River Out of Eden, A Darwinian View of Life
Richard Dawkins, 1995

DNA Copies Perfectly?
We must now take Dawkins'
overenthusiasm with a huge grain of salt. I saw an item in just this morning's paper about how many protein copying errors occur in the formation of a single embryo and how strongly survival depends upon a vast array of corrections and retakes, most of which we do not yet understand.

God's Utility Function
About the middle of chapter 4, Dawkins introduces the concept of God's Utility Function as a way of putting the question of DNA activity into terms that he has shown are meaningful for humans. But in doing so, he seems, without noticing, to be falling into a trap of animism, of imputing a purpose to the universe. I say he doesn't notice but, in fact, the signs are there that he knows he has spawned a problem. Things go on this way for a while, but then near the end of the chapter, he seems to have reached a boiling point and he has to redeem his story by proclaiming his adamant convictions that the universe is "pitilessly indifferent", that genes don't care about suffering, that genes don't care about anything.

If nature were kind, she would at least make the minor concession of anesthetizing caterpillars before they are eaten alive from within. But nature is neither kind nor unkind. She is neither against suffering nor for it. Nature is not interested one way or the other in suffering, unless it affects the survival of the DNA.

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