Yet there are equally profound consequences to insisting that man is nothing more than matter operating according to physical laws. If that is so, then we live in a deterministic universe and free will is an illusion. Some, like Francis Crick and E. 0. Wilson, unhesitatingly assert that human beings do not have free will. “It seems free to you,” Crick says, “but it’s the result of things you are not aware of.” Wilson writes that “the hidden preparation of mental activity gives the illusion of free will.”

But Richard Dawkins argues that although we are the product of our selfish genes, “we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.” Thus, if we “understand what our own selfish genes are up to … we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs.” If this is true, then by Dawkins’s own admission we humans occupy a unique position in the universe, because our minds can control our biological destiny. But how is it possible for us to rebel against our genes? How are we different from computers, who cannot rebel against their programming, or cheetahs, who unquestioningly obey the mandate to hunt and survive, or meteors, which travel in placid obedience to the laws of force and gravity? Dawkins has no explanation for this and doesn’t seem to think he needs one.