From Jonathan Webb at New Scientist:
Ten years earlier again, Dawkins’ pioneering account of the “gene-centric” view of evolution, The Selfish Gene, also won huge acclaim.
It crystallised an argument that had been brewing since Watson and Crick’s beautiful DNA structure marked a new peak in our understanding of inheritance: these sequences would tend to accumulate and propagate mutations that were beneficial to the gene itself. Any given gene “wants” to be passed on to as many future offspring as possible.
Forty years on, however, this concept faces some opposition among today’s biologists. More.
Um, now that you mention it … But Dawkins sees no need to rethink evolution in the light of modern developments:
Perhaps the most popular challenge raised against the centrality of genes is the evidence that elements beyond the DNA’s sequence – “epigenetic” affects like packaging or molecular tags that control a gene’s expression – can be inherited.
Prof Dawkins dismisses this as a flash in the pan, both in its evolutionary significance and in the “15 minutes of fame” which he declares it is enjoying undeservedly.
Dawkins’ major achievement was to provide a boost for pop science concepts like evolutionary psychology. That type of thing became what many people came to think is science. In the same circles, it also sat well with his hostility to religion.
See also: Die, Selfish Gene, Die
Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!
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