Gene - Evolutionary Concept of A Gene

Evolutionary Concept of A Gene

George C. Williams first explicitly advocated the gene-centric view of evolution in his 1966 book Adaptation and Natural Selection. He proposed an evolutionary concept of gene to be used when we are talking about natural selection favoring some genes. The definition is: "that which segregates and recombines with appreciable frequency." According to this definition, even an asexual genome could be considered a gene, insofar that it have an appreciable permanency through many generations.

The difference is: the molecular gene transcribes as a unit, and the evolutionary gene inherits as a unit.

Richard Dawkins' books The Selfish Gene (1976) and The Extended Phenotype (1982) defended the idea that the gene is the only replicator in living systems. This means that only genes transmit their structure largely intact and are potentially immortal in the form of copies. So, genes should be the unit of selection. In The Selfish Gene Dawkins attempts to redefine the word 'gene' to mean "an inheritable unit" instead of the generally accepted definition of "a section of DNA coding for a particular protein". In River Out of Eden, Dawkins further refined the idea of gene-centric selection by describing life as a river of compatible genes flowing through geological time. Scoop up a bucket of genes from the river of genes, and we have an organism serving as temporary bodies or survival machines. A river of genes may fork into two branches representing two non-interbreeding species as a result of geographical separation.

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