Book Review - October 2010

Game Gene Theory

We donít always like Hamiltonís answersóbut we love his questions!

While we donít endorse G. R. Hamiltonís Game Gene Theory, we recommend that you read it. That is to say, we donít concur with many of Hamiltonís conclusions, but we encourage you to think about his reasoning. It doesnít matter if you are an atheist, believer, evolutionist, creationist, capitalist, communist, Democrat, or Republicanóyou will find something offensive about this book. It is a radically different way of looking at everything.

Hamilton sent us a copy of the second edition to review, presumably because he considers it to be an anti-evolution book. In many ways, we suppose it is. He certainly pokes some significant holes in the evolutionary teachings of Darwin and Dawkins. But that isnít really what this book is about.

Instead, we would characterize Game Gene Theory as a wide-ranging philosophy book, in which the theory of evolution plays a part. This is a direct result of the fact that the theory of evolution is more accurately described as a widely held philosophical belief than an actual scientific theory.

The aspect of Hamiltonís book that deals with evolution goes something like this: The theory of evolution depends upon the notion of survival of the fittest. The most-fit organisms survive when less-fit organism go extinct. But being better equipped for survival (in other words, having better survival skills) is of no value to an organism if that organism doesnít use those survival skills. Having survival skills is of no value if the organism doesnít know how to use them, or doesnít want to use them. Therefore, the theory of evolution depends upon the notion of a survival instinct that causes the organism to use whatever survival skills it has. The organism has to have what evolutionist Richard Dawkins calls, ďthe selfish gene.Ē

If you are unfamiliar with Dawkinsí selfish gene, let us just simply say that Dawkins doesnít view an egg as the way a chicken produces another chicken. He sees a chicken as the way an egg produces lots more eggs just like itself. There is a selfish gene in the egg that (for some unexplained reason) wants to produce more and more copies of itself.

Hamilton argues that there really isnít an instinct to survive. Instead, he says, there is an instinct to play games. One of those games is the survival game. We wonít attempt to present Hamiltonís argument here, partly because we donít have the space to do it justice, and partly because we want you to read it for yourself.

We may be missing something crucial in Hamiltonís argument, but it seems to us that for every argument Hamilton makes against Dawkinsí selfish gene, a similar argument could be made against Hamiltonís game gene. Thatís why we donít find his conclusions entirely satisfactory. But, as always, we encourage you to study for yourself and come to your own conclusion.

Hamilton does bring up an interesting point when it comes to the survival instinct of plants and lower forms of animal life. A desire to survive implies consciousness. Consciousness implies a brain. Plants donít have a brain, so they presumably donít have any self-awareness or desire to live (or play games, for that matter). So why do they bother to live?

Consider a sunflower seed buried in the ground. It has no intelligence or thought processes, but it ďknowsĒ (for lack of a better word) when to sprout. It knows to send the root down and the stem up. Once the stem breaks the surface, it knows to leaf out. The flower on the mature plant knows how to turn to face the sun. The sunflower does all these things (that is, plays these games) without having any cognitive ability. How can this be?

Evolutionists try to explain this all in terms of physical laws. The moisture in the ground, and the seasonal temperature cycles, trigger a natural reaction in the seed to sprout at the proper time. All the seeds that triggered at the wrong time sprouted too soon (or too late) went extinct, leaving only the seeds that sprouted at the proper time. But why sprout at all? Furthermore, if gravity naturally makes roots grow down, why would gravity make stems grow up? The more you think about sunflowers, the more unanswered questions you will think of.

Sunflower seeds ďknowĒ how to sprout, grow, and reproduce, without the ability to think. Were they preprogrammed to respond to physical conditions and forces? If so, was that preprogramming intentional or accidental? Or are sunflowers simply dumb peripherals that are somehow networked to some impersonal cosmic central processor that tells them what to do and when to do it? We donít claim to know. We simply recognize that these are questions that need to be answered.

Hamilton thinks everything can be explained as a natural result of an instinct to play games. We arenít convinced he has found the answer; but we encourage you to consider his proposal.

Hamiltonís Game Gene Theory will give you plenty to think about. It will certainly raise some important questions. Maybe it will help you find some answers, too.

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