Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Selfish gene - a treatise on logic building

I read this book "THE SELFISH GENE" by Richard Dawkins - first released in 1976 . An engrossing read.

In the book, The Author proposes that the fundamental level that Darwinian selection takes place is at the gene level. Then he goes on to provide examples that support his views.
Further he ventures into fields that seem anomalous as seen from the individual selection but fir perfectly into the gene selection framework.

For me the most interesting aspect of the book (I am sure the ones with better knowledge of biology can find other things more insightful, so please do keep in mind that its the opinion of an out and out mathematical bent analysis guy) was the fact that he introduced a new concept, applied it from the first principles to begin with - and then gradually built levels of abstraction - individuals and communities. This was done noting the areas the abstraction is likely to fail, and the beauty of all this is that once he has described a situation , one IMMEDIATELY knows if the abstraction level will fail or not.

If anyone ever had the (outrageous) notion that biology cant incorporate logic, I recommend this book greatly. The way the logic is developed, It could well have been a book on practical logic building. Its just that the author was interested in biology that he chose to write on this.

Warning- Chapters 8 and 9 of this book should not be read by kids. I, despite being an adult of 20 - pursuing engineering - felt uneasy while reading those chapters. In these chapters, Dawknis applies his selfish gene concept to humans. And deeply committed to our families, as we are, we find it difficult to digest all that he has to say. His analysis should hold good for uncivilized nomads - but he has not taken into account society and its effects and hence I dont think his analysis hold good in this case.

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