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'Gene Machines'

When Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene came out 30 years ago, researchers knew what a gene was and could just about map a gene, but there was much about genes — the number, much of their functions — that researchers didn't know, writes Tim Radford at The Guardian in a new review of the book. "The particular brilliance of the Dawkins approach is that he sidesteps such questions, and starts to work out how genes might survive to confer just enough advantage to allow their 'survival machines' to pass those genes on to a new generation," Radford says. Biological behavior, Dawkins says, arises to maximize a gene's chance of continuing on to the next generation.

Dawkins also coined the term 'meme' in this book to describe how ideas and cultural information are passed on. Radford notes that the original book — the 30th anniversary edition of the book is now out — ends with this:

We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on Earth can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.
The Scan

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