10/14: The Selfish Gene & The Dinosaurs

Identify one theme that is present in both Italo Calvino’s The Dinosaurs and the first chapter of Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene. Discuss how you think the theme is represented in each work, citing at least one example. 

[Remember, a theme is a central topic of a text (or visual). A text can have multiple themes. For example, you can argue that one theme of Geena Rocero’s TedTalk is identity.]

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12 Responses to 10/14: The Selfish Gene & The Dinosaurs

  1. JekkersTugs says:

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  2. This may make sure that all components that affect worth movement have been analysed and trading selections are usually not made based on a hunch or instinct.

  3. avner baruch says:

    Both the first chapter in Richard Dawkins “The Selfish Gene” and in Italo Calvino’s “The Dinosaurs” the theme of selfishness and its importance for survival is presented. Dawkins discusses the fact that selfish behavior is responsible for survival and behavior that appears to be altruistic may be motived by selfish reasons. He is not concerned with the reason for the behavior but, “…with whether the effect of an act is to lower or raise the survival prospects of the presumed altruist and the presumed beneficiary.” (Dawkins 4) Qfwq’s behavior in “The Dinosaurs” illustrates Dawkins theme. Qfwq is keenly aware that the dinosaurs are almost extinct and he guards his interaction with the new population to ensure his survival. When Qfwq learns that there may be other dinosaurs nearby he thinks of joining them but decides not to join them. He states, “But the memory of the old life that returned to my mind was the endless series of defeats, of flights, of dangers; to begin again meant perhaps only a temporary extension of that death agony… Now, here in the village, I had achieved a kind of new tranquility, and I was sorry to lose it.” (Calvino 6) Clearly, to survive Qfwq could not join a group of other dinosaurs because the New Ones would kill him and he could no longer safely hide his identity. The selfish gene that Dawkins discusses is demonstrated by Qfwq’s actions.

  4. In “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins and “The Dinosaurs” by Italo Calvinois the common theme is selfishness. In “The Selfish Gene” Dawkins mentions that a “living creatures evolve to do things ‘for the good of the species’ or ‘for the good of the group” (Darwin 7). In the story written by Calvinois, Qfwqf the narrator of the story, is seen as the outsider and is called ‘the ugly one’. Zhan who is the leader of the New Ones does not seem to trust Qfwqf because he is not certain if “danger came, if we had to defend ourselves with claws and teeth, how can we be sure he [Qfwqf] would behave properly?” (Calvinois 4). It is until Qwqf proves his strength that he becomes respected, “Zahn even encourages me” (Calvinois 5). Qwqf is accepted because the New Ones are certain that Qwqf could contribute to helping the species survive in a life threatening situation. Qwfq is later torn between choosing sides between the New Ones or the dinosaurs. Darwin would cal Qwqf’s difficulty in choosing as selfishness vs altruism. Qwqf wants to defend the New Ones who gave him shelter but can not destroy his own kind. Instead he flees so that he survives and Darwin would call him the rebellious one in the group, being an individual-selectionist.

  5. Kailey White says:

    In the passages, “The Dinosaurs,” by Italo Calvino and the first chapter of Richard Dawkin’s “The Selfish Gene,” the common theme we came across is the idea of being selfish. In the passage “The Dinosaurs,” Italo Calvino introduced us to a dinosaur named Qfwfq who displayed this theme throughout. With his selfish motives keeping him alive, “In short, I wanted nothing to do with either side: let them rip each other apart in turn! I didn’t give a damn about any of them. I had to escape as fast as possible, let them stew in their own juice, have nothing more to do with these old stories.” (Calvino 6). On the other hand in “The Selfish Gene” Dawkins makes a point to say that the motives behind behavior are essentially negligible. Dawkins stated “If only the individuals of a group had the gift of foresight they could see in the long run their own best interests lay in restraining their selfish greed, to prevent the destruction of the whole group.” (Dawkins 1) He is trying to imply that we focus too much on ourselves and not on the group itself.

  6. Nihad Anwar says:

    A theme found common in “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins and “The Dinosaurs” by Italo Calvinois the theme of selfishness. The selfishness portrayed in the writings is not one desiring more wealth as in riches, but as a sense of being able to sustain oneself sometimes even at the stake of others. In “The Selfish Gene”, Dawkins talks about a certain selfish individual in an altruistic group of people, who would exploit the altruism of others and therefore he would have better chances of surviving and spreading the selfish characteristic to others (Dawkins 8). In “The Dinosaurs”, the main character, Qfwfq, who is a dinosaur joins a group of other animals and adapts to life with them. Before the climax of the story, the dinosaur comes with a conflict of interests.
    The call of my blood insisted I should desert and join my brothers; loyalty toward the New Ones, who had welcomed and sheltered me and given me their trust, demanded I should consider myself on their side; and in addition I knew full well that neither Dinosaurs nor New Ones were worthy of my lifting a finger for them (Calvino 6).
    In this narration, Qfwfq is isolating the desire for his survival, however brief it maybe. It is clear that this is the major common theme between the two writings.

  7. xiaozhen says:

    One theme can go though both passages, Italo Calvino’s “The Dinosaurs” and the first chapter of Richard Dawkins’ s “The Selfish Gene” is the idea of selfish. In other words, anyone or anything is selfish, they are more concerned about themselves. In “The Dinosaurs”, Italo Calvino said that it was clear that the New Ones, turning the command over to me, had found the easiest solution: leave all responsibility to an outsider.(The Dinosaurs 6) Its also can explain in this way, the New Ones didn’t want themselves to be in danger, and now it had one was not from their group, so they left all the duties to it. It’s one way of selfish that they can get the spoils of victory without putting themselves in danger. What’s more, in the first chapter “Why are people?” also claim anything should be selfish. The quotation ” If you look at the way natural selection works, it seems to follow that anything that has evolved by natural selection should be selfish” (why are people? 4) shows that no matter which species can succeed in this world, they are all selfish. They all care about themselves. So it is clear that all the species that can leave in this world are selfish. Because of selfish, they can be avoid themselves in danger.

  8. In both Italo Calvino’s “The Dinosaurs” and the first chapter of Richard Dawkin’s “The Selfish Gene,” the authors discuss similarities in regards to the theme of selfishness. In “The Dinosaurs,” the reader is introduced to a dinosaur named Qfwfq, and his motivations on survival. In one scene, he contemplates on deserting his new allies to re-join with his brethren, despite forming a relationship with one of the inhabitants, Fern-flower. The passage reads “That night I couldn’t close my eyes. The call of my blood insisted I should desert and join my brothers…” (Calvino). Qfwfq’s desire to leave paints a picture that self-motivation inspires selfishness, in not just humans, but other species as well. In “The Selfish Gene,” the author discusses how animals of different species have a similar trait in regards to selfish desires to survive. As an example, Dawkins uses a blackheaded gull to support his claim, explaining how extreme the animal will go to survive. The author adds that “It is quite common for a gull to wait until a neighbor’s back is turned, perhaps while it was away fishing, and then pounce on one of the neighbor’s chicks and swallow it whole” (Dawkins). The gull’s actions does signify it’s selfish desires to eat a member of it’s own kind, rather than hunt for food. Both Calvino and Dawkins write how the selfishness of animals will create a schism within it’s own community, and that animals are capable of this type of behavior.

  9. One theme that is present in Italo Calvino’s The Dinosaurs and the first chapter of Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene is the idea of selfishness and how it affects the survival of a species. In The Selfish Gene Richard Dawkins explains how the selfish tendencies of an individual may threaten the survival of the species. He mentions how “If only the individuals of a group had the gift of foresight they could see in the long run their own best interests lay in restraining their selfish greed, to prevent the destruction of the whole group.” (R. Dawkins. 1.) This implies that an individual needs to contribute to the interests of a group, rather than focus solely on their own interests, in order to guarantee the survival of that group. Italo Calvino also relates to this theme when the character Qfwfq remarks “If the Dinosaurs were trying to re-establish their rule with invasions and massacres, it meant that they had learned nothing from their experience, that they had only survived by mistake.”(I. Calvino. 1.) This implies that the dinosaurs would be mistaken to repeat the actions of violence and terror that they had previously lived by. Their selfish desire to rule over other species and massacre them would simply repeat what drove them to extinction and may cause them to perish permanently. Their selfishness would hinder their ability to survive just as Richard Dawkins had mentioned.

  10. A theme that can be identified in both Italo Calvino’s “The Dinosaurs” and the first chapter of Richard Dawkin’s “The Selfish Gene” is the theme of selfishness. After reading Dawkin’s I saw this as a recurring theme to his examples of how people and animals act. “After several generations of this selection (natural selection) , the ‘altruistic’ group will be over-run by selfish individuals, and will be indistinguishable from the selfish group” (Dawkins, pg8). Explaining that hypothetically, even if there are kind, selfless people out there, their selflessness will eventually lead to their downfall (in the terms of species or group in a species). This in turn is related to Calvino’s story about dinosaurs and Qfwfq. Qfwfq is displayed as a selfish being in the story with all of his/her (because we can’t be sure) actions, starting with hiding away in the mountains to avoid extinction, hiding his identity as a dinosaur so he wouldn’t be killed/able to live with others, has a child and then leaves the group to go off on his/her own. The most blatant example of selfishness for Qfwfq’s species/own well being; “the call of my blood insisted I should desert and join my brothers; loyalty toward the New Ones, who had welcomed and sheltered me and given me their trust, demanded I should consider myself on their side; and in addition I knew full well that neither Dinosaurs nor New Ones were worthy of my lifting a finger for them” (Calvino, pg6). These examples, to me, show the theme of selfishness in both passages.

  11. Cameron Burt says:

    Italo Calvino’s “The Dinosaurs” and the first chapter of Richard Dawkin’s “The Selfish Gene” share a common theme, that all entities are programmed to help themselves before others. In other words, even when someone or something is seemingly acting altruistic, their actions are ultimately to benefit themselves. Dawkins specifically states at the inception of “The Selfish Gene” that “It often turns out on closer inspection that acts of apparent altruism are really selfishness in disguise” (Dawkins 6). Basically, although an act of helping another may seem selfless, it is ultimately for the benefit of the entity committing the act. In accordance, Qfwfq the protagonist of “The Dinosaurs” stated ” For a moment I repented my action; if I wanted to save myself, I should tear her limb from limb at once: start it all over again. . .” (Calvino 44). In other words, Qfwfq attempted to protect himself before helping others, in this case Fern-Flower. Conclusively, it is clear that the common theme between both works “The Dinosaurs” and “The Selfish Gene” is that selfishness supersedes altruism. Additionally, acts of altruism are more for the benefit of the actor rather than the receiver.

  12. Jiajiefan says:

    Both Italo Calvino’s “The Dinosaurs” and the first chapter of Richard Dawkin’s “The Selfish Gene” share one theme, which is the species’ perpetuation can be achieved in both physical and mental way. In other words, the species extinction cannot stop the species’ perpetuation, because the extinct species can appear in history and human’s mind. In “The Dinosaurs”, Italo Calvino said “when the last shadow of their image had been erased, their name went on, superimposed on all meanings, perpetuating their presence in relations among living beings.” Videlicet, even though one species is extinct, its images and name still exist in our minds. Moreover, according to “The Selfish Gene”, Dawkin said “Among animal, man is uniquely dominated by culture, by influences learned and down.” To put in other way, humans’ thoughts are influenced by history and acquired environment, and will be inherited by next generations. Therefore, the extinct species transforms into words and images in order to attain the species’ perpetuation.

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