Monday, June 16, 2008

The Selfish Gene

The following is an E-mail I sent Prof. Richard Dawkins last week.
It contains my questions about his book ‘The Selfish Gene’.
I have not received any answer yet .

from Yoshihiko Morita
to richard.dawkins@oum.ox...
date Jun 10, 2008 6:28 PM
subject I have some questions about ‘The Selfish Gene’.

Dear Prof. Richard Dawkins,

I have read your book titled 'The Selfish Gene'. It was very interesting and I have learned many things. I do, however, have some questions.
I would really appreciate it if you answered the following questions.

1. On page 15, you mention the birth of the replicator.
The problem here is that not only affinity adsorption but also breakdown is necessary to create copies.
The replicator cannot be constructed unless these 2 events occur in sequence.
If each building block only has the property of affinity, it would only be able to adsorb another building block but not break it down.
Because they are molecularly stable, the blocks will permanently exist in this attached state.
Therefore, I think that there is a discrepancy in your explanation regarding the existence of only an affinity property.
Further, I think that the existence of the replicator requires the simultaneous existence of the Splitter which splits them into the state that they existed in prior to adsorption.
What are your views in this regard?

2. On page 19, you mention that'Other replicators perhaps discovered how to protect themselves, either chemically or by building a physical wall of protein around themselves. This may have been how the first living cells appeared'.
Considering that only the chemical reaction occurs, the following statement holds true.'The first survival machines probably consisted of nothing more than a protective coat'.
However, the presence of a protective coat would require extracellular interaction, and it would be impossible for replicators to replicate and multiply.
In the existing cell model, the cell membrane is closely associated with the intracellular functioning of the cell.
Without these functions, the protective coat would result in the death of the replicators, and the evolution process would have been terminated.
Therefore, from a scientific point of view it is clearly impossible for a structure like a cell, to form only as a result of a chemical reaction, as you say.
What are your views in this regard?

3. On page 21 it is mentioned that 'The original replicators may have been a related kind of molecule to DNA, or they may have been totally different. In the latter case we might say that their survival machines must have been seized at a later stage by DNA'.
I do not quite understand the sudden association with DNA in the present context.
Please can you clarify this?

4. On page 23 you mention that 'This brings me to the second important thing DNA does. It indirectly supervises the manufacture of a different kind of molecule-protein'.
Further, you add that 'Making proteins may seem a far cry from making a body, but it is the first small step in that direction'.
I think that there is a large gap in this logic because synthesizing foreign object, e.g. protein, does not contribute to replication directly.
At the very beginning, when proteins were first synthesized, the replication efficiency may have decreased; therefore, the DNA that was responsible for synthesizing these proteins may have been destroyed.
Therefore, it is practically impossible for DNA to synthesize proteins.
What is your opinion on this?

5. On page 23 you say 'The DNA instructions have been assembled by natural selection'.
However, this statement is misleading because natural selection cannot be used as an argument unless reference is being made to the development of the manufacture of bodies.
On page 24 you say 'Now, natural selection favours replicators that are good at building survival machines, genes that are skilled in the art of controlling embryonic development'.
Further, you say that 'The same old processes of automatic selection between rival molecules by reason of their longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity, still go on as blindly and as inevitably as they did in the far-off days'.
How do longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity lead to the evolution of genes involved in the control of embryonic development?
The characteristics of longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity are totally unrelated to the control of embryonic development.
Therefore, controlling embryonic development cannot be explained by natural selection.
What is your opinion on this matter?

6. On page 69 you mention the evolutionarily stable strategy.
Here, I think we have to pay attention to the fact that 'A "strategy" is a pre-programmed behavioural policy'.(p.69)
All of the examples of strategy written in this book are 'pre-programmed'.
On the basis of the definition of 'pre-programmed', I cannot but say that the strategies had been devised before the process of natural selection began.
What are your views on this?

Yours Sincerely,

Yoshihiko Morita