In his role as an ethologist interested in animal

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out-propagate each other". In his role as an ethologist, interested in animal behaviour and its relation to natural selection, he advocates the idea that the gene is the principal unit of selection in evolution . Dawkins has consistently been sceptical about non-adaptive processes in evolution (such as spandrels , described by Gould and Lewontin ) and about selection at levels "above" that of the gene. He is particularly sceptical about the practical possibility or importance of group selection as a basis for understanding altruism . [30] This behaviour appears at first to be an evolutionary paradox, since helping others costs precious resources and decreases one's own fitness . Previously, many had interpreted this as an aspect of group selection: individuals were doing what was best for the survival of the population or species as a whole, and not specifically for themselves. British evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton had used the gene-centred view to explain altruism in terms of inclusive fitness and kin selection − that individuals behave altruistically toward their close relatives, who share many of their own genes. [31] [a] Similarly, Robert Trivers , thinking in terms of the gene-centred model, developed the theory of reciprocal altruism , whereby one organism provides a benefit to another in the expectation of future reciprocation. [32] Dawkins popularised these ideas in The Selfish Gene , and developed them in his own work. [33]
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