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Friday, January 14, 2011

When business tries Darwinism ...

What you get is Enron, a friend writes, 

Just watched "The Smartest Guys in the Room" (about Enron's downfall).  Two things you might be interested in from the movie:
1. Skilling made *explicit* use of Darwinian principles in running the company.  He was inspired by The Selfish Gene, and had an employee review process which mimicked natural selection to remove the least fit employees.
2. The stock price was kept high simply because no one ever took a serious look at their books.  Anyone who did was threatened, and then bought out, and lone voices were silenced (I think there was a mention of a Merrill-Lynch person who downgraded Enron's stock, and Enron made them fire the employee, and afterward gave them lucrative deals). When people asked them how they made money, there was a lot of handwaving (similar to how Darwinists respond when people ask how natural selection produces information).
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Friday, December 24, 2010

The selfish gene is NOT to blame for being selfish ...

Just wanted to get that straight.

In the Wall Street Journal, physicist Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, “The Lies of Science Writing” (December 23, 2010) explains,
Writing about science poses a fundamental problem right at the outset: You have to lie.

I don't mean lie in the sense of intentionally misleading people. I mean that because math is the language of science, scientists who want to translate their work into popular parlance have to use verbal or pictorial metaphors that are necessarily inexact.
Of course, it works the other way around too. Efforts to reduce complex matters like elder care to equations will end in frustration for all concerned.
Consider another famous scientific metaphor, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins's idea of the "selfish gene." This is a brilliant and simple way to explain that natural selection relies on the self-perpetuation of genes that promote higher rates of survival. But for some critics, it suggests an intentionality that is absent in the process of evolution. Others worry that it implies an immoral world where selfishness wins out.
Hmmm. I wonder where the others got that idea? Meanwhile, lots of critics are still waiting for evidence that either natural selection or the selfish gene play anything like the role that Dawkins and other ultra-Darwinists claim.

If I wanted to avoid any notion of intentionality in a gene, I would not label it "selfish." It would give the air of sneaking something in that I officially proclaimed I didn't agree with. ;)


Saturday, September 02, 2006

The selfish gene?: Seems to have been left out of the chromosomes in the liver

Who sucker punched this guy's "selfish genes" ?

(a 28 year old Ontario power company employee - a complete stranger - is donating part of his liver to help a toddler in Toronto who needs a transplant.)

Oh, and here and here are some other everyday "genuine altruism" stories I happen to know about from Canada, one of them from the Toronto area, involving young guys, who (as a group) are supposed to be selfish, according to feminists. Toronto is not the City of Angels, by the way; readers can likely supply instances from their own communities.

As philosopher David Stove would probably have said, if Dawkins was right about the selfish gene, these cases would be much more rare and they would be socially disapproved. Yet we see the opposite; such persons are admired. (In Canada, we don't pay for organs; the only thing the guy gets is paid time off work while he recovers.)
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

No More “Selfish Gene” Biology?

A recent article in the Guardian’s Education supplement suggests that new findings in genetics have undermined Darwinist Richard Dawkins’s famous “selfish gene”to the point where it is a meaningless concept.

Rather than having a single major function, most genes, like roads, probably play a small part in lots of tasks within the cell. By dissecting biology into its genetic atoms, reductionism failed to account for these multitasking genes. So the starting point for systems biologists isn't the gene but rather a mathematical model of the entire cell. Instead of focusing on key control points, systems biologists look at the system properties of the entire network. In this new vision of biology, genes aren't discrete nuggets of genetic information but more diffuse entities whose functional reality may be spread across hundreds of interacting DNA segments.

M‘bye, Dawkins. Whoops, don’t forget those selfish genes of yours, even though they’ll forget you. Seriously, as a result,

Systems biology is reasserting the primacy of the whole organism - the system - rather than the selfish behaviour of any of its components.

Systems biology courses are infiltrating curricula in campuses across the globe and systems biology centres are popping up in cities from London to Seattle. The British biological research funding body, the BBSRC, has just announced the creation of three systems biology centres in the UK. These centres are very different from traditional biology departments as they tend to be staffed by physicists, mathematicians and engineers, alongside biologists. Rather like the systems they study, systems biology centres are designed to promote interactivity and networking.

This new trend should be good news for the intelligent design scientists, who tend to thrive better in interdisciplinary groups than in closed, reductionist ones.


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