God's Utility Function; November 1995; Scientific American Magazine; by Dawkins; 6 Page(s)
In his many books on evolution and natural selection, Richard Dawkins examines the topics not from the perspective of individual organisms (as Charles Darwin did) but instead from what he has termed "the gene's-eye view." The genes in living creatures today are, he claims, the "selfish" ones that ensured their own survival by enabling their hosts--what Dawkins calls "survival machines"--to live long enough to reproduce. Dawkins argues that the complexity of life can be explained by the extraordinary contest among genes for survival, rather than by any grand purpose in the universe.
In his recently published book, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, Dawkins explains how the struggle of genes to replicate might account for some of the central mysteries of life, including "How did life begin?" And "Why are we here?" The article that follows is adapted from a chapter of River Out of Eden (BasicBooks, 1995).