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The Selfish Gene

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The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins explores a more in-depth look into evolution and humanity as a whole. The purpose of the book is not to advocate Charles Darwin, whom is stated in history to be the founder of evolution theory, but a different outlook from his limited knowledge. Dawkins believes we as a species are not trying to survive as a whole, but as individuals. This theory is where the term “selfish gene” originates. Dawkins uses the terminology not to emancipate selfishness as a core definition of the human’s mentality; however, he describes that to become a unified whole, we go against our machine-like make up. Dawkins even elaborates on how far we could go as people to break the selfish code within us.

-Richard Dawkins

Replicator genes act more so like a template for other copies to use as a basis, although they are open to mutation to cause variations. Same like genes have a high probability to choose the survival of its predecessors rather than itself. This can be described as a type of altruism, or it can be seen as a selfish act. For example, a father who chooses to sacrifice himself for his children can be seen as a selfless act, or it can be viewed as selfish for the survival of his genetic future. Richard Dawkins has various theories about behavior. When a certain behavior is the set mold for a population, it usually does not venture far in variation from the template. Game Theory, or costs and benefits, reflects on how an individual reacts to certain situations, a genetic best result. Dawkins is noted for the creation of the new definition of a “meme,” or simply put a group of imitation. Genes and Memes, in theory, are extremely similar, with the latter used for cultural transmission. In hypothesis, if we as people could change the selfish gene to a more altruistic gene, it would take over the population to possibly even create peace. The mind-set of the template gene would slowly have to be altered until it became one of selflessness, in which the world would work together to create a time of harmony.

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Richard Dawkins has an ideology of nice guys finishing first. When two forces choose to cooperate, rather than one or both defecting, the outcome result is better for both parties. He references prisoners waiting to speak about a crime committed by both parties as well as birds choosing to take ticks off one another. When both choose altruism, there is a win-win scenario. However, when one or both defects, there is a win-lose or lose-lose situation that occurs. He also breaks down three categories of behaviors in individuals: Suckers, cheaters, and grudgers. Suckers give unconditionally, without wanting anything in return. Cheaters take from others, but do not give back. Grudgers will give but only to those who either gave to them or did not cheat them. What if cheaters died out of evolution? If there were nothing but suckers and grudgers, then altruism would never cease to exist, because the grudgers would have no one to hold a grudge against. So, although we may hold a selfish gene inside of us all, if we choose the road of altruism, the possibility to eliminate selfishness towards our own species is possible.




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