Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 377–403 | Cite as

The extended replicator

  • Kim Sterelny
  • Kelly C. Smith
  • Michael Dickison


This paper evaluates and criticises the developmental systems conception of evolution and develops instead an extension of the “gene's eye” conception of evolution. We argue (i) Dawkin's attempt to segregate developmental and evolutionary issues about genes is unsatisfactory. On plausible views of development it is arbitrary to single out genes as the units of selection. (ii) The genotype does not carry information about the phenotype in any way that distinguishes the role of the genes in development from that other factors. (iii) There is no simple and general causal criterion which distinguishes the role of genes in development and evolution. (iv) There is, however, an important sense in which genes but not every other developmental factor represent the phenotype. (v) The idea that genes represent features of the phenotype forces us to recognise that genes are not the only, or almost the only, replicators. Many mechanisms of replication are involved in both development and evolution. (vi) A conception of evolutionary history which recognises both genetic and non-genetic replicators, lineages of replicators and interactors has advantages over both the radical rejection of the replicator/interactor distinction and the conservative restriction of replication to genetic replication.

Key words

development developmental systems gene genetic information evolution information inheritance interactor Lamarck Meme replicator selection unit of selection vehicle Weismann 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Sterelny
    • 1
  • Kelly C. Smith
    • 2
  • Michael Dickison
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyTrenton State CollegeTrentonN.J.
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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