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History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 136–138 | Cite as

Frédéric Bouchard and Philippe Huneman, eds.: From groups to individuals. Evolution and emerging individuality

Cambridge, The MIT Press, 2013, ix + 278 pp. $55.00
  • Francisco J. Ayala
Book Review

“Individuality is conventionally thought to be a defining attribute of the organism, so much so that there is an assumed equivalence between the two: individuals exist as organisms, and organisms can only exist as individuals.” (p. 219, Scott Turner, “Social Insect Assemblage”).

Most biologists, as well as the public, will identify organisms with individuals; that is, organisms are the individuals in the world of life. Upon reflection, matters may not be so simple. Cells might be considered as genuine biological individuals. We know that cells can exist individually, such as bacteria and protozoa. Moreover, as Claude Bernard would have it already (1878), organisms may be seen as “instruments” at the service of cells, which are the “real” individuals. Come to think of it, what about genes? Richard Dawkins famously propounded (1976) that genes are the individual units that count; and so that genes are “selfish,” promoting their own interests, even at the expense of the cell or the...

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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