QotD: “cooperation drives evolution as much as competition”

[Robert Newman] displays distinct ire towards the evolutionary biologist and omnipresent scientist Richard Dawkins. His show, “New Theory of Evolution” takes a sustained, witty swipe at Dawkins’s world-view.

“Darwin’s theory of evolution has been hijacked by quite a narrow individualist philosophy that derives from Hobbes and I think it’s having a terribly negative effect. It’s giving people a very pessimistic idea of human nature. What I think Dawkins has done is brought back a particularly virulent form of original sin. He’s actually a deeply religious thinker – ‘We are born selfish therefore let us try to teach altruism’, ‘If your genes are selfish, you are.’ Not true.” Warming to his theme, he continues: “It’s a virulent repudiation of Darwin. What Darwin says is that those communities which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best and produce the most offspring.”

“I’m arguing that cooperation drives evolution as much as competition – I’m not discounting competition but cooperation is there as well. Dawkins is a reactionary thinker and he does a lot of damage. The universe he imagines couldn’t exist for five seconds. People say “It’s the law of the jungle isn’t it?” “It’s dog eat dog.” Well dogs don’t eat dogs – very rarely. Look at African hunting dogs – if they don’t share they get rolled in the dust and made to. Kropotkin – responding to Darwin – saw how if a buffalo falls in a ditch the rest of the herd make efforts to rescue it. Contrary to what male primatologists were saying in the mid-70s about baboons, it’s not about a dominant male with his harem of submissive female. They organise around a female kinship network. If a male wants to join the group he has to know a female and even then has to serve a probationary period in which he proves his work by performing foster care – looking after offspring that are not his genetic material. You can look at sterile female ants too…” He trails off, pauses, grins.

“I’m being incoherent, sorry,” he mutters, and sips more coffee. Not in the least, Robert Newman, I want to say. You see that chink of gleaming light in the dark, overcast sky – that’s you, that is.

Robert Newman, interviewed here.

(And for those of you too young to remember the Mary Whitehouse Experience, and therefore get the last paragraph, see here.)

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