RICHARD DAWKINS Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. His books about evolution and science include The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype, The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable, and most recently, Unweaving the Rainbow • Dawkins rejects any concept of an immortal soul • River Out of Eden, 1995, puts forward a case for biological materialism “There is no spirit-driven life force, no throbbing, heaving, pullulating, protoplasmic, mystic jelly. Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information.” Dawkins argument for a biologically materialist system for life concludes that any evidence of “divine activity” is an illusion. • Humans are merely carriers of DNA. • Information flows through time, but bones and tissue do not. • Evolution is the only rational theory. • It is not our soul that guides us, but our genetic make-up. • Over time the good genes survive; the bad genes die out. • We are as we are because of our genetic makeup, not the efforts of our soul to guide us towards the realm of ideas. • No soul continues, only DNA, the function of life. • The belief, therefore, in an immortal soul is anachronistic and damaging to human endeavour. • He argues that myths (such as Plato‟s Forms) and faiths are not supported by evidence. • Scientific beliefs are supported by evidence. • Life lacks purpose and is indifferent to suffering. • There is no Creator-God. • Our sense of self and individuality is based on digital information, not the soul. • Our genes are a colony of information that wants to be replicated. • It is easier for this to happen in a multi- cell organism. • The genes are found in behaviour so the bodies acquire individuality. • We feel like a single organism, not a colony, as selection has favoured genes that cooperate. • Genes working together give us a sense of individuality, not the soul. • The colony needs a central control. • The genetic model becomes more complex . . . • And thinks about itself as an individual and considers the consequences of its actions. • This leads to human culture, a „replicator‟ or „meme‟ • Tunes, catchphrases, quotes, teachings which are heard and lodged in the brain and then imitated by it. • At death, we leave behind genes and memes though the genes will quickly be dispersed. • DNA survival brings about the body and individual consciousness creates culture. • This is the soul. • As Dawkins presents it, everything is developed through a natural process. • There is no injection of self or soul from outside; no need (as Plato had thought) to suggest a pre-existence in order to explain our knowledge. • Read pages 147 and 148 from OCR Edition Jordan, Lockyer and Tate • Answer in written form all 4 “Something to think about” from these pages for next lesson.
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