The Selfish Gene
(1) Genes are selfish:
In describing genes as being "selfish", I don’t intend to imply that they are driven by any motives or will - but that their effects can be described as if they do. The contention is that the genes that get passed on are the ones whose consequences serve their own implicit interests (to continue being replicated), not necessarily those of the organism, much less any larger level. This view explains altruism at the individual level in nature, especially in kin relationships (when an individual sacrifices its own life to protect the lives of kin, it is acting in the interest of its own genes).
(2) Organisms are survival machines:
A crude analogy can be found in the old saying about a chicken being just an egg's way of making more eggs. In a similar inversion, I describe biological organisms as "vehicles" or survival machines, with genes as the "replicators" that create these organisms as a mean of acquiring and copying themselves.
-From an organism-centric perspective, genes can be thought of as a blueprint for some feature that might benefit the organism;
but from a gene-centric perspective, the sole implicit purpose is to benefit themselves.
(3) Genes are the vectors of selection:
I propose that genes also try to improve the gene's own chances of being passed on and, as a result, frequently "successful" genes will also be beneficial to the organism. For example: A gene that protects the organism against a disease, which helps the gene spread and also helps the organism.
(1) Some people find the metaphor of the gene as a selfish individual entirely clear, while others find it confusing, misleading or simply redundant to ascribe mental attributes to something that is mindless. For example, Andrew Brown has written: "Selfish", when applied to genes, doesn't mean "selfish" at all. It means, instead, an extremely important quality for which there is no good word in the...