Dawkins writes (from his article Let's all stop beating Basil's car):
But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment. Don't judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car?
It is clear that he supports a mechanistic view of nature as a scientific view. This Mechanistic philosophy of matter and change was prevalent during Darwin's era. Darwin, however, was a teleologist and this (as noted here) was based on his particular conception of natural selection as some sort of “teleological force".
Also, as pointed out, in modern evolutionary theory natural selection is not described as some sort of cause or force any more. Instead, natural selection is just a descriptive term (not a prescriptive term) to describe when you have individuals in a population that have some kind of variation and fitness differences and are able to pass on their traits.
But again and again Dawkins describes and defends Darwin's view of natural selection as some sort of force or cause. For example:
Big ideas: Evolution
So powerful is the illusion of design, it took humanity until the mid-19th century to realize that it is an illusion. In 1859, Charles Darwin announced one of the greatest ideas ever to occur to a human mind: cumulative evolution by natural selection. Living complexity is indeed orders of magnitude too improbable to have come about by chance. But only if we assume that all the luck has to come in one fell swoop. When cascades of small chance steps accumulate, you can reach prodigious heights of adaptive complexity. That cumulative build-up is evolution. Its guiding force is natural selection.
Q: The idea that evolution could be "random" seems to frighten people. Is it random?
A: This is a spectacular misunderstanding. If it was random, then of course it couldn't possibly have given rise to the fantastically complicated and elegant forms that we see. Natural selection is the important force that drives evolution. Natural selection is about as non-random a force as you could possibly imagine.
He defends this notion at a recent convention again.
In his latest book: The Greatest Show on Earth pp 332-333.
When the neutral theory of molecular evolution was first proposed by, among others, the great Japanese geneticist Motoo Kimura, it was controversial. Some version of it is now widely accepted and, without going into the detailed evidence here, I am going to accept it in this book. Since I have a reputation as an arch-“adaptationist” (allegedly obsessed with natural selection as the major or even the only driving force of evolution) you can have some confidence that if even I support the neutral theory it is unlikely that many other biologists will oppose it!
"Obsessed" seems to be the correct word.
His fellow gnus seem to nod approvingly of this view. So what gives?
Are the gnus a bit behind the time in thinking natural selection is some kind of force or cause?
Or do they like being natural selection teleologists?