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Gene-centered view of evolution

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The gene-centered view of evolution is the idea that natural selection acts on individual genes via their phenotypes, thus segregating the most proficient genes for propagation.


The "old world" view of Darwinian natural selection is that the fittest organisms are punched through, with little explanation as to why or how (other than they are the most useful/best adapted). The problem with this theory is that offspring are often as different as unrelated members of the species. The gene-centered view of evolution attempts to resolve the mystery as to why some alleles make it while others don't by looking at the segregation of genes over time. There is a rowers analogy that one can use to understand this concept, but it is best taken head-on.

Attempt of explanation[edit]

Rather than look at the organism as a whole, this view holds that it is better to look at the benefit of each gene individually. This view also holds that the best genes will segregate by virtue of natural selection, thus creating the best organism for the conglomeration of genes provided. As lesser genes die off and are taken over by the fittest, the organism, as a whole, becomes more fit for survival.


The gene-centered view of evolution arose in part out of attempts to explain the evolution of altruism and sociality among various animals including humans. Nothing in Darwin's original hypotheses about natural and sexual selection explains, for example, why worker bees would die defending the hive. The fact that the bees are sisters or half-sisters born of the same queen means that each bee in the hive shares most of her genes with her sister bees. One approach is the gene-centered view. The altruistic behavior of the bees does the individual insect no good, but allows the genetic lineage to continue.

See also[edit]