At any rate, Dobb’s goal is several fold. First, he wants to claim that the metaphor of the selfish gene is wrong. Second, he wants to show that it’s wrong because new understanding of gene regulation—how genes turn on and off during development—render the selfish gene metaphor passé. Finally, he claims that a new theory, that of “genetic accommodation,” relegates much of conventional evolutionary theory to the dustbin, for the new theory deposes the centrality of the gene in favor of the centrality of the environment and its nongenetic effects on development. I’ll deal with the first two issues today, and the third tomorrow.
All three of these claims are wrong.
Jerry Coyne responding to David Dobb’s Aeon piece on the defectiveness of the selfish gene metaphor that I linked to yesterday. This is the first of a two part response.
Reading it, I’m starting to suspect some of this may be an argument over semantics. Genes aren’t the whole story. Gene expression is critical, but gene expression comes from…other genes and DNA components.
I commented yesterday that I thought calling the selfish gene metaphor invalid was an overstatement. It looks like Coyne is hammering on the details of that overstatement.