The Selfish Gene

1976 book by Richard Dawkins

The Selfish Gene is a book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976. It builds upon the work of George C. Williams's book: Adaptation and Natural Selection, and helped popularize W.D. Hamilton's work.

The Selfish Gene
AuthorRichard Dawkins
CountryUnited Kingdom
SubjectEvolutionary biology
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date
Second edition in 1989
Third edition in 2006
Media typePrint, e-book
Followed byThe Extended Phenotype 

Dawkins used the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the "gene-centred view of evolution". From the gene-centred view, it follows that the more two individuals are genetically related, the more sense (at the level of the genes) it makes for them to behave selflessly with each other.

An organism evolves to maximise its inclusive fitness—the number of copies of its genes passed on globally (rather than by a particular individual).

Dawkins proposes the idea of the "replicator":[1]

"[About] the central role in natural selection... One way of sorting this whole matter out is to use the terms ‘replicator’ and ‘vehicle’. The fundamental units of natural selection, the basic things that survive or fail to survive, that form lineages of identical copies with occasional random mutations, are called replicators. DNA molecules are replicators. They generally, for reasons that we shall come to, gang together into large communal survival machines or ‘vehicles’."
— Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, p. 253 (Anniversary Edition)

The book also coins the term meme for a unit of human cultural evolution analogous to the gene.

References change

  1. Richard Dawkins (1976). The Selfish Gene. Best Books.