“We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.”
In his most famous work, The Selfish Gene (1976), Richard Dawkins presented a radically new take on the theory of evolution. He argued that the struggle for survival is not one between members of a species in which the individual with the best adapted genetic profile survives, but a battle between genes. The book made a wider audience familiar with fundamental questions about life on earth. But not everyone bought the argument. Humanists and religious people were deeply troubled by the suggestion that human behavior is driven by selfish genes. Fellow scientists objected that people do many things for which, as far as we know, there is no gene, such as sports and other cultural activities.
Neurobiologist Dr Divya Raj (UU) traces the influence of Dawkins’s theory on science and popular imagination. Does his work still hold up today?
About this series
Cover to cover
Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, Edward Said’s Orientalism, and Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. Academics discuss why these books are timeless classics.