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For the interests of paternally- and maternally-derived genes will indeed diverge, particularly if the species cannot boast a history of unalloyed female monogamy (which no species can). And one divergence arises because maternally-derived genes will be in all the future offspring of that mother whereas paternally-derived genes might be in none. Now imagine, too, that the mother provides generous nutrients inside her body for the fertilized egg; so the entire burden of care is on her and the father is absolved.

12 Second, why are malaria parasites killing so few people? Our experimental work shows that virulent strains have a fitness advantage; something is stopping them spreading. The chance of an African being killed by a single dose of malaria parasites is less than 1 per cent. Why should mutant parasites running a 2 per cent risk not spread? A selfish gene perspective naturally begs such questions and, as Dawkins showed so clearly thirty years ago, provides a means to answer them. For malaria, some selection pressure is keeping the lid on transmission and virulence.

Dawkins’ role in creating a new genre of science writing is assessed. And to conclude the collection, Philip Pullman, who has himself inspired millions of readers through his works of fiction, pays an eloquent tribute to a fellow writer. As editors, we hope this volume will give valuable insights into the range of work in disparate fields that has been inspired by Dawkins’ writings, and demonstrate the extent of his influence. Several of the essays are themselves significant contributions to the scientific debate and should provide pause for thought for professional biologist and general reader alike.

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