Questions: The Selfish Gene

Chapter 1:

(1) What is the basic argument of the book and what do Chicago gangsters have to do with it?
(2) What 3 things is the book not about?
(3) What are the definitions of altruisitic and selfish used in the book?
(4) Give some examples of selfish and altruistic behaviors in animals that Dawkins argues can be explained by selfish genes.
(5) Why is evolution not about doing things that are “good for the species?”

Chapter 2:

(1) What is meant by survival of stable?
(2) Describe Dawkin’s account of the origin of life?
(3) What is the replicator?
(4) What is significance of mistakes (mutations) in replication?
(5) Discuss the importance of: copy fidelity, longevity, and fecundity.
(6) What is a survival machine?

Chapter 4

(1) Discuss the program/computer; gene/human analogy when it comes to behavior.
(2) How do genes “predict” future environmental conditions?
(3) Why don’t genes directly control immediate behavior?
(4) How might simulation be a survival advantage for genes?
(5) How might communication serve selfish genetic interests?

Chapter 5

(1) Why might animals refrain from killing one another?
(2) What is an evolutionary stable strategy? What does it have to do with how many “hawks” and “doves” might be in a population?
(3) Take us through the “payoff” logic adoping a “hawk” or “dove” strategy.
(4) How might the “hawk/dove” scenario apply to humans?
(5) Discuss the conditional strategies: retaliator, bully, and probe-realiator. Which are evolutionarily stable?
(6) Describe the evolution of the “poker face.”
(7) Why are residents and intruders considered an example of an asymmetric contest?
(8) How can memory affect the competitive strategies organisms use (origins of the dominance hierarchy)?

Chapter 6

(1) What is the green beard effect?
(2) What is an index of relatedness, and how might it be relevant to how organisms behave toward one another?
(3) What is kin selection?
(4) If animals (including ourselves generally) cannot calculate relatedness functions, then how do we (our genes actually) use kin selection, and what does this have to do with racial prejudice or adoption?
(5) How do some creatures (cuckoos, for example) take advange of kin-selection “mistakes?”
(6) In what ways does kin selection apply to humans and human behavior?

Chapter 7

(1) Why is a pure caring (as opposed to bearing) of children strategy not evolutionarily stable?
(2) Why must caring and bearing of children be considered two distinct issues from the point of view of selfish genes and how does this explain limitations on the number of births a female might have? Consider Lack’s work on clutch sizes here.
(3) Describe how territoriality and dominance hieracharies place restraints on individual reproduction. How can this be explained using selfish gene theory as opposed to a group slection approach?

Chapter 8

(1) What is parental investment? How can it explain such things as weening, treatment of runts, and the treatment of different aged offspring? Do humans do this?
(2) According to selfish gene theory why do women and not men go through menopause?
(3) What is parent-offspring conflict?
(4) Why might a newly hatched baby bird toss out the other unhatched eggs in the nest?
(5) Why might children whine and cry and why might parents be skeptical of whining and crying?

Chapter 9

(1) Define male and female from a biological point of view.
(2) Why might we expect a population to have about equal numbers of males and females?
(3) How does gamete size affect parental investment?
(4) Why might either males or females find an advantage in deserting the other after the birth of a child?
(5) Contrast the “domestic bliss” (or coy) with the “he-man” or fast strategy.
(6) Constrast the faithful and philandering strategies.
(7) How do the different strategies adopted by males and females affect one another? What strategies (or combinations) or evolutionarily stable?
(8) What is sexual selection and the handicap principle? Any examples of these in humans?
(9) Are humans monogamous by biological design?

Chapter 10

(1) Describe the geometry of the selfish herd
(2) Describe how kin-selection, cave theory, and “never-break-ranks” theory explain why one member of group might warn others of danger. How are each of these in keeping with selfish genes?
(3) Why do gazelles stot? How is it selfish?
(4) Describe the genetics of the social insects. Genetically, are the workers slaves to the queen or is the queen a breeding slave of the workers? Are workers altruistic becase they forgo reproduction?
(5) Describe slavery among the insects.
(6) What are suckers, cheats, and grudgers? How do they far when operating together in population?

Chapter 11

(1) What is a meme and in what ways does it function like a gene?
(2) How does Dawkins use the meme concept to explain the idea of God and blind faith?
(3) In what way are humans unique compared to all other creatures on earth according to Dawkins.