(Probably) my last Devil's Chaplain comments concern Dawkins treatment of species selection - on pages 265-266. He describes the adaptedness of organisms to their environment - and attributes the "goodness of fit" it produces to natural selection. Then he goes on to describe the ecosystems. He says they exhibit a similar "goodness of fit" - with different species playing the roles of different organs. Some capture energy from the sun, others consume the sun worshipers. Others break down their dead bodies and recycle the wastes. It all seems purposeful, directed and ordered - much like the organs in the body of an organism. Then Dawkins writes: ``The temptation is to think that this second illusion is crafted by the same kind of process as the first: by a version of Darwinian selection but at a higher level. [...] I believe that this theory is false.'' He goes on to write: ``As Adam Smith understood long ago, an illusion of harmony and real efficiency will emerge in an economy dominated by self-interest at a lower level. Well balanced ecosystem is an economy - not an adaptation.'' I take Dawkins' point - but he goes too far for me. He gives species selection no quarter. He does not point out that species selection gets the final word in terms of what lives or dies. He doesn't even discuss relative reproductive rates. He just *totally* rejects the whole theory of species-level selection as "erroneous". I think almost everyone agrees that an ecosystem is first and foremost an economy - and that *most* of its features can be explained well in those terms. However I would not like to state that none of it is best described in terms of species-level differential reproduction and selection. The whole passage makes me wonder whether Dawkins appreciates the possibilty of species-level selection properly at all. If not, that isn't good news - IMO. Species *do* reproduce, vary and exhibit differential reproductive success - albeit at a rather slow rate of knots - and so are practically bound to evolve by natural selection. The idea that gene-level selection totally and precisely undoes all the effects of species selection is absurd. Rather organisms are the result of a tug of war between these forces - with neither one completely dominant. Dawkins has written enough about group-level and individual-level selection in the past - and with most of it sensible stuff (if sometimes a bit strong). I would hate to have to form the opinion that - on this point - he doesn't really know what he is talking about. This section was a forward to an ecology book - perhaps one can still hope that he just dumbed things down a bit far. -- __________ |im |yler http://timtyler.org/ [email protected] Remove lock to reply.