Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Selfish Gene at 40 Years Old

History of Science
Environmental & Science Education
by Edward Hessler

By Cstreet
(Christopher G. Street),
Bransgore, Dorset, England, UK. (Own work.)
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Matt Ridley has written a lovely retrospective as well as a reassessment of an unusual book, one that On The Origin of Species
changed our view of the workings of the biological world nearly as much as did Charles Darwin's

What makes this book unusual is that it was written, as was Darwin's book, for two audiences: general and scientific. It worked. This is remarkable: a book that explained the science and changed it too.

The book is The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and Ridley's perceptive comments were published in Nature 28 January 2016.  In this book, Dawkins made a compelling case for a gene-centered view of evolution.
Image from Amazon.com

Ridley notes that early on Dawkins was advised to title the book "The Immortal Gene" and now wishes he had. The original title has led to many comments and criticisms, e.g., are genes conscious?  Long before Dawkins wrote this book he was asked by his adviser, Niko Tinbergen, to give some lectures to a class Tinbergen was teaching. Interestingly, in his notes for these lectures, Dawkins had written "Genes are in a sense immortal" and "Genes are selfish."

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