In 1976, the ethologist Richard Dawkins published a groundbreaking book,The Selfish Gene , in which the thesis of sociobiology is divulged previously granted by EO Wilson in his “Sociobiology” 1975.

EO WilsonIn 1989, Dawkins pulled back his book, with two new chapters to the original and final chapters, in which small self-correction is done and defends the attacks after the first edition notes. Let’s go to see, and magnify features, which means this new contribution to the modern theory of evolution.


The purpose of Dawkins is to examine the biology of altruism and selfishness. It shows that the important factor in evolution is not the good of the species or group, as traditionally understood, but the good of the individual or gene. For him and his followers, individuals are merely machines created by the genes for survival. In the words of American biologist Butler, the hen is merely an egg invention to produce more eggs. “

0199291152 The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition–with a new Introduction by the Author
Richard Dawkins

There, again according to Dawkins, a misinterpretation of altruism: this is given, according to traditional ideas, for the good of the species, which is known as the theory of group selection, that is to say that natural selection acts on the species. An individual would be more than a “pawn” to be sacrificed for the good of the species.

The alternative is the selection of genes (or selecting individual) : altruistic individuals become extinct in favor of the selfish, who predominate in the group. Genes have been built a variety of “machines” to thrive exploiting so that a gene can be considered as one unit survives through many successive and individual bodies. Thus, a gene is defined as a portion of chromosomal material that potentially lasts for enough generations to serve as a unit of natural selection. The individual is too large to be considered ephemeral selection unit. A gene is considered good, that is, it remains many generations, if sailing by itself, if it is selfish. Evolution is the process by which some genes become more numerous and others decrease in the gene pool.

All genes control the behavior of their survival machine, not directly, but indirectly. Genes prepare the machine in advance, then this will be at your own risk. Genes act in the long term by protein synthesis, but this is a slow process. Therefore, the genes build your machine in advance, in the best way possible and programming it in advance.

Therefore, the behavior is governed by the selfishness of the genes of each agency and not by altruism of individuals with regard to the other members of their species. Dawkins takes care to show this throughout the whole book with numerous individual behaviors.

As for the man, for he is the only body able to cope and be contrary to the dictates of the selfish genes, thanks to our consciousness:  “only man can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators”. Most characteristics that are unusual in men are due to culture, Dawkins also intended to treat as a transmission unit, although with some particular mechanisms.

In his own words, for an understanding of modern man must discard to the gene as the sole basis of our ideas on evolution would also be culture; Darwinism is too broad to be confined to the narrow context of the gene theory. Culture acts as a replicator that is established in the brain and persist generation after generation parasitándolo.

In one of the chapters of his new book, he sums up his later work, “The Extended Phenotype” .From their point of view, Darwinian selection does not act directly on genes. This is where the concept comes extended phenotype : the phenotypic effects of a gene must be considered all the effects it has on the world itself effects on other genes, the machinery that carries on other organisms and even on the inert world, as Dawkins illustrate it handles multiple real cases.The effect of a gene depends on a specific protein synthesis cascade that ultimately results in the desired phenotype.