J. Arvid Ågren’s “The Gene’s-Eye View of Evolution”

Daniel James Sharp in Areo:

An Oxford undergraduate once wrote a brilliant answer to an exam question about the logic of natural selection, ending with the statement: “And here I rely heavily on the words of Richard Dawkins.” When the exam marker, one Marian Stamp Dawkins, noticed this, she wrote in the margin of the paper: “Yes. Don’t we all?”

J. Arvid Ågren relates this anecdote (originally told by Stamp Dawkins herself) in his recent book, The Gene’s-Eye View of Evolution—and he notes how apt it is: Richard Dawkins has had an enormous influence on evolutionary biology since the 1976 publication of his first book, The Selfish Gene (critics and supporters both agree with this—they just differ over whether it is a good thing). The Selfish Gene explains and argues for the gene’s-eye view: the idea that natural selection can best be understood as taking place at the level of the gene, rather than at the level of the individual organism, group or species.

And yet, there has been no recent comprehensive overview until now of the gene’s-eye view that Dawkins did so much to extend and popularise. Thank goodness for Ågren, then: as he notes, evolution is our modern creation story and the gene’s-eye view “strikes right at the heart of the question of what evolution is, and how we go about studying it.”

More here.