My favourite non-fiction read of 2020.
Devil in the details
With natural selection manifesting itself in the most outspoken of ways this year, it was most apt that I stumbled upon this book. (A Twitter suggestion by PG) And I must say it’s quite a lovable book (for rational and open individuals, anyway).
It’s a book about evolution from the perspective of the gene; the so-called “selfish gene theory”. Dawkins asks the question, “What if evolution happens at the genetic level, individuals and species being mere vehicles (contrary to popular belief that Darwinism is focused on the organism level)?” The book is basically an answer to that question. And such a magnificent work, with Dawkins well-formed ideas coupled with intriguing (read: very bizarre) examples from the kingdom of life presented in his terse words. Perhaps never had a book been so opaque in nature yet so transparent at the same time.
I can safely say a part of me (my ideas) resides in the pages of this book. It is humbling to know what we truly are and even more terrifying to know that we can understand us ourselves. The book invites criticism for some of its “purple passages” but as it is said, truth is what it is. On the face of it, Dawkins may look like a vile antihumanist but on the contrary, he’s doing better than most humans in being outspoken and hence, helping in disrobing that fake robe of arrogance and pride some of us guise under for indeed misunderstanding must be nipped as soon as possible.
The programs fed by the genes are the default factory settings for organisms. But of course, at least we override it by conscious awareness, cultural influences, and the education that we receive.
It’s definitely not a book to be rushed through but devoured slowly. I’d say relish a chapter a day (with possibly a metaphorical lipsmack) and draw connections between the ideas presented. For it is in this diffused state that the mind can do magic.
If there is to be a list of books I’d like to revisit every year (and I’m actively working on making something akin to one), The Selfish Gene will undoubtedly be one of them. A book that will be as immemorial as the subject that it chooses to talk about.
I started around Dec 17 and completed on Dec 28, so around 1.5 weeks.