thinking makes it so

There is grandeur in this view of life…

Richard Dawkins and the ‘gay gene’

with 2 comments

Amazing what you find on the internet.

I came across this familiar kind of attack on Richard Dawkins – complete with  video clip:

This time Dawkins is suggesting ways in which a ‘gay gene’ could have been selected for. The blogger thinks what he says is all stuff and nonsense.

The crucial bit missing from the video clip though is the question. The interview is edited so all we get is Dawkins’ response – which talks in terms of ‘possibilities’. Does anyone have any idea what the question was?

If for example it was: If there was a ‘gay gene’, how might it have been selected for?, then what Dawkins offers are what seem to me to be three coherent hypotheses, similar in structure to the kind of potential explanations evolutionary theorists typically give for what at first sight appear to be ‘difficult’ biological phenomena. Things like altruistic behaviour, the over-development of display plumage in some male birds, and the survival of the gene for sickle-cell anaemia.

For the blogger however Dawkins ‘assumes that there must be a gay gene’. I watched the video twice and could see no evidence that Dawkins himself was assuming there must be a gay gene. What he seemed to be doing was suggesting and evaluating three possible explanations of how a ‘gay gene’ – if there was such a thing – could have survived.

If that’s confusing to Dawkins-bashers, well that’s science. A lot of it is theoretical, what-if, speculation. Not dogma.

© Chris Lawrence 2010.

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Written by Chris Lawrence

30 August 2010 at 9:08 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Chris – Thank you for this refreshing analysis.

    After WWII, several Harvard psychologists carried out some research to try to understand the thinking of people who participated in or supported the Holocaust.

    I think I will go on a hunt through the literature to see if someone has done a comparable study into the structures of “logic” that support fundamentalism. It would be interesting to see if there are common as well as differentiating features among various religious persuasions, and if there are equally “secular” or even scientific versions.

    My hypothesis is that it is fear, especially fear of uncertainty, that underlies a stubborn rigidity and disregard of facts in all the versions. It may be marginally harder to get away with for sustained periods in science, though I have seen academic departments destroy themselves for lack of toleration. And unfortunately, the more advanced thinking didn’t always win.

    Terry

    Terry Sissons

    31 August 2010 at 3:57 pm

    • Thanks Terry,

      Recent exposure to artefacts of evangelical fundamentalism reminded me of something quite obvious which I think I’d thought before but had forgotten.

      It’s quite simply the parallels & crossover between evangelism and business salesmanship. I don’t think it’s any accident that a lot of evangelical/apologist speakers have a business sales background & are overwhelmingly supportive of raw capitalism. In business generally & in sales in particular, the objective is to sell & make a profit – so what is ‘true’ is what makes the sale.

      A test would be if in a sales context someone realised there was a confusion or ambiguity or conflation, the exposure of which could lessen the chance of success. If that happened the confusion (eg) would be hidden, skirted round, brushed aside – eyes would glaze over and so on. There is a whole practical psychology of selling which, ultimately, will use any trick in the book to make the sale – and the master salesperson knows what trick to use in what context: from flattery to blatant bullying via seduction, friendly persuasion and every kind of power game.

      So it is with evangelical argumentation – the fundamentalist apologist is usually playing a different game from the rationalist/sceptical interlocutor. The aim is not to arrive at the truth, but to win the point. Of course the evangelist is not looking for the truth – he/she knows the truth. The game is to sell that truth to others.

      I’m not of course claiming that all scientists or skeptics or atheists are 100% of the time pure and honest seekers after truth – but the fundamental activity and methodology and philosophy of science is to do with seeking and validating truth, whatever that truth is. The best theologians know this. Fundamentalist apologists have nothing to gain from acknowledging it and everything to gain from misrepresenting it.

      Hardly original, I know!

      Thanks again, Chris.

      Chris Lawrence

      31 August 2010 at 8:32 pm


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