The Society of Genes

The Society of Genes

Book - 2016
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Harvard University Press
Since Dawkins popularized the notion of the selfish gene, the question of how these selfish genes work together to construct an organism remained a mystery. Now, standing atop a wealth of new research, Itai Yanai and Martin Lercher—pioneers in the field of systems biology—provide a vision of how genes cooperate and compete in the struggle for life.

Nearly four decades ago Richard Dawkins published The Selfish Gene, famously reducing humans to “survival machines” whose sole purpose was to preserve “the selfish molecules known as genes.” How these selfish genes work together to construct the organism, however, remained a mystery. Standing atop a wealth of new research, The Society of Genes now provides a vision of how genes cooperate and compete in the struggle for life.

Pioneers in the nascent field of systems biology, Itai Yanai and Martin Lercher present a compelling new framework to understand how the human genome evolved and why understanding the interactions among our genes shifts the basic paradigm of modern biology. Contrary to what Dawkins’s popular metaphor seems to imply, the genome is not made of individual genes that focus solely on their own survival. Instead, our genomes comprise a society of genes which, like human societies, is composed of members that form alliances and rivalries.

In language accessible to lay readers, The Society of Genes 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.

Baker & Taylor
Two system biologists update the theory by Richard Dawkins that suggested that the singular, motivating drive of a gene was to survive, by showing that genomes are made of groups of genes that form alliances and rivalries and function like human societies.

Book News
Characterizing a genome as a conglomerate of selfish genes held together by an intricate network of cooperation, Yanai and Lercher tell the story of the society of genes, of the triumphs and failures of the members and their eternal conflicts and partnerships. The topics include evolving cancer in eight easy steps, the point of having sex, promiscuous genes in a complex society, a secret life in the shadows, and life's unwinnable war against freeloaders. Annotation ©2016 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, 2016
ISBN: 9780674425026
Branch Call Number: 576.5 Y15s 2016
Characteristics: x, 282 pages ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Lercher, Martin 1967-


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Jun 24, 2017

A fascinating look into the complexities of gene development underbthe pressure of natural selection.


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