Winston Fletcher, quoting from The Marketplace of Christianity in his review of the same (Books, February 23), says: "No urge... is more fundamental than the desire to explain existence." This is "codswallop", Fletcher says. He continues: "The selfish gene's primal urges are the survival of the self and the... species."
I am not sure that explaining existence is the most fundamental urge we have as Homo sapiens, but certainly every culture known to us has a cosmology.
Modern times are fragmented into subcultures, and the fundamentalist atheist subculture of Richard Dawkins and his followers is one of the most ardent in its attempts to explain existence.
Fletcher has fallen into a trap that the biologist himself admits to have dug: the term "selfish gene", Dawkins has said, was a provocative metaphor meant to shock people out of their complacent assumptions about free will.
But Fletcher takes the metaphor literally: he implies that genes really have selves that experience conscious urges, equating the way humans experience conscious urges, desires and so on, with whatever it is that pushes cellular biological matter into action.
Balderdash, Fletcher, balderdash.