Paul Fidalgo flags an interview in the New York Times with Bill and Melinda Gates by a reporter named Claudia Dreifus, who clearly has no idea what Richard Dawkins’ selfish gene theory is about. She has the following exchange with them in the interview:
B.G. That was a fun day. You know, sometimes, when I come back to New York, I think about that day because it was an amazing thing… Warren had experienced a tragedy only a couple years before that. His wife had passed away. And that forced him to think about philanthropy. You know, Warren was thrilled about it. He made it fun. I gave him a copy of “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” which is the Adam Smith book that predates “The Wealth of Nations.” It’s got the idea that generosity is sort of this inherent characteristic of mankind.Dreifus: So you don’t hold with Richard Dawkins about the “selfish gene”?
B.G. Well, I believe in most things Richard Dawkins says.
But there is absolutely no conflict between the idea that humans have an innate sense of altruism and Dawkins’ selfish gene idea. The selfish gene doesn’t mean a gene for selfishness. In fact, the selfish gene concept helps explain altruism and its tendency to be stronger within one’s family and tribe than with people one is not related to. Unfortunately, the reporter here is asking a question based on a premise she simply doesn’t understand.