Many of you have heard of this famous book by Biologist Richard Dawkins called “The Selfish Gene”. This is a book that tries to describe the process of evolution in simple words, implying (I think) that the basis of biological evolution is the genes . I didn’t read the whole book but there was a part in the very beginning of the book that was incredibly interesting and it leads, i think to the question of the title.. is the Selfish Gene really selfish?
In that point of the book Dawkins referred to a very primordial stage where life was much different from what we know as life. I am a biologist but my knowledge is rather limited after having no contact with biology for almost 11 years.. but i will try to describe how was life in these early stages in simple words based on what Dawkins says.. There was a primordial soup where, for some reason, there were a few molecules that were able to copy themselves.. imagine long molecules like the genes – genes look like a chain consisting of smaller molecules called nucleotides -. So the case in this primordial soup was that there were these long molecules (like genes – we will call them “copiers”) and small molecules (like nucleotides – we will call them “SM”). Copiers were able to attach with the SM (small molecules) and bringing many of them together they were able to create a rather accurate copy of themselves. All these processes are just happening naturally because of several natural forces that are taking place between the several molecules (chemical bonds etc). Now, when there is a plethora of the several “types” of SM and not that many copiers, a copier can easily attract the SM that it needs in order to copy itself. While more copiers are created (by copying themselves) necessarily nucleotides are getting more rare and obviously it becomes harder for the copiers to find the necessary SMs in order to be reproduced. So the competition between copiers is increasing in order for them to find the ingredients they need to duplicate themselves.
But its a completely natural competition.. copiers naturally bind with an SM if an SM is accessible.. if not then the copier just can’t be reproduced. There is nothing selfish in the process of self-reproduction, there is complete absence of selfish motive in this competition.. no violence, no greed, no intellectual strategies. And there is not despair, sorrow, pain or anything else when reproduction is not possible. Things just happen, naturally, life flows, other copiers are duplicated while others not, with the absence of the intellectual drama. It seems the term Darwin used to describe evolution (Natural Selection) seems so sane.. actually evolution happens naturally.
Now let’s look what is the scenery now.. there is competition for resources that (due to technological advancements) are in abundance, there is violence, conflict, war, sorrow, pain and death out there. And there is anger, violence, jealousy, attachment, possession, dominance and submission, manipulation inside. And people say “come on, its natural to be violent, it’s natural to be suspicious, to be competitive, its our nature to be selfish”. Can nature ever be selfish? I think no.. nature just is, life just is, right Now! Probably its when Time intervenes that selfishness is created..