Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 461–479 | Cite as

The strategic gene

  • David Haig


Gene-selectionists define fundamental terms in non-standard ways. Genes are determinants of difference. Phenotypes are defined as a gene’s effects relative to some alternative whereas the environment is defined as all parts of the world that are shared by the alternatives being compared. Environments choose among phenotypes and thereby choose among genes. By this process, successful gene sequences become stores of information about what works in the environment. The strategic gene is defined as a set of gene tokens that combines ‘actor’ tokens responsible for an effect with ‘recipient’ tokens whose replication is thereby enhanced. This set of tokens can extend across the boundaries of individual organisms, or other levels of selection, as these are traditionally defined.


Gene selectionism Environment Phenotype Developmental systems theory Multi-level selection Strategic gene Relatedness 



Daniel Dennett, Steve Frank, Andy Gardner, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Kim Sterelny and the Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things discussion group made helpful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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