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The influence of viruses on life on Earth, though, goes far beyond the past and present tragedies of a single species, however pressing they seem. Though the study of viruses began as an investigation into what appeared to be a strange subset of pathogens, recent research puts them at the heart of an explanation of the strategies of genes, both selfish and otherwise.


  1. What is the subject of "both selfish and otherwise", and why is there a comma?

  2. What does "tragedies of a single species" refer to?

article link : https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/08/22/how-viruses-shape-the-world

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An example of "tragedy of a single species" is the pain caused in humans by the deaths of their fellows in the covid pandemic, something very important to them, but not very significant in the history of life on earth.

The phrase "both selfish and otherwise" is an adjunct phrase (meaning it can be removed from the sentence without making it ungrammatical). It modifies the word "genes". It is set off by a comma because it is an adjunct.

The word "selfish" is a reference to a book by Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene", and his characterization of how genes seem to work selfishly.

Wikipedia "The Selfish Gene"

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