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How Can a Beautiful World Be Possibly Created?

Posted August. 25, 2001 09:20,   


If one sees fowls in a cage picking their feeds and clucking loudly, a fowl seems to be the subject of the life itself. Therefore, we think that fowls lay eggs. However, is it true? What if we say an egg lays a fowl?

Although a fowl is just a temporary being that evaporates after its `term` is finished, the DNA in the egg, that has been continuing its breathing of life since the very beginning, is the real host of the life for the fowl that is inhabiting in this planet called the earth. A fowl is simply a machine that the egg created temporarily to produce more number of fowls.

All DNAs of the creatures in this world, including the DNA in an egg, basically possess a same structure. It is because of that all creatures were differentiated from a successfully cloned being that made by chance at the very beginning.

The DNA, an amazingly successful material named by modern biologists, is a being that knows nothing, but only about creating its other self. For this reason, the early biologist of Oxford Dawkins called them the `Selfish Gene`.

Recently, it was heard that a sculptor’s work with the title of `The Selfish Gene` won the grand award from a major exhibition. Now, the term `selfish gene` is no longer an unfamiliar expression. Yet, to explain how the selfish gene produces an altruistic human being is not a simple task.

`The Altruistic Gene` by Ridley, who has already been well known to us with his new book, `The Genome`, is a wonderful book that clearly explains about this much-antinomical proposition.

Nowadays, the issue on whether the identities of those who had sexual intercourse with teenagers seeking money have to be revealed is causing a sensation. Concerning of the people worrying more about their broken social reputation rather than regretting about their shameless behaviors, it seems that the internet may be a helpful tool to restore our fallen morality. If it had been a long time ago, one who raped a neighbor’s young daughter should not have been able to walk around in the village.

The social reputation makes even dolphins cooperate with one another, and not be able to betray. There is no exception with human beings.

The original version of this book was initially named as `The Origins of Virtue`. Although we admire those who are renowned for their virtues, and esteem sacrifice and cooperation as the most important moral principles of our society, our society is not always a beautiful one. It seems that among our neighbors, there are still much smaller number of people like mother Theresa or Lee Su-Hyun than those who utilize others’ misfortunes as their own opportunities. Even though it seems that people are still maintaining their decency of the `courteous country in East` toward their acquaintances, how can we explain about the change of our current society that has degraded as a `discourteous country of East`?

Based on the `Keen Selection Theory` by Hamilton, the `Mutual Reciprocity Theory` by Robert Tribirds, and the `Theory of Games` by von Neumann, in this book, Ridley simply, but authoritatively, explains about the process in which basically selfish individuals forming an altruistic society. All things in the world exist between tension and cooperation.

It is same with the genes. Although they stay in one body for now, the genes with different genealogies do not always cooperate with each other. Even though they are in a same DNA, they sometimes dream about their own cloning. For this reason, genes are often compared to the members of the national assembly. If they focus only on their own districts, their political bases, all the time, how will the destiny of the country be? The genes even know how to hold others’ hands whenever they need.

The shape of the life viewed from the selfish genes seems somewhat nihilistic. However, if one accepts the little bit of emptiness, he/she will experience to be thoroughly humble. And then one can be reborn as a part of the nature.

Economist Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel Prize several years ago, refers to a profit-chasing human being without a long-range perspective as the `rational fool`.

It seems that recently, there are significantly increased number of `fools` who cannot consider of the self-made behaviors’ influence toward other people caused by their deficiency of the altruistic genes.

The Altruistic Genes

By Matt Ridley

Choi Jae-Cheon (Professor of the Biology Department, Seoul National University)