A Wiki about biochemical individuality


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Biographic Information

Clinton Richard Dawkins DSc, FRS, FRSL (born March 26, 1941) According to Richard Dawkins Simonyi website: Professor Richard Dawkins is the first holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford. A graduate of Oxford, he did his doctorate under the Nobel-prizewinning ethologist Niko Tinbergen. In 1967 he was appointed Assistant Professor of Zoology at the University of California at Berkeley, returning to Oxford in 1969. He has been a Fellow of New College since 1970.

He married Marian Stamp, in 1967 but they divorced in 1984. Later that year, Dawkins married Eve Barham, with whom he had a daughter, Juliet, but they too subsequently divorced. He married actress Lalla Ward, in 1992. Dawkins had met her through mutual friend Douglas Adams, who worked with Ward on the BBC TV sci-fi series Doctor Who. Ward has illustrated a number of Dawkins' books.

General Discussion

Dawkins was born in Nairobi, Kenya, where his father, Clinton John Dawkins, was a farmer and former wartime soldier, called up from colonial service in Nyasaland (now Malawi). Dawkins' parents came from an affluent upper-middle class background. The Dawkins name was described in Burke's Landed Gentry as "Dawkins of Over Norton." His father was a descendant of the Clinton family which held the Earldom of Lincoln, and his mother was Jean Mary Vyvyan Dawkins, née Ladner. Both were interested in the natural sciences and answered the young Dawkins' questions in more scientific than anecdotal or supernatural terms.

Dawkins is an atheist, Humanist, skeptic, "bright," and as a commentator on science, religion and politics is among the English-speaking world's best known public intellectuals. Dawkins topped Prospect magazine's 2004 list of the top 100 public British intellectuals, as decided by the readers, receiving twice as many votes as the runner-up.


Dawkins coined the term meme (analogous to the gene) to describe how Darwinian principles might be extended to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena, which spawned the theory of memetics. While originally floating the idea in The Selfish Gene, Dawkins has largely left it to other authors, such as Susan Blackmore, to expand upon it. Memetics, gene selection, and sociobiology have been criticised as being overly-reductionist by such thinkers as the philosopher Mary Midgley, with whom Dawkins has debated since the late 1970s. Writing in the journal Philosophy, Midgley stated that to debate Dawkins would be as unnecessary as to "break a butterfly upon a wheel." Dawkins replied that this statement would be "hard to match, in reputable journals, for its patronizing condescension toward a fellow academic."

Although Dawkins coined the term independently, he has never claimed that the idea of the meme was new – there had been similar terms for similar ideas in the past. John Laurent, in The Journal of Memetics, has suggested that the term "meme" itself may have been derived from the work of the little-known German biologist Richard Semon. In 1904, Semon published Die Mneme (which was published in English, as The Mneme, in 1924). His book discussed the cultural transmission of experiences, with insights parallel to those of Dawkins. Laurent also found the use of the term "mneme" in The Soul of the White Ant (1927), by Maurice Maeterlinck, and highlighted its similarities to Dawkins' concept. The key distinction of Dawkins' formulation, ironically paralleling the insights provided by memetics, is that it caught on and thus became dominant.

Foods and polymorphisms

Besides Dawkins many works on gene theory his book the “The Ancestor’s Tale, A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution” has some relevant quotes.

Page 33 “Starchy cereals such as [Wheat (Triticum spp.)? wheat] and oats cannot have featured prominently in our diets before the Agricultural Revolution. Unlike oranges and strawberries, cereal seeds do not ‘want’ to be eaten. Passing through an animal’s digestive tract is no part of their dispersal strategy, as it is of plum and tomato seeds. On our side of the relationship, the human digestive track is not able, unaided, to absorb much nutriment from seeds of the grass family, with their meager starch reserves and hard unsympathetic husks. Some aid comes from milling and cooking, but it also seems conceivable that, in parallel with the evolution of tolerance to milk, we might have evolved an increased physiological tolerance to wheat, compared to our wild ancestors. Wheat intolerance is a known problem for a substantial number of unfortunate individuals who discover by painful experience, that they are happier if they avoid it.”

Page 60 “Suppose there are two blood types called A and B, which confer immunity to different diseases. Each blood type is susceptible to the disease against which the other type has immunity. Diseases flourish when the blood type that they attack is abundant, because an epidemic can get going. So if B people, say, happen to be common in the population, the disease that hurts them will enjoy an epidemic. Consequently, B people will die until they cease to be common, and the A people increase – and vice versa. Whenever we have two types, the rarer of which is favored because it is rare, it is a recipe for polymorphism: the positive maintenance of variety for variety’s sake. The ABO blood group system is a famous polymorphism which has probably been maintained for this kind of reason.”


Richard Dawkins has written the following books:

He has also written many essays, papers, commentaries and documentaries.


Honours listed in Dawkins Curriculum Vitae

  • 1987 Royal Society of Literature Award for The Blind Watchmaker
  • 1987 Los Angeles Times Literary Prize, for The Blind Watchmaker
  • 1987 Sci.Tech Prize for Best Television Documentary Science Programmme of the Year, for BBC Horizon Programme: The Blind Watchmaker
  • 1988 Honorary Fellowship, Regent's College, London
  • 1989 Zoological Society of London Silver Medal
  • 1990 Royal Society of London, Michael Faraday Award
  • 1994 Nakayama Prize for Achievement in Human Science
  • 1995 Honorary Doctor of Letters, St Andrews University
  • 1996 Honorary Doctor of Letters, Australian National University, Canberra
  • 1996 Humanist of the Year Award
  • 1996 Vice-President of the British Humanist Association R.Dawkins, Curriculum Vitae 2
  • 1997 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
  • 1997 International Cosmos Prize, Osaka, Japan.
  • 1997 Hon. D.Sc. University of Westminster
  • 2001 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society
  • 2001 Hon. D.Sc. University of Hull
  • 2001 Kistler Prize, USA
  • 2001 Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic. Rimini. Italy
  • 2002 Bicentennial Kelvin Medal, Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow
  • 2003 Hon. Doctor of the University, Open University
  • 2004 Hon. Fellow, Balliol College, Oxford University
  • 2004 Honorary Patron, University Philosophical Society. Trinity College,Dublin
  • 2005 Shakespeare Prize for Contribution to British Culture, Hamburg Germany



Dawkins, Richard. “The Ancestor’s Tale, A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution”. Houghton Mifflin Company 2004. ISBN 0-7394-5373-4 (alternate, search)