The Selfish Gene is a 1976 book by Richard Dawkins (1941– ), which recast and popularized the ideas of W. D. Hamilton (1936–2000). The book’s central claims are best viewed as a theory of biological adaptations, defined as those traits of living organisms that appear to be designed for a purpose. This theory has a wide scope, since adaptive traits might include morphologies and biochemical properties, but also behaviors, or products of behaviors (such as burrows or spears).

This entry outlines the genesis of the theory, before discussing its sometimes controversial status and, briefly, potential extensions to nongenetic change.

From Darwin to Dawkins

Charles Darwin showed how adaptations could arise without a designer, via the process of natural selection, when populations of organisms differ in their traits, and ...

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