# The Selfish Gene Theory

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Who said automatically? We are talking of transmission of abilities over generations.

It is called teaching/learning

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Who said automatically? We are talking of transmission of abilities over generations.

So are you saying the aptitude or better ability to learn something can be passed down or that a specific thing or skill you learn would be passed down?

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Both can be passed down. Where you seem confused is in the mechanism of transmission.

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Both can be passed down. Where you seem confused is in the mechanism of transmission.

Well it doesn't really make a lot of sense how if someone learned say... how to play a c-major chord that their offspring could be born automatically knowing how to play it. What about genes would code for a c-major chord? Music is just something we made up.

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It probably doesn't make sense because nobody here is saying that... Not even close.

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It probably doesn't make sense because nobody here is saying that... Not even close.

So then how can things you learn be genetically passed down unless learning things alters your genes? It would make much more sense if merely the aptitude for learning something was passed down rather than the thing itself, but apparently there's more too it than that.

Edited by questionposter
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So then how can things you learn be genetically passed down unless learning things alters your genes?

Theyre not, and it doesnt. Why do you continue to think othetwise?

It would make much more sense if merely the aptitude for learning something was passed down rather than the thing itself

Exactly, and that is precisely what the evidence suggests happens.

I am still unsure why there is any confusion surrounding this point.

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Think of a book being passed down from generation to generation. The things contained in that book are now being passed down without genetic modification. There is a certain aptitude to be able to do, or not, the things in that book but the skills in the book are still being passed down. I believe that is the sort of thing Charony was talking about.

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Theyre not, and it doesnt. Why do you continue to think othetwise?

Exactly, and that is precisely what the evidence suggests happens.

I am still unsure why there is any confusion surrounding this point.

So are you saying the aptitude or better ability to learn something can be passed down or that a specific thing or skill you learn would be passed down?

Both can be passed down.

Edited by questionposter
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Aptitude is passed down through genetics.

Skills are passed down through education.

Both are passed down. It's the method of transmission that differs.

If... after this post... you still claim not to comprehend what we're saying, then you are most likely being intentionally obtuse/trolling.

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Aptitude is passed down through genetics.

Skills are passed down through education.

Both are passed down. It's the method of transmission that differs.

If... after this post... you still claim not to comprehend what we're saying, then you are most likely being intentionally obtuse/trolling.

Nope, that's still not it because I had already stated those things and still Charon said there was something else. I already understood what you were saying, but I don't see how the other part you didn't mention exists or how knowledge get's passed down through birth.

By the way, you might want to be less arrogant before wasting a troll card.

Edited by questionposter
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Nope, that's still not it because I had already stated those things and still Charon said there was something else.

Quote for us specifically what was said that has you so irrevocably confused.

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Quote for us specifically what was said that has you so irrevocably confused.

Oh wait, it wasn't charon it was you

So are you saying the aptitude or better ability to learn something can be passed down or that a specific thing or skill you learn would be passed down?

Both can be passed down. Where you seem confused is in the mechanism of transmission.

How does something you learn ever get passed down genetically? I've never heard of that before.

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Oh wait, it wasn't charon it was you

How does something you learn ever get passed down genetically? I've never heard of that before.

I think the reference was to passing information on through culture, not genetics.

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Precisely. It's a reference to education and teaching. You "pass it down" through showing them how to do it, or explaining it. I thought this point had been clarified like 10 or 12 times already, though.

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Precisely. It's a reference to education and teaching. You "pass it down" through showing them how to do it, or explaining it. I thought this point had been clarified like 10 or 12 times already, though.

Ok, well I was thrown off by the fact that that particular instance didn't pertain to genetics and the context I was talking about, so sorry about that.

Edited by questionposter
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No worries. I'm glad we were able to iron out that particular wrinkle. Cheers.

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• 2 months later...

The main problem that I have with the book specifically and with Dawkins in general is that he is not only offering a different perspective. It seems to me that he is making a claim that genes are the only selfish units of selection (and "memes" in cultural evolution). This is wrong on many levels:

1) Genes do not code for their own position in the genome. The expression of a gene is, among other factors, a function of its position on the DNA. So a large portion of info is stored in various positions in the genome and not in the genes alone (think of genes as "words" and genomes as "stories"). Ergo: the genome itself is also a selfish unit of selection.

2) Epigenetics. Another level of selection works on the protein patterns surrounding DNA (histones, methilation, etc). These epigenetic patterns can be passed down with the DNA. Importantly, epigenetic patterns can be modified with experience (behavior of mother rats will affect epigenetics of pups and some features of the behavior will be passed to the third generation; this is not genetic inheritances nor cultural transmittance). In short: chromosomes are also selfish units of selection.

3) Cytoplasm contains information about embryonic development. It can be passed down with egg cells. Ergo: selfish cytoplasm.

4) Dawkins hates group selection and runs into troubles when explaining mutalism and eusocial behaviors (ants and other social insects). In short (this is a subject of a new topic) genes have to interact in complex networks in order to be selected. But in a sense one could simply say that these networks are themselves selected (selfish network structures).

5) ...

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• 4 months later...

The main problem that I have with the book specifically and with Dawkins in general is that he is not only offering a different perspective. It seems to me that he is making a claim that genes are the only selfish units of selection (and "memes" in cultural evolution). This is wrong on many levels:

1) Genes do not code for their own position in the genome. The expression of a gene is, among other factors, a function of its position on the DNA. So a large portion of info is stored in various positions in the genome and not in the genes alone (think of genes as "words" and genomes as "stories"). Ergo: the genome itself is also a selfish unit of selection.

2) Epigenetics. Another level of selection works on the protein patterns surrounding DNA (histones, methilation, etc). These epigenetic patterns can be passed down with the DNA. Importantly, epigenetic patterns can be modified with experience (behavior of mother rats will affect epigenetics of pups and some features of the behavior will be passed to the third generation; this is not genetic inheritances nor cultural transmittance). In short: chromosomes are also selfish units of selection.

3) Cytoplasm contains information about embryonic development. It can be passed down with egg cells. Ergo: selfish cytoplasm.

4) Dawkins hates group selection and runs into troubles when explaining mutalism and eusocial behaviors (ants and other social insects). In short (this is a subject of a new topic) genes have to interact in complex networks in order to be selected. But in a sense one could simply say that these networks are themselves selected (selfish network structures).

5) ...

I think that the main drive for Dawkins' theory is that through evolution, usually selfish processes survive, and after billions of years that there would have to only be selfish genes that survived this far, which is an arbitrary term anyway because chemicals and mechanisms have no opinions of themselves being selfish or altruistic. But I still do not see evidence that everything is in some way determined to act or be only selfish, especially considering there is no evidence that there exists such a mechanism to determine those factors as well as that quantum mechanical evidence shows that events are not causally connected because every result is a random outcome.

In evolution, it's logical that a system that happens to be able to preserve itself in a particular environment will be able to survive that environment, but that's about the extent of it, there's nothing putting the cap on what mutations can possibly happen.

Edited by EquisDeXD
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The word "selfish" creates a lot of confusion, and Dawkins himself has expressed regret for using it. One might as well use "cooperative", "friendly", "successful", etc, alternately.

Other than the social connotations of that term, he seems to be essentially correct, though. Cytoplasm and the other environmental factors are not repeatedly passed down with accumulated changes independent of the genes, for example - the environmental stuff, to the extent changes in the genes do not change it, changes by circumstance, back and forth, rather than ratcheting from one step to another.

The 20th century advance of bringing eusocial and mutualistic behaviors into the realm of evolutionary biology involved explaining such matters as consequences of advantage for genes, for example.

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The word "selfish" creates a lot of confusion, and Dawkins himself has expressed regret for using it. One might as well use "cooperative", "friendly", "successful", etc, alternately.

Other than the social connotations of that term, he seems to be essentially correct, though. Cytoplasm and the other environmental factors are not repeatedly passed down with accumulated changes independent of the genes, for example - the environmental stuff, to the extent changes in the genes do not change it, changes by circumstance, back and forth, rather than ratcheting from one step to another.

The 20th century advance of bringing eusocial and mutualistic behaviors into the realm of evolutionary biology involved explaining such matters as consequences of advantage for genes, for example.

Mutualistic behaviors weren't already in evolution? What about all those symbiotic relationships? It still all completely random anyway, the genes that develop what the environment is at any given time...

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• 1 year later...

How is it that in five pages of replies on this topic I couldn't find a single mention of Hamilton? If anything annoys me about the Selfish Gene, its that Dawkins is credited with the ideas of others simply for having come up with a clever analogy.

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• 1 month later...

How is it that in five pages of replies on this topic I couldn't find a single mention of Hamilton? If anything annoys me about the Selfish Gene, its that Dawkins is credited with the ideas of others simply for having come up with a clever analogy.

I've just started reading The Selfish Gene and notice that Dawkins himself attempts to take no credit. In the preface to the second edition he says that he is just taking technical ideas and popularising them, and in the preface to the first edition he lists those who's work are the basis for the book.

But agreed, the popular perception is that it is his theory. I would have thought that I guess, until recently. A bit like the popular perception that just Darwin came up with the theory of natural selection.

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I've just started reading The Selfish Gene and notice that Dawkins himself attempts to take no credit. In the preface to the second edition he says that he is just taking technical ideas and popularising them, and in the preface to the first edition he lists those who's work are the basis for the book.

But agreed, the popular perception is that it is his theory. I would have thought that I guess, until recently. A bit like the popular perception that just Darwin came up with the theory of natural selection.

Just to be clear, I was not accusing Dawkins of taking credit, but the fact that many people simply assume that these are his ideas. This typically comes from the fact that most people have never read the Selfish Gene.

Its not quite the same with Darwin though. While Darwin was not the only one to come up with the idea of Natural Selection, his idea of common ancestry was very unique and significant.

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Just to be clear, I was not accusing Dawkins of taking credit, but the fact that many people simply assume that these are his ideas. This typically comes from the fact that most people have never read the Selfish Gene.

Its not quite the same with Darwin though. While Darwin was not the only one to come up with the idea of Natural Selection, his idea of common ancestry was very unique and significant.

No you didn't accuse.

Wallace was right to reject Lamark's theory of descent, whereas Darwin didn't do that. Don't want to diminish Darwin, just big up Wallace a bit

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