An extract from "Genes, Cells and Brains" by Hilary & Steven Rose
There is a further puzzle: for no sociobiology or EP theorist, from cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker to Wilson, Hauser and Dawkins, is it apparently obligatory to obey the demands of our selfish genes. The closing sentences of Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene explain that ‘we’ humans, albeit only ‘lumbering robots’, can, unlike other species, escape their tyranny. For Wilson, a less sexist society can be achieved if ‘we’ wish, though at the cost of a loss of ‘efficiency’. For Pinker ‘evolutionary explanations of the traditional [sic] division of labor by sex do not imply that it is unchangeable, or “natural” in the sense of good, or something that should be forced on individual women or men who don’t want it.’
When Pinker tells us that he has decided not to have children, or that he can tell his genes ‘to go jump in the lake’, or when Dawkins escapes the tyranny of his selfish genes, by what process do they deny this genetic imperative? Is there a location within the brain, a gene for free will? The theorists of mind and genetic determinism are silent. Their sense of personal agency is everywhere evident, but their theory provides no explanation, they escape by a rhetorical skyhook. Yet given that, like Pinker et al., we understand ourselves as thinking, moral, emotional and deciding beings, the issue of human agency is not a matter that can be ignored. The combination of genetic determinism and escape by skyhook lies at the heart of a neoliberal culture: the affirmation of individualism.