unknowable unknown.
Arguably RD's greatest achievement in TSG is his conceptualisation and explanation of the meme, which has become a successful meme in itself.
I completely agree. The meme has been an astonishingly successful idea and is now widely used in all the sociological sciences and particularly in economics. Ideas evolve and can spread rapidly through a population once they reach a critical mass. Gay marriage, a more enlightened approach to the "war on drugs", the gradual decline of consumerism in the west, and a more sustainable attitude towards our biosphere are just some of the major sociological shifts I have witnessed in my own lifetime and all are due to meme evolution.