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Selfish Gene

  In the life sciences, the selfish gene theory is the Darwinian concept of natural selection broken down to the level of individual genes as the units upon which natural selection acts. This approach was expounded by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976) and The Extended Phenotype (1982). In Darwinian terms, natural selection acts upon the individual organism, but Dawkins considered the individual as a collection of self-replicating genes together coding for, and carried by, a self-preserving survival machine (the body). In this context it is possible to reconcile natural selection with behaviour, which appears, at the level of the individual, to be altruistic (see altruism). Thus a gene might sacrifice some copies of itself in order to promote the survival of other copies. RB

See also group selection; kin selection.



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