The Eager Gene, and the Symphony

Science and Belief

© Daniela Corno, © Daniela Corno,

I recently heard a new metaphor for the gene. Although this phrase was coined by a physicist*, I think it’s an interesting one. The concept of ‘The Eager Gene’ comes from Andrew Steane, Professor of Physics at Oxford University, in his book Faithful to Science (see previous blog).

Steane writes that “Genes are, of course, inanimate molecules, having no eagerness or moral capacity, but

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One thought on “The Eager Gene, and the Symphony

  1. Thanks to Ruth Bancewicz for this post from her Science and Belief blog at I have some questions… Steane is quick to point out that genes do not have moral agency. Can we broaden to that to ask in what sense they have intentional agency of any sort? My layman’s picture is that they just get and do what genes get on and do, and if their action and the environment around them, including the actions of other genes and organisms, results in their survival, they keep on getting and doing, and may propagate if conditions are favourable, or have mutations that survive and propagate better. So in what sense are they “eager”? Evolutionary biology in particular does, though, seem drawn to these sort of metaphors. Is that telling us something deeper about the nature of the material they are working with, that intentionality and even purpose and even morality are a good and natural fit with it. And that under the skin may even be part of what is going on?

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