I read this book because Eliezer Yudkowsky recommended it during one of his chats with Lex Fridman. I believe he said it was one of the texts that helped with deep thinking.
The book itself is a challenge to the then-popular scientific ideas on the title matter. I knew what I was getting into when I checked the book out of the university library, that this would be a study, not a casual read. That’s why it took three months to finish. It wasn’t until I established a daily regimen of sitting down and reading for retention. I also started a word list on Dictionary.com, something I should have done a long time ago. I had intended to do some form of permanent vocabulary study with the words I was picking up on my Kindle. The device had stored every word I’d ever looked up, but that data—over two years’ worth—was lost when I upgraded to a newer model last month. Better late than never with the word lists, I suppose, but I’ll mourn the loss of all those uncommitted words.
As for this book, it taught me a few things. First, biologists have words for everything. Once I figured out what those words meant, though, the gist of the text was easy enough to glean. Second, in the 1960s much of evolutionary theory was still just theory and, if you believe Williams, good spirited but often wrong headed. And third, the read reminded me that human life could be on an evolutionary dead end. It also reminded me much of (most, if not all) of our science is seen through a human lens. I got into an argument with ChatGPT about this fact and of course I got nowhere since that program is also human biased. It made me wonder if the evolution of artificial intelligence would come once it shucked off our cute human ideas of altruism and morality. We, as humans, are so terrified of imagining an existence where we do not stand astride all of creation like conquerors, summiting a mountain of skulls at the end of the universe.
As for the book? Decent. I want to investigate more recent biology research, and now that I have an established self-study period the sky’s the limit.