The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Popular Science)

BOOK: The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Popular Science)
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The Extended Phenotype

Richard Dawkins
is the first holder of Oxford’s newly endowed Charles Simonyi Professorship of Public Understanding of Science. Born in Nairobi of British parents, Richard Dawkins was educated at Oxford and did his doctorate under the Nobel prize-winning ethologist Niko Tinbergen. From 1967 to 1969 he was an Assistant Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, then he returned to Oxford as University Lecturer (later Reader) and a Fellow of New College, before taking up his present position in 1995.

Richard Dawkins’s bestselling books have played a significant role in the renaissance of science book publishing for a general audience.
The Selfish Gene
(1976; second edition 1989) was followed by
The Extended Phenotype
The Blind Watchmaker
River Out of Eden
Climbing Mount Improbable
(1996), and
Unweaving the Rainbow
(1998). In 1991 he gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. He has won many literary and scientific awards, including the 1987 Royal Society of Literature Award, the 1990 Michael Faraday Award of the Royal Society, the 1994 Nakayama Prize for Human Science, and the 1997 International Cosmos Prize.

Daniel Dennett
is Distinguished Arts and Sciences Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. His first book,
Content and Consciousness
, appeared in 1969, followed by
Elbow Room
The Intentional Stance
Consciousness Explained
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
(1995), and
Kinds of Minds
(1996). He co-edited
The Mind’s I
with Douglas Hofstadter in 1981. He is the author of over a hundred scholarly articles on various aspects of the mind, published in journals ranging from
Artificial Intelligence
Behavioural and Brain Sciences
Poetics Today
and the
Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism
. His most recent book is
Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds
(MIT Press and Penguin, 1998).

The Extended Phenotype

The Long Reach of the Gene

Richard Dawkins

With a new afterword by Daniel Dennett

Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford
2 6

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Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press

Published in the United States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York

© Richard Dawkins 1982, 1999

Afterword © Daniel Dennett 1999

First published 1982

Revised edition with new Afterword and Further Reading 1999

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ISBN 0–19–288051–9

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The first chapter does some of the work of a Preface, in explaining what the book does and does not set out to accomplish, so I can be brief here. It is not a textbook, nor an introduction to an established field. It is a personal look at the evolution of life, and in particular at the logic of natural selection and the level in the hierarchy of life at which natural selection can be said to act. I happen to be an ethologist, but I hope preoccupations with animal behaviour will not be too noticeable. The intended scope of the book is wider.

The readers for whom I am mainly writing are my professional colleagues, evolutionary biologists, ethologists and sociobiologists, ecologists, and philosophers and humanists interested in evolutionary science, including, of course, graduate and undergraduate students in all these disciplines. Therefore, although this book is in some ways the sequel to my previous book,
The Selfish Gene
, it assumes that the reader has professional knowledge of evolutionary biology and its technical terms. On the other hand it is possible to enjoy a professional book as a spectator, even if not a participant in the profession. Some laypeople who read this book in draft have been kind enough, or polite enough, to claim to have liked it. It would give me great satisfaction to believe them, and I have added a glossary of technical terms which I hope may help. I have also tried to make the book as near as possible to being enjoyable to read. The resulting tone may possibly irritate some serious professionals. I very much hope not, because serious professionals are the primary audience to whom I wish to speak. It is as impossible to please everybody in literary style as it is in any other matter of taste, and styles that give the most positive pleasure to some people are often the most annoying to others.

Certainly the tone of the book is not conciliatory or apologetic—such is not the way of an advocate that sincerely believes in his case—and I must pack all apology into the Preface. Some of the earlier chapters reply to criticisms of my previous book, which might recur in response to the present
one. I am sorry that this is necessary, and I am sorry if a note of exasperation creeps in from time to time. I trust, at least, that my exasperation remains good humoured. It is necessary to point to past misunderstandings and try to forestall their repetition, but I would not wish to give an aggrieved impression that misunderstanding has been widespread. It has been confined to numerically very limited quarters, but in some cases rather vocal ones. I am grateful to my critics for forcing me to think again about how to express difficult matters more clearly.

I apologize to readers who may find a favourite and relevant work missing from the bibliography. There are those capable of comprehensively and exhaustively surveying the literature of a large field, but I have never been able to understand how they manage it. I know that the examples I have cited are a small subset of those that could have been cited, and are sometimes the writings or recommendations of my friends. If the result appears biased, well, of course it is biased, and I am sorry. I think nearly everybody must be somewhat biased in this kind of way.

A book inevitably reflects the current preoccupations of the author, and these preoccupations are likely to have been among the topics of his most recent papers. When those papers are so recent that it would be an artificial contrivance to change the words, I have not hesitated to reproduce a paragraph almost verbatim here and there. These paragraphs, which will be found in
Chapters 4
, are an integral part of the message of this book, and to omit them would be just as artificial as to make gratuitous changes in their wording.

The opening sentence of
Chapter 1
describes the book as a work of unabashed advocacy but, well, perhaps I am just a little bit abashed! Wilson (1975, pp. 28–29) has rightly castigated the ‘advocacy method’ in any search for scientific truth, and I have therefore devoted some of my first chapter to a plea of mitigation. I certainly would not want science to adopt the legal system in which professional advocates make the best case they can for a position, even if they believe it to be false. I believe deeply in the view of life that this book advocates, and have done so, at least in part, for a long time, certainly since the time of my first published paper, in which I characterized adaptations as favouring ‘the survival of the animal’s genes …’ (Dawkins 1968). This belief—that if adaptations are to be treated as ‘for the good of’ something, that something is the gene—was the fundamental assumption of my previous book. The present book goes further. To dramatize it a bit, it attempts to free the selfish gene from the individual organism which has been its conceptual prison. The phenotypic effects of a gene are the tools by which it levers itself into the next generation, and these tools may ‘extend’ far outside the body in which the gene sits, even reaching deep into the nervous systems of other organisms. Since it is not a factual position I am advocating, but a way of seeing facts, I wanted to warn the reader not to expect
‘evidence’ in the normal sense of the word. I announced that the book was a work of advocacy, because I was anxious not to disappoint the reader, not to lead her on under false pretences and waste her time.

The linguistic experiment of the last sentence reminds me that I wish I had had the courage to instruct the computer to feminize personal pronouns at random throughout the text. This is not only because I admire the current awareness of the masculine bias in our language. Whenever I write I have a particular imaginary reader in mind (different imaginary readers oversee and ‘filter’ the same passage in numerous successive revisions) and at least half my imaginary readers are, like at least half my friends, female. Unfortunately it is still true in English that the unexpectedness of a feminine pronoun, where a neutral meaning is intended, seriously distracts the attention of most readers, of either sex. I believe the experiment of the previous paragraph will substantiate this. With regret, therefore, I have followed the standard convention in this book.

For me, writing is almost a social activity, and I am grateful to the many friends who have, sometimes unwittingly, participated through discussion, argument and moral support. I cannot thank them all by name. Marian Stamp Dawkins has not only provided sensitive and knowledgeable criticism of the whole book in several drafts. She has also kept me going by believing in the project even through the times when I lost my own confidence. Alan Grafen and Mark Ridley, officially my graduate students, really, in their different ways, my mentors and guides through difficult theoretical territory, have influenced the book immeasurably. In the first draft their names seemed to creep in on almost every page, and it was only the pardonable grumblings of a referee that compelled me to banish to the Preface my acknowledgment of debt to them. Cathy Kennedy manages to combine close friendship for me with deep sympathy for my bitterest critics. This has put her in a unique position to advise me, especially over the earlier chapters which attempt to reply to criticism. I fear that she will still not like the tone of these chapters, but such improvement as there may be is largely due to her influence and I am very grateful to her.

BOOK: The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Popular Science)
5.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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