To: Joe Morlan 931109 11:02:56 Subject: SELFISH GENES In 1976 Richard Dawkins (Prof of Zoo

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From: Howard Olson To: Joe Morlan 93-11-09 11:02:56 Subject: SELFISH GENES In 1976 Richard Dawkins (Prof of Zoology, Oxford) wrote a book titled : THE SELFISH GENE (a second edition ,which I have not read , was published recently). Dawkins was concerned about emphasizing that the only true individual is the individual DNA molecule and that is what selection acts on. I have reservations about this because I believe the whole organism or rather,its phenotype, is what interacts with the environment. The latter is a typical response for a biologist but Dawkins stature, largely enhanced by this fascinating book, precludes such a dismissal by the conventional wisdom of biology. He is intellectually supported by Francis Crick, the Nobel-Prizewinning co- discoverer of DNA structure who wrote a terrific article in 1980 in Nature entitled "Selfish DNA". Crick and Dawkins both believe that a large percentage of the DNA in our genome (as well as that of other species) which all biologists agree has no function is really a parasite or "Selfish DNA". This they regard as the strongest evidence that the single gene is the unit of selection. In Virology, the application and validity are obvious since we all probably evolved from RNA genomes not unlike viruses except that they may have been free living rather than cellular (there were no cells). But because many biologists still believe the phenotype is the REAL individual there is some controversy. I'd love to discuss this more with you, Joe but my time limit is running out. Hopefully, we can continue later. Howard

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