Sunday, 28 April 2013

Nature Criticises Richard Dawkins for Spreading Misinformation

Richard Dawkins presents an overly simplified view of genetics, Nature columnist suggests. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA in 1953. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of this groundbreaking find, the journal Nature presents an overview of our current understanding of human genetics.

Human biology has turned out to be much more complicated than what the popularisers of evolution have been willing to admit. Many Darwinians are reluctant to acknowledge their lack of knowledge and they keep on presenting an incorrect and grossly simplified view of genetics.

Recently, scientists have discussed and even hotly debated the role of Darwinian mechanisms, but Nature columnist Philip Ball laments that the public does not get to hear about this:

Barely a whisper of this vibrant debate reaches the public.”

Ball mentions Richard Dawkins, who last year described the gene as

a replicator with ‘its own unique status as a unit of Darwinian selection’. It conjures up the decades-old picture of a little, autonomous stretch of DNA intent on getting itself copied, with no hint that selection operates at all levels of the biological hierarchy.”

However, the concept of the selfish gene is a myth.

Ball suspects that the popularisers of evolution are afraid that breaking the simplistic model of genetics would increase criticism of evolution.

Nevertheless, Ball says that scientists should be willing to acknowledge that they know less than laypeople assume. Genetics is complicated. Scientists should be wiling to admit their shortcomings instead of presenting outdated views.


Ball, Philip. 2013. DNA: Celebrate the unknowns. Nature 496, 419–420. (25 April).