Also, if this is an example of "pushing a personal agenda" then how can it be reworded such that the philosophical investigation is allowed?

"Do Genes Dream Of Djinni's?"

Are genes adequate for thought or volition?

Dawkins' memetic conception of genes in "The Selfish Gene" exclaims "now there's a truth!" and sets about making the world fit the view of it: like the hen is just the eggs way of making more eggs, so too the human is just the genes way of making more genes. There is of course nothing wrong with this, however, analogy is not actuality - and this despite the perlocutionary force of analogy. So powerful, in fact, is the apparent explanatory impression of poetic rhetoric that the mind often believes it is thinking while merely passing from one metaphor to the next.

Dawkins imagines that genes accumulate data, information or "knowledge" like so many books in a chromosomal library. There is of course nothing wrong with this, however, to imagine DNA as "encoded" "information" is simply a confusion of the observer independent and observer relative senses of data and information.

To imagine that information is knowledge and that genes "know how" to make organisms or "know that" their actions will result as such is further poetry, analogy, i.e. unreasoned rhetoric. This, of course, might be an acceptable analogy presuming an equally false (yet effective) metaphor that knowledge is "justified, true belief". For example, it can be said that "mechanistic process XYZ will create organism ABC" is true. That mechanistic process XYZ will create organism ABC can demonstrated and thus a statement of as much is justified. The belief can not only be coherently stated that, "mechanistic process XYZ will create organism ABC" - such a proposition can be sincerely believed. Hence, according to the equivalence of knowledge with "justified, true belief" we have genes that "know stuff" and nary a whiff of a reductio ad absurdum Homunculus fallacy.

Has Dawkins Reintroduced Teleology Back Into Biology?

Is the process of biological evolution the result of cause, or chromosomal agency? If the latter, forget how we would even verify or falsify such a claim, does this not beg the question of genes having volition and the capacity to act towards a conscious purpose?

Where would Dawkins even get the idea for reintroducing teleology back into evolution after Darwin, Wallace et alii work so hard to remove teleological presumptions from biological explanations?

Finally, also in the 1960s, Hamilton and American George Williams upped the ante on the gene’s primacy. With fancy maths, they argued that we should view any organism, including any human, as merely a sort of courier for genes and their traits. This flipped the usual thinking. It made the gene vital and the organism expendable. Our genes did not exist for us. We existed for them. We served only to carry these chemical codes forward through time, like those messengers in old sword-and-sandal war movies who run non-stop for days to deliver data and then drop dead. A radical idea. Yet it merely extended the logic of kin selection, in which any gene-courier — say, a mom watching her children’s canoe overturn — would risk her life to let her kin carry forth her DNA.

This notion of the gene as the unit selected, and the organism as a kludged-up cart for carrying it through time, placed the gene smack at the centre of things. It granted the gene something like agency. ...

Dawkins assembles genetics’ dry materials and abstract maths into a rich but orderly landscape through which he guides you with grace, charm, urbanity, and humour. He replicates in prose the process he describes. He gives agency to chemical chains, logic to confounding behaviour. He takes an impossibly complex idea and makes it almost impossible to misunderstand. He reveals the gene as not just the centre of the cell but the centre of all life, agency, and behaviour. By the time you’ve finished his book, or well before that, Dawkins has made of the tiny gene — this replicator, this strip of chemicals little more than an abstraction — a huge, relentlessly turning gearwheel of steel, its teeth driving smaller cogs to make all of life happen.
"Die, selfish gene, die"
-David Dobbs

If Not Genes, Then Neurons? Atoms? Pan-Psychism??

Do we know that consciousness happens in the brain, and not in the gene, nor the atom nor by virtue of a worldview of dualism?

What is even meant by gene?

Even as a technical term, the word carries at least a half-dozen meanings

Are genes adequate for thought or volition? If not, does making such an error constitute a grammatical joke?

A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.
-Ludwig Wittgenstein

  • 3
    You're not asking anything which isn't already answered in your own post.
    – Eliran
    Mar 16, 2017 at 13:26
  • 1
    Link to the main site question, for reference (requires some privileges, as it has been deleted). It's also relevant to add that the version there differs from what is written here.
    – user2953
    Mar 16, 2017 at 14:02
  • @EliranH If by "answered" you mean conclusively or irrefutably, thanks but I am not posting for confirmation of "am I right?" or reader agreement. As is the post asks an answerable question, presents my thinking on the matter and remains open for analysis and critique and answers to the question "are genes adequate for thought or volition?"
    – MmmHmm
    Mar 16, 2017 at 14:12
  • @Keelan once again your commentary is prejudicial. Reformulating formerly deleted questions is not out of bounds, nor does the former necessarily informs the current question. As is, the question does not push a personal agenda. As a moderator it is your duty to help guide useful participation and here you are merely muddying the waters once again without useful input.
    – MmmHmm
    Mar 16, 2017 at 14:13
  • 1
    @Mr.Kennedy You need to adjust your sights. We're here to help you be successful and ask the best questions possible. Taking on the moderators is only going to lead to further friction (and possibly suspension if you can't find a more polite way to communicate -- i.e., a way to communicate which doesn't impute malign intentions to people who are after all doing their best in a volunteer capacity to help make this site better!)
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    Mar 16, 2017 at 14:15
  • @JosephWeissman So long as you continue to read "friction" into my posts, then I have no means to avoid such punitive moderation. Keelan has already confirmed his prejudice against me as "verbally violent" - I am just stating the fact of his stated prejudice. As you can see - I am posting here in order to better formulate the question to your interpretation of the guidelines. Feel free to post an answer with suggestions. As yet, I have gotten two dismissively rude comments.
    – MmmHmm
    Mar 16, 2017 at 14:18
  • 1
    I'm happy to explain my reasons for closing the first version of your question and/or deleting its second version. However, I do not see the point in discussing yet another version on meta. Reformulating formerly deleted questions is very welcome, if you consider the criticism on it. That does not appear to be the case here. Also, your title "How is this not a 'serious' question?" does not appear to ask for support in reformulating your question. If you want support, tag your meta question as such and actually ask for support, instead of questioning judgement and starting a discussion.
    – user2953
    Mar 16, 2017 at 14:22
  • 1
    I really don't understand what the question is.
    – user18800
    Mar 25, 2017 at 22:37

1 Answer 1


A very personal answer: look at the set of questions you've asked, and compare and contrast the ones with positive votes from the ones with negative votes.

I see a clear pattern:

The positive questions are focused on specific philosophical ideas, usually attached to specific works, and ask narrow questions within the confines of the framework setup by a specific philosopher.

The down voted questions are sweeping questions, lack any specificity of the framework in which the question arises, and thus how answer should be framed, and are accompanied by long doctrinaire pronouncements of your own views.

There's already a few meta questions on how/way more "academic" philosophy is favored here; here's an example.

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