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The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene [Paperback]

Richard Dawkins
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 18 2003 0192880519 978-0192880512 New Edition
By the best selling author of The Selfish Gene 'This entertaining and thought-provoking book is an excellent illustration of why the study of evolution is in such an exciting ferment these days.' Science 'The Extended Phenotype is a sequel to The Selfish Gene . . . he writes so clearly it could be understood by anyone prepared to make the effort' John Maynard Smith, London Review of Books 'Dawkins is quite incapable of being boring this characteristically brilliant and stimulating book is original and provocative throughout, and immensely enjoyable.' G. A. Parker, Heredity 'The extended phenotype is certainly a big idea and it is pressed hard in dramatic language.' Sydney Brenner, Nature 'Richard Dawkins, our most radical Darwinian thinker, is also our best science writer.' Douglas Adams 'Dawkins is a superb communicator. His books are some of the best books ever written on science.' Megan Tressider, Guardian 'Dawkins is a genius of science popularization.' Mark Ridley, The Times

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The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene + The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary edition + Blind Watchmaker
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"The Extended Phenotype is a sequel to The Selfish Gene ... he writes so clearly it could be understood by anyone prepared to make the effort" -- John Maynard Smith, LRB

"This entertaining and thought-provoking book is an excellent illustration of why the study of evolution is in such an exciting ferment these days." -- Science

About the Author

Richard Dawkins is the first holder of Oxford's newly endowed Charles Simonyi Professorship of Public Understanding of Science. Born in Nairobi of British parents, Richard Dawkins was educated at Oxford and did his doctorate under the Nobel-prizewinning ethologist Niko Tinbergen. From 196769 he was an Assistant Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, then he returned to Oxford as University Lecturer (later Reader) and a Fellow of New College, before taking up his present position in 1995. Richard Dawkins's bestselling books have played a significant role in the renaissance of science book publishing for a general audience. The Selfish Gene (1976; second edition 1989) was followed by The Extended Phenotype (1982), The Blind Watchmaker (1986), River Out of Eden (1995), Climbing Mount Improbable (1996), and Unweaving the Rainbow (1998). He has won many literary and scientific awards.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dawkins does get it. Feb. 15 2003
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, some questionable reviews Aug. 18 2002
By Steve C
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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By Ben
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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By Dom
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, also very difficult July 8 2002
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book! Feb. 17 2009
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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A more subtle sequel to The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins tells you this his favourite book he has written, and in many ways is the culmination of his contribution to evolutionary biology. Read more
Published on June 25 2011 by bmk
1.0 out of 5 stars Why Will Dawkins not admit he's wrong
Dawkins refuses to let it go. Astrobiology and microbiology is pushing the final nail in the coffin of this ultra-Darwinist garbage. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, but a bit too technical for my taste.
I once bought this book at a university bookstore, but I later returned it. It was ok I guess, but a bit too technical for my tastes -- it's more something I'd rather check out... Read more
Published on March 12 2003 by "aaron_of_mpls"
2.0 out of 5 stars Dawkins: brilliant but dense reading
1) The fine print is hard on the eyes.
2) Dawkins' brilliant points are buried between tendentious rebuttals of criticism of his own prior works, and belabored claims of... Read more
Published on July 10 2002 by j. newcombe
1.0 out of 5 stars Pseudoscience
This book is a version of Dawkins previous book the Selfish Gene, which is supposed to be aimed at the scientific community, in stead of the general public. Why Mr. Read more
Published on March 19 2002 by Mohammad Nor Syamsu
4.0 out of 5 stars Circular reasoning
Since Charles Darwin, evolutionary theorists have been defending the common descent of all life. What is interesting to notice is that evolutionists don't really have hard evidence... Read more
Published on March 6 2002 by Jonatas Machado
5.0 out of 5 stars The trade secret of evolutionary theory
Emotions, intuitions and pre-understandings can be a part of the scienfic process, as long as they are stated clearly and publicly. Read more
Published on Oct. 4 2001 by Jonatas Machado
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