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Friendly-HI comments on Recommended reading for new rationalists - Less Wrong

27 Post author: XFrequentist 09 July 2009 07:47PM

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Comment author: Friendly-HI 23 May 2011 11:30:15PM 2 points [-]

I fully agree with your statement. The Selfish Gene triggered my rational awakening and may have been the single most important book I've read in my entire life. I think the real significance of this book is that afterwards you really have a rather deep understanding of what life actually is and what it isn't.

Now most readers here won't need to read his book for that purpose, but I think it is a very unique book one should read eventually, even despite already being a rationalist. There most certainly are more structured books out there if one wanted to learn about evolution systematically, but it may still be the best "popular science" book out there to truly trash the notion of group selection, while it simultaneously nails the point that your genes aren't the means by which you propagate yourself, but that you are the means by which your genes propagate themselves - even at the cost of your well-being (which is of cause also just another psychological mechanism to get you into the human meat-market).

So despite being the pinnacle of evolution in terms of intelligence, we are still nothing but a disposable vehicle from the indifferent "viewpoint" of our genes. This realization obviously has the potential to rock your worldview to the very core, if you're completely oblivious to the real implications of evolution.

Despite being a citizen of Germany, where evolution is strictly part of the curriculum - evolution (and above all its implications) still weren't "properly" taught to me. This book was a goldmine of insight aiding in my intellectual development. Also it's where the term memetics was first coined.

If you're already a rationalist, it's not obligatory literature. But it sure as hell is literature you'd better digest sooner rather than later, if you're actually not that well-read regarding evolution.