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27+ quotes from The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

Quotes from The Selfish Gene

Richard Dawkins ·  360 pages

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“Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop being true.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Individuals are not stable things, they are fleeting. Chromosomes too are shuffled into oblivion, like hands of cards soon after they are dealt. But the cards themselves survive the shuffling. The cards are the genes. The genes are not destroyed by crossing-over, they merely change partners and march on. Of course they march on. That is their business. They are the replicators and we are their survival machines. When we have served our purpose we are cast aside. But genes are denizens of geological time: genes are forever.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“You can make some inferences about a man's character if you know something about the conditions in which he has survived and prospered.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Any altruistic system is inherently unstable, because it is open to abuse by selfish individuals, ready to exploit it.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Was there to be any end to the gradual improvement in the techniques and artifices used by the replicators to ensure their own continuation in the world? There would be plenty of time for improvement. What weird engines of self-preservation would the millennia bring forth? Four thousand million years on, what was to be the fate of the ancient replicators?

They did not die out, for they are past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea; they gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control.

They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are all born selfish.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Perhaps consciousness arises when the brain's simulation of the world becomes so complex that it must include a model of itself.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme's propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Presumably there is indeed no purpose in the ultimate fate of the cosmos, but do any of us really tie our life's hopes to the ultimate fate of the cosmos anyway? Of course we don't; not if we are sane. Our lives are ruled by all sorts of closer, warmer, human ambitions and perceptions.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“The rabbit runs faster than the fox, because the rabbit is running for his life while the fox is only running for his dinner.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“A retaliator behaves like a hawk when he is attacked by a hawk, and like a dove when he meets a dove. When he meets another retaliator he plays like a dove. A retaliator is a conditional strategist. His behaviour depends on the behaviour of his opponent.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Many of us shrink from judicial execution of even the most horrible human criminals, while we cheerfully countenance the shooting without trial of fairly mild animal pests. Indeed we kill members of other harmless species as a means of recreation and amusement. A human foetus, with no more human feeling than an amoeba, enjoys a reverence and legal protection far in excess of those granted to an adult chimpanzee. Yet the chimp feels and thinks and — according to recent experimental evidence — may even be capable of learning a form of human language.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Human suffering has been caused because too many of us cannot grasp that words are only tools for our use.

The mere presence in the dictionary of a word like 'living' does not mean it necessarily has to refer to something definite in the real world.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“We are survival machines-robot vehicles blindly programmer to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment. Though I have known it for years, I never seem to get fully used to it.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“I am an enthusiastic Darwinian, but I think Darwinism is too big a theory to be confined to the narrow context of the gene.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“For more than three thousand million years, DNA has been the only replicator worth talking about in the world. But it does not necessarily hold these monopoly rights for all time. Whenever conditions arise in which a new kind of replicator can make copies of itself, the new replicators will tend to take over, and start a new kind of evolution of their own.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Different sorts of survival machine appear very varied on the outside and in their internal organs. An octopus is nothing like a mouse, and both are quite different from an oak tree. Yet in their fundamental chemistry they are rather uniform, and, in particular, the replicators that they bear, the genes, are basically the same kind of molecule in all of us—from bacteria to elephants. We are all survival machines for the same kind of replicator—molecules called DNA— but there are many different ways of making a living in the world, and the replicators have built a vast range of machines to exploit them. A monkey is a machine that preserves genes up trees, a fish is a machine that preserves genes in the water; there is even a small worm that preserves genes in German beer mats. DNA works in mysterious ways.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“If there is a human moral to be drawn, it is that we must teach our children altruism, for we cannot expect it to be part of their biological nature.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Chance" is just a word expressing ignorance”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“It is hard to believe that this simple truth is not understood by those leaders who forbid their followers to use effective contraceptive methods. They express a preference for 'natural' methods of population limitation, and a natural method is exactly what they are going to get. It is called starvation.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“There is bound to be variation in the population of males in their predisposition to be faithful husbands. If females could recognize such qualities in advance, they could benefit themselves by choosing males possessing them. One way for a female to do this is to play hard to get for a long time, to be coy. Any male who is not patient enough to wait until the female eventually consents to copulate is not likely to be a good bet as a faithful husband.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


“Relatives share a substantial proportion of their genes. Each selfish gene therefore has its loyalties divided between different bodies.”
― Richard Dawkins, quote from The Selfish Gene


About the author

Richard Dawkins
Born place: in Nairobi, Kenya
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