Book Synopsis on “The Selfish Gene” Essay Sample

Book Synopsis on “The Selfish Gene” Pages
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The book The Selfish Gene is about the acts of species and how they can affect what the next generations may act more like. Animals that act altruistically and sacrifice themselves for their own can’t pass on their behaviors. Animals that act selfishly and continue living can pass on their selfish acts. Our genes can tell us to act selfishly; we don’t need to obey though. A gene is defined as a part of a chromosome, the size undefined, in this book. It is described how life might have come along. There were atoms that kept combining with other atoms to create molecules called The Replicators. The replicators would, as the name states, replicate multiple times with possible mistakes and create new things eventually.

The book focuses on selfishness being passed on through the gene and individual animal level rather than the group level. A whole gene is usually not passed down through generations. A miniscule part of a gene/chromosome can be passed down through many generations. The smaller the gene, the more likely it is to passed through many generations. The gene is not exactly a physical piece of DNA, but rather a primeval soup that has replicas all around the world.

In natural selection the fittest survive, and that is usually those who are selfish and don’t sacrifice for the good of the group, however those that are selfless can thrive. Although behavior isn’t exactly passed on through genetics, the acts are observed or some can just be ‘nice’. The genes are protected in ‘survival machines’ that protect them from the outside world. The survival machines carry the genes through generations letting them live on for a long time. An organism is the ‘survival machine’ it mentions in the book. Quotes

1. “A gene is defined as any portion of chromosomal material that potentially lasts for enough generations to serve as a unit of natural selection” (page 50) The reason I choose this quote is because I never thought of a gene lasting for generations. I thought that a gene was a part of a chromosome that is paired with another gene in reproduction. 2. “They could herald the benignant idea that, even with selfish genes at the helm, nice guys can finish first.” (page 255) The reason I choose this quote is because I thought it was quite interesting that the selfless can finish first if they sacrifice themselves for others while the selfish stay alive at the expense of others.

1. What is a gene exactly if it isn’t a physical part of a chromosome? He didn’t explain very clearly to me, it was confusing.
2. How is a characteristic passed down in genes?
I have always learned that behaviors can’t be passed down through genetics, they are observed. He didn’t explain it clearly. 3. How are organisms ‘survival machines’ for genes if a lot of them don’t survive and get passed down through generations? It confuses me because organism are said to be needed to help genes survive and continue down through generations. It doesn’t help a huge amount of genes is a single organism. 4. How does the example of ‘gang members’ help to define how genes and selfishness work? I don’t understand how gang members represent how genes and selfishness thrive. 5. How did the replicator cause a population of many different organisms to exist? I still don’t understand how a single atom can create so many things. The way the author explains things is a little hard to comprehend.

Relationship to Biology
In Biology genes are very important when you discuss evolution, reproduction, or the attributes of an organism that help it to evolve, adaptation. When you want to talk about how an animal has long legs and they help the creature to survive, the genes caused the animal to have long legs. Why does someone have blue eyes or brown hair? Genes decide what organisms look like. Genes are very common in Biology because genes deal a lot with evolution. The fittest with the best adapted genes are the ones who are able to reproduce and pass their genes on.


Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. (30 Anniversary ed., p. 381). Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.

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