Genes synthesize only proteins[ edit ] A cathedral termite mound — a small animal with a large extended phenotype Dawkins argues that the only thing that genes control directly is the synthesis of proteins. The first is the capacity of animals to modify their environment using architectural constructions. Dawkins cited as examples caddis houses and beaver dams. The second is manipulating other organisms.
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Start your review of The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene Write a review Shelves: favorites If youre keen on understanding the marvelous artifacts of animal intelligence, this is a must read. Have you ever, while plumb blown in the creek on lead-tainted moonshine pissed from a noisy radiator, grew irate while watching a spider craft a beautiful web and systematically took a sledge hammer to all the toilets in your house, while screaming: Competence without comprehension makes me sick!?
Well, that mightve been a tad bit of an overreaction, even if your heart was in the right place. This is a continuation of The Elfish Dean which concerns itself with extending that concept to better understand how Beavers can be such good engineers without attending classes. How termites, obeying relatively simple local rules, can work together to construct magnificent castles. How spiders can weave silk tapestries of such intense beauty that you wake up to a house riven by porcelain shrapnel.
And how bees can construct hives of such exacting dimensions as to ensnare that bastard Pooh yet again. For my money, although far less accessible than The Shellfish Gene, this little ditty contains the most exciting ideas that Mr. Dawkins has produced since being urinated upon by Nagapies in sub-Saharan Africa citation needed. And he agrees. This book seeks to expand the Neo-Darwinian synthesis to include not only how genes encode the instructions for producing bodies, the phenotype , but also how they instill instinctual competencies, which instruct parasitic behaviors, catalyze evolutionary arms races, inform mating strategies, and facilitate the construction of fitness enhancing artifacts external to the organism extended phenotype.
This last bit, seeing the reach of the gene pushed beyond its normal purview of the physical body, is a real humdinger, and, if taken fully on board, constitutes a paradigmatic panty annihilation. Unfortunately, a fair amount of the book is dedicated to beating recalcitrant ideologues about the neck and chest for their wishy washy objections. The barest whiff of genetic determinism, and the most timid formulations of evolutionary psychology, send people tumbling down slippery slopes and into seizures of unreason.
Perhaps understandably, given how perverse incentives have motivated bad actors to alloy theories of this kind with bullshit political dogmas. Lucky for our species that, heretical though they may seem at the time, there exist people who are not satisfied with the low hanging fruit of our wishful preconceptions, and reach instead for truer approximations of the reality we inhabit.
But it would be much more difficult if written by anyone else. Dawkins possesses an unparalleled talent for making head scratching topics fully explicable to knuckle heads like me. He is the best writer of popular science since Sagan. Pulverize your commodes with this book!
The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene