Does Mary Midgley give Richard Dawkins a percentage? She certainly should. She’s making a full-time career of telling him to stop doing things he doesn’t do.

Midgley’s new book continues her many years of taking neo-Darwinists to task because, she says, they distort the legacy of the great English naturalist who inspired them.

Yes, many years. Many, many years. More than thirty of the bastards. She was told she had it all wrong the same number of years ago, but her new book continues the same old bullshit she was told was all wrong all those years ago. I’d say she owes Richard a cut.

And what’s this crap about “distorting” Darwin’s “legacy,” anyway? Does she think Darwin wrote a gospel? Does she think Darwin’s work is supposed to be frozen in amber so that everyone can stand around and admire it, along with the work of Albert the Good and Gladstone and Isambard Kingdom Brunel? Darwin was a scientist. His work was and is supposed to be expanded, corrected, falsified, improved, used, stretched out of shape. It’s not a sculpture or a carpet, it’s a theory; it doesn’t need to be protected from the breath of the nasty modern sciencey types with their iPods and blue jeans and tendency to swear. Those nasty modern sciencey types are Darwin’s colleagues; he has a lot more in common with them than he has with obstinate one-idea (and that a wrong one) Midgley.

Midgley argues that the neo-Darwinist perspective rests on an ethos of free-enterprise competition distorted by “the supposedly Darwinian belief in natural selection as a pervasive, irresistible cosmic force” that operates in social and metaphysical realms as well as in physical, biological ones. It results, she writes, in “unbridled, savage competition between the genes” that operates with mythic force within any individual body.

Apparently she has learned nothing since 1979, the date of the original (widely-derided) paper. Her legacy is serenly undistorted – for what that’s worth.

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