Book Review: The Selfish Gene - by Richard Dawkins


Evolution and the theory of natural selection, the key idea is that it’s not living things that are looking to replicate, but their individual genes. Also introduces the concept of memes.

My notes

“I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave.”

Evolution is blind to the future.

Nothing ‘wants’ to evolve. Evolution is something that happens, in spite of all the efforts of the replicators (and genes) to prevent it happening.

Every cell contains a complete copy of that body’s DNA. This DNA can be regarded as a set of instructions for how to make a body, written in the ATCG alphabet of the nucleotides.

The DNA indirectly supervises the manufacture of a different kind of molecule - protein. A body is the genes’ way of preserving the genes unaltered.

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. If an idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.

Qualities that make for high survival value among memes: longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity.

When we die there are two things we can leave behind us: genes and memes.