Monday, September 12, 2016

Thoughts on Dawkins' Selfish Gene: Classic work on evolution that has itself become a meme

I read Richard Dawkins' classic, The Selfish Gene, with great interest. I came to this book having read other works by the author as well as from hearing a lot about this classic; hence, I was expectant. My expectations were met; this is quite a classic work. I particularly liked the way that Dawkins masterfully and simply describes the notion of a simple replicator and how just the properties of replication and mutation naturally give rise to a form of evolution. Furthermore, he naturally describes how this process can apply to molecules such as DNA and RNA that we see in life but that it can be generalized and applied to other things. Dawkins, of course, famously coined the notion of a meme to describe how ideas themselves could be these replicators. This word has become classic but it used here for the first time. Dawkins also contrasts the notion of the replicator with that of the vehicle for it and its expression -- his survival machines, ie us.

Overall I would say this is a great book, which hopefully will make it into the classic canon of the natural sciences. I recommend it heartily to anybody.

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Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene