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Darwin Was Wrong: For readers of "Life"

Many thanks to Ben Lund for his Bold As Love book orders. That's £36.50 to Amnesty International (whose website I can't reach this morning, for some reason).

& congratulations to Lynne Jamneck and all the Periphery collection authors, the anthology is a finalist for the Lambda awards.

I wonder what's happened my story for When It Changed, the Geoff Ryman anthology? The Anthology's still up on Amazon, allegedly due out in May. Must ask Geoff.

It was 1997. Intrigued by the discoveries I'd made about the Biology field (while researching the biology of sexual difference, and possible alternative evolutionary-engines for aliens), I'd decided to write a real-life science fiction about the career of a woman in Biological Science, who stumbles on something strange, and has an idea that just won't let her go. . . And now, at last, I see that "Anna's" discovery has hit the tipping point. (Immensely creditable but of course inadequate nineteenth-century model of evolution dethroned. The complexity and interconnectedness of the development of life on earth recognised; horizontal transfer of genetic material mediated by an ether full of viruses proposed) This is the bit I like best:

"Other cases of HGT (horizontal gene transfer) in multicellular organisms are coming in thick and fast. HGT has been documented in insects, fish and plants, and a few years ago a piece of snake DNA was found in cows. The most likely agents of this genetic shuffling are viruses, which constantly cut and paste DNA from one genome to another, often across great taxonomic distances. In fact, by some reckonings, 40 to 50 per cent of the human genome consists of DNA imported horizontally by viruses..."

Readers of Life may remember the scientific revolution championed by Clare Gresley, Anna's mentor in the wilderness. . .

Read the article, at You won't find Lyn Margulis's name, even though there's a big section on endosymbiosis. Or Barbara McClintock's name. Or Susan Lindquist. &I wouldn't think this was worth mentioning except that the article is full of men's names, some of them ancient, and though truth will out, meanwhile what passes for "science" is all about fame (a sarcasm has been deleted here); about getting more attention, more links. Nobody's saying "Darwin was wrong" about the enumbers game of fitness selection
an immensely satifying insight; of universal application

And then there's the Selfish Gene, different but related false image... (read another recent article on NS: The Selfless Gene), A few years ago, I was a teaching assistant at an Arvon science fiction course run by Colin Greenland. One of the students asked me, smiling indulgently, why are you so down on Richard Dawkins? Because he's peddling ideology in the name of science, I said. Much worse (because we're none of us free from ideology), he's corrupting the minds of the idiotic many, such as yourself, who cannot tell the difference between scientific thinking and hero-worship*.

Now off you go, dear readers who are offended by this post(I doubt if there'll be many, but I suppose a few tortured souls come here to make sure I'm still being annoying...). Cleanse yourselves by offering incense to Darwin's shrine. You may need to sacrifice a white mouse or two, with the proper rituals. Don't forget to read the entrails. For your gods are jealous gods.

*No, of course I didn't. I'm an honest mercenary, and I don't pick fights with students unless I think they are worth it, eh Trent?


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Marc Jacobs on :

I feel like I'm coming to this argument late.
Can you point out some problems with Dawkins? or a place where you've commented previously?

I like Life a lot. And I've been reading _Deconstructing_the_Starships_, finally published in the US.


Gwyneth on :

Thanks for your comment, and point taken. Maybe I should do a post on Dawkins, the ideology. Meanwhile I can refer you to, where there's an article, from the March 9th issue, called The Selfless Gene: Rethinking Dawkin's Doctrine

Marc Jacobs on :

Thanks. I read the article. I am not enough of a biology person to really appreciate the subtlety until it's pointed out. (I have a Chemical Engineering background but work in Semiconductor Electronics.)

The alternative viewpoints seem perfectly reasonable to me. It feel that I miss the academic fighting context. Or maybe, I don't. Underneath the surface, there appears to be a "fund me, don't fund him," message.

I look forward to your post on this topic.


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