Monday, July 20, 2009

More on The Dawkins Dogma

New Scientist has a post by Fern Elsdon-Baker, the author of The Selfish Genius, in which she lambastes Richard Dawkins for his narrow perspective concerning evolution and genetics. Focusing mostly on that topic, Elsdon-Baker writes:

Take heredity. If you only read Dawkins, you might think that the case has long been closed on how it works. In fact, there are competing perspectives stretching back over 150 years. Darwin himself was a pluralist and proposed a theory of heredity that allowed not only for the inheritance of latent characteristics but also for the environment to play a role in it. According to Darwin and many who followed, the environment could even have an impact on the germ cells: in other words, the gene line is not necessarily "immortal".

Research reflecting this plurality survived outside the mainstream throughout the 20th century. Today, building on the legacy of work by researchers such as Conrad Waddington or Barbara McClintock, increasing numbers of biologists find it hard to doubt the environment has a powerful impact on gene expression during an organism's lifetime.

According to the author, there are other areas of evolution in which Dawkins' influence has resulted in a skewed public understanding of how things work in the biological world. Read the whole thing.

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