A Richard Dawkins meme showed up on my FB feed and entered that pit between my ears where data goes to be processed, integrated, modified, and echoed anew. It’s kind of like a rock tumbler. Here’s what rolled out one morning:
My biggest problem with the “selfish gene” was the idea of the gene as the primary unit of selection. Dawkins does a nice job of looking at different levels of organizational hierarchy by including ideas about individuals and even colonial species such as ants or bees (think hive mind), but rejects those levels of organization because of the underlying assumption that evolution is not directive, that the initial change in code is purely by chance. That’s an assumption I’ve come to abandon and one that is becoming more fully supported as we gain knowledge about epigenetics and other processes occurring at the level of cell and molecule. The gene is a code, an instruction. It’s the proteins that are actually directing the dance of life, writing and rewriting the code.
At any rate, what occurred to me that morning was that directive evolution explains a whole heck of a lot, brings a whole lot of brilliant ideas together very nicely, can be used marry Darwin and Lamarck and Dawkins, it explains a wide variety phenomena from a wide variety of fields, and is so bloody simplistic that Occam’s Razor just glistens with the beauty of it.
At some instinctive level folks just “know”, know via heart and soul and feeling, that the inequity we see on earth and the wholesale onslaught against environment is wrong and “self” destructive and the very core of our being rebels against it. At the same time, we understand self-interest, self-preservation, connection to clan, selfishness in general, and this creates internal conflict whether we want to admit it out loud or not. That understanding is just as instinctive as our knowledge of the greater whole, our place in interbeing, our desire to evolve toward the more beautiful world and the more beautiful selves our hearts know is possible.
Dawkins’ concept of the meme was just bloody brilliant. Darwin’s courage in describing natural selection was world changing. Lamarck’s recognition of “learning” along the way, creation of new genetic ideas, is becoming obvious. His contribution offered him the role of “the wrong guy” in every biology book out there, but the selfish cosmos got what it needed. Let’s marry these ideas to what we’ve learned about cognition, about the mind and how it works, about what makes us the incredibly beautiful mass of creative potential that is humanity.