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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 06/21/2004
Volume 2, #128

The Selfish Gene I fully accept the idea of evolution as set forth and advocated by Richard Dawkins, best known to the public as the author of The Selfish Gene. It's his idea that we are simply the vehicles through which the genes transmit themselves across the generations.They use natural selection and survival of the fittest to make sure that they, the genes, survive and continue to reproduce themselves.The genes really don't care what happens to us, how we destroy ourselves in wars and in endless struggles to mate with the best--because that makes them strong. That's putting it a little simply but the reason I take Dawkins seriously is because I think he's got the right idea, but applied it to the wrong carriers. It goes much further than Dawkins had ever imagined. But that's because Dawkins has never taken a look at the automobile.

And I have. Dawkins thinks man is the vehicle for gene transmission. For some reason, perhaps tradition, he stops with man. But the actual power in evolution is not the gene but, as I said, the automobile. Everything that these genes do to develop man as a carrier for themselves only describes a midpoint in the process. Because man, to the gene is only a mid-step in the process which after many many millenia, led to the creation of the automobile. That occurred, through man, in slow stages, from the two wheeled cart, to the chariot, to the horse and wagon, through the prairie schooners and then the railroads which by themselves began to absorb and and pollute a good deal of the countryside. But then--came the automobile. The roads to carry it spread out across the earth, gobbling up arable land, tearing up the earth in the quest for that most valued of commodities, oil, in which vast masses of men are pitted against each other in wars and struggles. Everywhere the automobile has spread over the globe until walking half a mile is physically beyond most human denizens of the so-called advanced countries.

In short, the automobile is the end vehicle of the gene. It is the chief means by which the gene, through the intermedfiary of man, continues its unstoppable movement to take over and change the earth. Under the guise of being man's benefactor, this deadly gene machine kills and smashes millions of humans every year, maims millions more and turns the whole countryside into strip malls. And the humans that remain are restrlessly driven to push their way around the world, carrying their auto culture with them, so that everyone's a tourist and the idea of home is mostly a stopping point for readying further trips. In addition, the automobile has evolved into a flying version, known as the aircraft as the genes ready themselves for a final push to take over the earth.

All right--this is a reductio ad abnsurdum. But I can think of no better way to present the utter absurdity of Darwinian evolution as it has emerged in the form of "the survival of the fittest." It's not that I'm a creationist. Those religion based notions haven't a shred of evidence to support them except some ancient pre-auto tracts that posit a big pasha in the sky whose reason for creating man is to assuage his loneliness. We're here to keep Him company--if we behave in the way He approves. Now actually, some of His codes of behavior make interesting sense.

And here, allow me to introduce you to the great woman scientist, Lynn Margulis, who first introduced the idea of symbiosis. First of all, she points out that all her male contemporaries in evolutionary biology work with zoological ideas and are really dealing with a data set some three billion years out of date.

Lynn goes back to the beginning of the fossil record--in the microbial world, before the eukaryotic cell even existed--that is, the cell with a nucleus where all the stuff happens that these latecomers attribute to evolution and the "selfish gene". Lynn takes us back to the time when among microbes, fungi and very primordial life forms, cells without nuclei existed, and other microbial creatures got into those cells, perhaps to eat or attack them and then joined them to form a much better much higher stage of life--the eukaryotic cell.

I won't go into all the complications of this--but it's called symbiosis. And it operates by cooperation rather than a war for survival. Without lots of cooperation, in fact, evolution through random mutations, as the Dawkins and other leaders of the evolutionary movement believe, there simply wouldn't have been enough time for man to develop. It's as simple as that.

Now I have myself a very complex position on evolution. I'm not a creationist, for example. I don't believe that a lonely old god created men so he'd have company in the universe. Even the Greeks knew better than that. They simply created a whole Pantheon of Gods who were always too busy intriguing against one another to get lonely. No--what I believe has been laid out step by step in these columns over some years. But the thing that upsets so many leading evolutrionary scientists about Lynn Margulis is the fact that she introduced the idea of COOPERATION into nature, instead of the pure fang and claw idea of the survival of the fittest.

To use an analogy from comics for which I was responsible--there's the old story--described here some years back about how I brought Superman and Batman together for the first time in a book called World's Finest. And as I explained, this little symbiotic stunt was in fact, a matter of survival for DC. Because of the war, there wouldn't have been enough paper for both Superman and Batman in the quantities that the newsstands demanded. But the real problem was--how do you fit together two such disparate characters as Batman and Superman? Well, I did it and we got through the war and we still have them both. But think about Lynn Margulis. Go to the library and read her books. She was also responsible along with Richard Lovelock for the Gaia Theory in which the entire cooperative venture of earth is recognized. Give it a try.

And remember what I said about the automobile and Richard Dawkins.

--Alvin

<< 06/14/2004 | 06/21/2004 | 06/28/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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