Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Selfish Gene

I am reading this wonderful book, the selfish gene. The author Richard Dawkins has a lot of surprises in store for us. His hypothesis of how selfishness is ingrained in our genes, and is not just another virtue (!) of personalities, is worth a read.

The whole issue of reservations, if looked at with a certain perspective, looks more of s fight for selfishness. And when I say that, I mean it's selfishness shown by both the sides. Nobody is absolutely right or wrong, for such judgment is purely comparative. And as I read through the above book, I have grown a tendency to believe that selfishness, is after all in our genes, it's designed by the Nature itself.

The author, at the same time, hopes that even though individually, the beings are selfish, it should still be possible for a society to be altruistic towards its ingredients. I have not reached the pages where he would elaborate further on this, and as of now, it promises interesting read.

Consider this situation (this has happened before, and there is no reason why it should not be repeated in future):

A candidate belonging to a community for which a certain number of seats are reserved in higher education, shows excellent performance in the entrance examinations. Is among top some percentage of overall candidates. It so happens that with his merit, based on the marks obtained in the entrance examination, he can secure a seat in a prestigious institution. What I mean is, he does not have to avail of the reserved seats for his community.

The councilor, however, requests the fellow to still take advantage of the reserved seat, as it would free-up one seat for the general category students, which he thinks is a precious asset to have.

What should he do?

The selfishness of the general students is eying the seat that could have been made free if this "reserved" student decides to take the reserved seat. Is it not morally wrong to do this? It is not about making the "reserved" student aware of his "status," but about contradicting the demand of "merit should deserve admission."

Reservations based on caste-system are bad, is a general opinion. Are the people taking this stand ready to practice what they are preaching on merit-based equality for all in the above, very practical situation is the question.

Going by Dawkins' hypothesis, we are born with selfishness integrated in our genes. The challenge, however, is to create a overall altruistic society from what we have. And I think that's where the problem lies...

Your comments (as long as they are not anonymous) are most welcome.

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