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RohanBraga

Could Richard Dawkins be wrong about genes??

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I am a layman who recently read Selfish Gene.

In it RD says that we animals (including humans) like/love take care of their offspring because offspring have 50% of the their genes, since the purpose of life is to propagate your genes.

I am proposing a thought experiment to challenge this.

So, if parents love their children because children have 50% of their genes, what if we secretly switch babies at birth. Parents don't know that the baby was switched.  But won't they love, take care of the baby anyway.  So, the baby now will not have any genes of the parents but still parents will love the kid because they THINK that the kid is theirs.

So, doesn't this show that RD is wrong?? Parents like their children not because they share 50% of their genes but simply because of a psychological reason of THINKING (not knowing) that the kid is theirs.

Same for animals. If we secretly switch an egg of a bird with an egg of another bird of the same species, the bird will not know it was switched and regard the hatchling as one of it's own and show the same care and love as she would for other hatchlings.

Is my analysis correct or is there something we layman don't know which makes my thought experiment flawed???

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2 minutes ago, RohanBraga said:

So, doesn't this show that RD is wrong?

No, because the parent believes the child is theirs and behaves accordingly. 

You acknowledge this yourself, as does Dawkins in his book. 

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But doesn't RD say (I think he says) that genes do this. I.e. genes create chemicals or some other mechanism in the brain to make you think that the child is their own??

He gives the examples of how the ability for a human to catch a ball thrown at him is actually mediated by genes.

We calculate the trajectory of the ball and timing all without any awareness and he says. That is, we don't do mathematical calculations in our brain consciously. We just catch the ball.

That these are handled by genes.

 

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I didn’t get that from his book, no. What I took away is that genes essentially try to be immortal and shape their regions of control in ways that maximize their chances of enabling immortality (RD originally wanted to name his book “The Immortal Gene,” but it was changed to Selfish Gene by his publishers). 

Even in context of raising offspring from other parents, that offspring still shares a tremendous amount of DNA with us. All humans do. The drive is far bigger than an individual and individual nuclear family.

Hell, even chimpanzees share 98% of DNA with us so we should feel comfortable raising their offspring, too. 

Genes don’t really care if we label their output primate or mammal or human or Bob or Judy or whatever. Nature just selects for the ones which manage to transfer from generation X to generation X+1 all the way through generation X+N better than than their counterparts.

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Is there any other test that was done to show that kinship (i.e. blood/gene relationship) is what makes parents love their children more than other children??

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14 minutes ago, RohanBraga said:

Is there any other test that was done to show that kinship (i.e. blood/gene relationship) is what makes parents love their children more than other children??

I’m not sure I agree with your suggestion that parents love children with similar genes more than children from other parents. There are too many other variables here that affect that, not the least of which are temperament of the child, oxytocin and the timing of it, and other environmental stressors during rearing. 

I haven’t yet read this, but maybe it will give you some phrases and terms to google or references to pursue: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2753321/

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5 hours ago, RohanBraga said:

But doesn't RD say (I think he says) that genes do this. I.e. genes create chemicals or some other mechanism in the brain to make you think that the child is their own??

Yes. And that happens whether the child is their own or not. 

People don’t have their babies swapped often enough that they have needed to evolve the ability to tell if the child really is theirs or not. It is enough, from the point of view of reproducing the genes, that they bring up the child believing it is theirs. 

In species where this is a problem (cuckoos are an obvious example) then strategies have evolved to combat this. Some bird species are not “parasitised” by cuckoos because they have made their eggs impossible to fake. 

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