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The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene Paperback – Feb 18 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Edition edition (Feb. 18 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192880519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192880512
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 240 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By K. Curtin on Feb. 15 2003
Format: Paperback
One of the reviewers here claims that Dawkins doesn't get that evolution doesn't see individual genes, but only individual organisms. This person isn't getting Dawkins!! Dawkins is saying individuals are a products of complex genetic interplay and that the influence of genes (singly or in groups) can extend outside the individual. The individual-centric viewpoint is only a viewpoint.
In fact individuals are NOT selected by natural selection (all humans that have ever lived so far have eventually died!) GENES are selected -- albeit in groups since they reside together in an individual (this is their mini-environment)--though not permanently since recombination ensures genes will be shuffled regularly into new, though similar, micro-environments. My grandfathers genes live on -- though my grandfather is dead. Dawkins is repsenting a different viewpoint on GENETIC selection as he explains in the preface of the book. And it is a brilliant viewpoint. Genes have an influence on the world, that includes both the characterisitics and behaviors of individual organisms in which they reside as well as the behavior of organisms and artiftacts outside that individual. Really one of the great books in evolution.
Let me put it another way--Is a physicits wrong when he claims the desk I sit at is mostly empty space? Sure looks solid to me, I say. But at the micro-level the desk is indeed mostly empty space and if neurtrinos could talk they would surely attest to this fact. One has to open one's mind to see that Dawkin's gene-centric perspective is as valid as the old-fasioned model and indeed leads to new insights and illuminations. That's thw whole point of him presenting this view after all!!! Isn't that waht good theory is supposed to do?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steve C on Aug. 18 2002
Format: Paperback
This is science writing at its best. Dawkins goes further with his argument in favor of the gene-as-unit-of-selection to attack the traditional view of the individual as the unit of selection. Along with taking the reader on a tour through the facts and the state of research of modern evolutionary biology, this book is one of the best exhibits of writing persuasively - where persuasion falls out from the facts and theory presented, all the while being 100% intellectually honest...
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This is not as much a popular science book as it is the introduction of a new hypothesis. So if you are looking for a quick read look elsewhere.
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This book is not for the general public, especially the first 10 chapters. It get very technical sometime, even for a molecular biology student like me. So the first 10 chapters are more of a response to the critics of Dawkins first book (Selfish Gene), adresse to proffessional biologist. The real meat of the book is located in the last chapters, where example and definitions of extended phenotypes are given. Overall this will contribute greatly to your understanding of evolution (mainly the last part of the book), might even come handy in a biology exam, but I prefered the Selfish Gene. I understand why this is the book Dawkins is more proud of, because in this one he really develop an idea of his own (while the selfish gene was more of a compilation of different point of view)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Omer Belsky on July 8 2002
Format: Paperback
Richard Dawkins is one of the most interesting popular science writers working today, and usually his books are filled with insight and perception about evolution (and other topics), written in clear and effective prose. This book is different from most of Dawkins's books, as it targets biologists rather than laypeople, and so it is a much more frustrating and difficult reading for such readers.
Frankly, if you are, like me, a lay person, don't read this book before reading other books by Dawkins, most notably The Selfish Gene, but also other stuff by him. I doubt I would have understood this book had it been my introduction to Dawkins's ideas. The glossary, though helpful, is far from complete and rarely detailed enough.
But for all this, The Extended Phenotype is richer in observations and ideas then any other book by Dawkins I have ever read. Dawkins says this is his best book, and you can see that he has a point.
The book has three main themes. The first is discussion of left over issues from The Selfish Gene, answering criticism and elaborating on the ideas in that book. The second is clarifying some issues in discussion of evolution, such as replicators and vehicles, fitness, etc. The third one, and the one for which Dawkins is most proud is his 'Extended Phenotype' - the concept that genes operate on the enviornment, and that the body (the individual organism) is a link in the chain of orders passing from DNA to the external phenotype - beaver dams or host behaviour that helps the parasite, or any other activity that helps the genes.
Frankly, the concept of the extended phenotype is best explained in the chapter about 'The Long reach of the gene' in the new (1989) edition of 'The Selfish Gene'.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Volk #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Feb. 17 2009
Format: Paperback
The extended phenotype is a follow-up to Dawkin's greatest book, The Selfish Gene. Although most widely known for his attack on theology in The God Delusion, The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype are Dawkin's two best books by far.

As has been mentioned by other reviewers, the basic premise is that genes can influence organisms and even environments outside of their body. So a beaver can evolve genes for shaping the landscape (e.g., building a dam). It's a very clever idea, and it profoundly illustrates the power and importance of genes in evolution. As in The Selfish Gene, Dawkins backs up his assertions with plenty of evidence. The negative reviews are obviously from people who don't understand or agree with evolution because this book is a very solid piece of science.

This is a fantastic, must-read book for every student of evolution. For the average layperson, I'd recommend The Selfish Gene first, then this book. You'll never look at nature in the same way again!
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