2016-06-01: The Society of Genes

The Society of Genes (2016)

by Itai Yanai () and Martin Lercher ()

This book has roots in two other books: The Selfish Gene (Dawkins) and The Society of Mind (Minsky). It addresses the manner in which genes within a genome cooperate and compete to enhance their survival. It starts from the notion that a gene’s entire “purpose” is to assure its replication. And it takes the approach pioneered by Minsky of grouping genes into “modules” that perform “functions” that, combined with the functions of complementary modules, magnify the efficacy of the genes acting alone, building the “survival machines” that actually perform the replication.

In the words of the promotional text on Harvard University Press website, it “uncovers genetic strategies of cooperation and competition at biological scales ranging from individual cells to entire species. It captures the way the genome works in cancer cells and Neanderthals, in sexual reproduction and the origin of life, always underscoring one critical point: that only by putting the interactions among genes at center stage can we appreciate the logic of life.”

I found the chapter on how to create cancer in eight easy steps particularly interesting. The information about how the immune system works in animals is also very interesting, as well as the corresponding functions in bacteria. The explanation of how sexual reproduction benefits evolution is complex, and interesting as well.

This is a book might purchase to place next to its two forebears. Although it doesn’t say much about memes, it illustrates them.



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