Richard Dawkins FRS FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is a British evolutionary biologist and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was Professor for Public Understanding of Science in the University of Oxford from 1995 to 2008. His 1976 book The Selfish Gene popularised the gene-centred view of evolution. Dawkins has won several academic and writing awards.
In The Selfish Gene Dawkins says that life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities. With his book The Extended Phenotype (1982), he introduced into evolutionary biology the influential concept that the phenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism's body, but can stretch far into the environment; an example is when a beaver builds a dam. This book and The Selfish Gene also introduced the term meme.
In a set of controversies over the mechanisms and interpretation of evolution (what has been called 'The Darwin Wars'), one faction is often named after Dawkins, while the other faction is named after the American palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould, reflecting the pre-eminence of each as a populariser of the pertinent ideas. In particular, Dawkins and Gould have been prominent commentators in the controversy over sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, with Dawkins generally approving and Gould generally being critical. A typical example of Dawkins's position is his scathing review of Not in Our Genes by Steven Rose, Leon J. Kamin, and Richard C. Lewontin. Two other thinkers who are often considered to be allied with Dawkins on the subject are Steven Pinker and Daniel Dennett; Dennett has promoted a gene-centred view of evolution and defended reductionism in biology. Despite their academic disagreements, Dawkins and Gould did not have a hostile personal relationship, and Dawkins dedicated a large portion of his 2003 book A Devil's Chaplain posthumously to Gould, who had died the previous year.
In his book The Selfish Gene, Dawkins coined the word meme (the behavioural equivalent of a gene) as a way to encourage readers to think about how Darwinian principles might be extended beyond the realm of genes. It was intended as an extension of his \"replicators\" argument, but it took on a life of its own in the hands of other authors, such as Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmore. These popularisations then led to the emergence of memetics, a field from which Dawkins has distanced himself.
Although Dawkins invented the term meme, he has not claimed that the idea was entirely novel, and there have been other expressions for similar ideas in the past. For instance, John Laurent has suggested that the term may have derived from the work of the little-known German biologist Richard Semon. Semon regarded \"mneme\" as the collective set of neural memory traces (conscious or subconscious) that were inherited, although such view would be considered as Lamarckian by modern biologists. Laurent also found the use of the term mneme in Maurice Maeterlinck's The Life of the White Ant (1926), and Maeterlinck himself stated that he obtained the phrase from Semon's work. In his own work, Maeterlinck tried to explain memory in termites and ants by claiming that neural memory traces were added \"upon the individual mneme\". Nonetheless, James Gleick describes Dawkins's concept of the meme as \"his most famous memorable invention, far more influential than his selfish genes or his later proselytising against religiosity\".
This is itself a dialectical process, where each generation arrives at a theory that explains many things. In this way, human knowledge penetrates deeper and deeper into the secrets of the Universe. And this process is as never-ending as the universe itself. In his remarkable book The Nature of Scientific Revolution, Thomas Kuhn explained the dialectical way in which science develops. At regular intervals scientists establish a paradigm that apparently explains everything. But at a certain point, small irregularities are found that contradict the accepted model. This eventually leads to its overthrow and replacement by a new model, which will itself eventually be surpassed.
General tendencies in society can find their reflection in ideology, including science, and reactionary ideas can be expressed in science: for example, certain theories in genetics that attempt to provide a scientific basis for racism. In recent years the crisis of bourgeois ideology has been expressed, among other things, by a general drift towards idealism, mysticism and superstition. One of the purposes of this book was to identify and combat these tendencies. This is also a philosophical question.
Time and space are properties of matter, and cannot be conceived separately from matter. In his book The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant claimed that time and space were not objective concepts drawn from observation of the real world, but were somehow inborn. In point of fact, all the concepts of geometry are derived from observations of material objects. One of the achievements of Einstein's general theory of relativity was precisely to develop geometry as an empirical science, the axioms of which are inferred from actual measurements, and which differ from the axioms of classical Euclidean geometry, which were (incorrectly) supposed to have been the products of pure reason, deduced from logic alone.
This is a return to Kant's theory of the unknowable Thing-in-Itself. In the past, it was the role of religion and certain idealist philosophers, like Hume and Kant, to place a limit upon human understanding. Science was permitted to go so far, and no further. At the point where human intelligence was not allowed to proceed, mysticism, religion and irrationality commenced. Yet the whole history of science is the story of how one barrier after another was removed. What was supposed to be unknowable for one generation became an open book for the next. The whole of science is based on the notion that the universe can be known. Now, for the first time, scientists are placing limits on knowledge, an extraordinary state of affairs and a sad comment on the present situation in theoretical physics and cosmology. 076b4e4f54