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The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary edition Paperback – Apr 15 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 15 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199291152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199291151
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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Inheriting the mantle of revolutionary biologist from Darwin, Watson, and Crick, Richard Dawkins forced an enormous change in the way we see ourselves and the world with the publication of The Selfish Gene. Suppose, instead of thinking about organisms using genes to reproduce themselves, as we had since Mendel's work was rediscovered, we turn it around and imagine that "our" genes build and maintain us in order to make more genes. That simple reversal seems to answer many puzzlers which had stumped scientists for years, and we haven't thought of evolution in the same way since.

Why are there miles and miles of "unused" DNA within each of our bodies? Why should a bee give up its own chance to reproduce to help raise her sisters and brothers? With a prophet's clarity, Dawkins told us the answers from the perspective of molecules competing for limited space and resources to produce more of their own kind. Drawing fascinating examples from every field of biology, he paved the way for a serious re-evaluation of evolution. He also introduced the concept of self-reproducing ideas, or memes, which (seemingly) use humans exclusively for their propagation. If we are puppets, he says, at least we can try to understand our strings. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


`Review from previous edition The sort of popular science writing that makes the reader feel like a genius.' New York Times

This book should be read, can be read, by almost everyone. It describes with great skill a new face of the theory of evolution. W.D. Hamilton, Science

Learned, witty and very well written...Exhilaratingly good. Peter Medawar in The Spectator

The exciting theories and their wide implications are explaned with clarity, wit and enthusiasm. Peter Parker, Sunday Times

Dawkins demonstrates that complex, theoretical or mathematical ideas can be expressed rigorously, in plain English. The book remains an excellent way for those who have not been trained in evolution to understand modern arguments. Trends in Ecology and Evolution

A splendid example of how difficult scientific ideas can be explained by someone who understands them and is willing to take the trouble. The New Yorker

the reader will come away with a clear understanding of kin selection, evolutionary stable strategies, and similar staples of the literature on evolutionary theories of animal behaviour. This is a considerable achievement.' Times Higher Education Supplement

`Buy this book, read it and recommend it to your students...There is still nothing else quite like it. Not only are the new chapters and endnotes worthy additions to the original, but the 1976 text comes up as fresh as a primrose and, in its way, nearly as perfect.' Animal Behaviour

`What is so refreshing about Dawkins is that he has confidence in the scientific method, in the testing of beliefs to destruction, no matter how cherished they may be.' Benjamin Woolley, The Listener

'Scientists give every appearance of being addicts, and science is their vice. That is one reason why progress in science is so rapid. I for one have benefited a great deal from Dawkins's addiction.' David L. Hull, Nature

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Inside This Book

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Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Robson on June 11 2011
Format: Paperback
Maybe it's a quirk in my personality, but I'm always looking for some great truth, some unifying theory. After all, if the beautiful world around us was not created by a deity (which, as an explanation, explains nothing), but by something as 'seemingly random' as evolution, then surely there must be some great code, some great pattern (essentially a natural order, a natural 'Ten Commandments, if you will) running through everything. We've always heard that 'code' is 'fit', but again, 'fit' in terms of genes doesn't explain much either. I needed a little more, so I cracked open this book thinking it would open my eyes to some genetic truth. I soon found lots of amazing things, but was met with the crude ugly truth about genetics: they are anything but a guide for morality. The 'beautiful pattern' I was seeking was nowhere to be found. We are met with a contradiction, as men and women: the very thing that gives us enjoyment, indulgence' satisfaction of a few evolutionary 'carrots'' is the opposite of what we consider 'good' and 'moral'. Originally I believed our Morality actually stems from resisting our impulses, our genetics, to separate us from lower animals. Dawkins believes that what we consider 'sophisticated society' actually comes from whatever can be sustained in equilibrium; in other words, the reason we can eat meat, but are repulsed by Cannibalism, is mostly due to the fact that, if we were Cannibals, the species would shrink and eventually go extinct. The equilibrium is for us to eat other animals.

It's also frowned upon, in modern society, to kill people. From a Genetic perspective, there's no advantage to killing people, even your rivals.. it wastes energy, and may make other rivals even stronger in rank. Reverse rationalization.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on Feb. 8 2003
Format: Paperback
Given the amount of dreck published about this book over the past two decades, it seemed a worthwhile exercise to reread and comment on it for a new generation of readers. As with Darwin's Origin of Species, more people have commented on this work than have read or understood it. Dawkins is a superb writer, able to convey his ideas with clarity and wit. As he has stated elsewhere, however, those very ideas still challenge those whose minds are locked by preconceptions. Dawkins must be, and is, a staunch advocate in presenting to us what genes are all about. He does so in order that we better understand ourselves.
He begins by anticipating the outcry of those who must see humans set apart from the rest of life. "Why Are People" examines several behavioral aspects of animals and people. Altruism receives particular attention because the term "selfish" applied to life returns us to the concept of nature "red in tooth and claw" which he wishes to avoid. Genes are not conscious entities who make decisions about their existence or future. Genes are simply replicators, using whatever resources are available to make more of themselves. With luck, the environment in which they do this allows them to survive and continue replicating. If not, the gene, and whatever characteristic it represents, goes extinct. Enough bad matches and a whole species follows the gene into extinction.
In the beginning our very earliest ancestors weren't likely to even have been organisms, but simply chemicals. From this, Dawkins traces the development of the DNA molecule and the organisms that came to carry it in their cells. These organisms, "survival machines" in Dawkins' expression, carry the genes, supplying them with the raw material to continue replicating.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Denis Benchimol Minev on May 10 2004
Format: Paperback
The Selfish Gene is the best popular science book I have ever read, PERIOD. In it, Dawkins provides clear explanations of the mechanism of evolution, to the point that the reader can teach someone about evolution right after reading. It does not in any way patronize the reader, but instead delves deep into complex subjects, ranging from game theory to psychology, to explain evolution.
The main idea in the book is to change the perspective of evolution: it is genes that use bodies and organisms to reach their goals of reproduction. In my opinion, however, the most brilliant part of the book is the very beginning, in which Dawkins explains how it could come about that some chemicals (genes) actually would grow a "wish" to reproduce. The answer makes the reader feel really smart, and that is what pop science is all about.
Much of the book is devoted to showing how evolution can in fact explain altruism, agression, aging, cooperation, sexual relations, etc. He spends a lot of time debunking the theory that animals act a certain way "for the good of the species". His argument is that animals have no want, it is the genes that want more of themselves available.
I highly recommend this book to anyone with a wide open mind, a logical train of thought, and deep curiosity about life. Dawkins will change the way you see life, and he will hold your hand through the entire process, quenching your thrist for knowledge. It is written in such a simple way that it is hard to understand why this book is not recommended at high schools. Anyways, I hope you choose this book, it is one of those that make you sad to have finished.
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