Sunday, October 05, 2008

Was Skilling misled by Dawkins?

From here...

Even before receiving his 24-year jail sentence yesterday for his part in the Enron scandal, former chief executive officer Jeffrey Skilling made clear he views his tribulations as a Darwinian challenge. For him, it is "something to do, something to accomplish" - in short, an opportunity to demonstrate the survival of the fittest.

But then, what else should we expect from the man whose favourite book is The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins? Skilling (right) certainly had no compunction in doing the bidding of his own selfish genes, weeding out "weaklings" that threatened his own success with snap staff appraisals and automatic sackings for laggards.

As he ponders how to while away the years ahead, Skilling may consider having another flick through Dawkins' celebrated work. If he does, he will discover - as have countless readers before him - that he has been misled by a scientist carried away with his own prose.

According to Dawkins, humans are mere "robot vehicles" doing the bidding of our selfish genes. But by the end of the book, Dawkins has performed a backflip, claiming we humans have the unique ability to defy our selfish genes.

So which is it? In an uncharacteristic bout of hand-wringing, Dawkins has recently conceded that his choice of words - and especially the title of his book - has misled many. He insists he has always believed humans are capable of decidedly unrobotic actions, and are all the better for it.

This will doubtless come as an almighty shock to the likes of Skilling, but not to his nemesis, former Enron vice-president Sherron Watkins. It was she who blew the whistle on the Enron scandal. And in a wonderful irony, she has made clear she was driven to act by that most un-Dawkinian of motives: a need to do the right thing by Almighty God.

HT: Young Cosmos