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The Selfish Gene Paperback – Oct 1 1989


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Second Edition edition (Oct. 1 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192860925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192860927
  • Product Dimensions: 18.6 x 13.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #165,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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First Sentence
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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Mann on Dec 3 2013
Format: Paperback
One aspect I find particularly interesting about this book is its thesis as foreshadowed in the descriptive title, The Selfish Gene---the idea that the only purpose of any species is to pass its genes on into the future. I had a friend state this very concept when we were having a discussion about life a number of years ago. Although my friend had not read this book, he evidently was influenced by it through the prevalent pathos that exists in modern society today. I do find it amusing that the "purpose" of life is to project our genes into the future. Some people believe this is how we achieve "immortality". It really is rich in wishful thinking however. Think about it. You are now 100% your genes. When your "selfish genes" want to propagate, 50% of "you" is passed along to your offspring. If your offspring propagates, only 25% of "you" is passed on (along with 25% of your mate, the other 50% coming from your offspring's mate). If the next generation should propagate, then "you" have been reduced down to 12.5%, then 6.25%, then 3.125%, etc.. In only 8 generations there's less than 1% of "you" left. Not only has your life been long gone, but for all intents and purposes, so has any "remembrance" of "you" through the passing along of your genes. "You" have been reduced to virtual nothingness. Dawkins' thesis indicates that our "selfish genes" are deceiving themselves into thinking there is a purpose in propagation. If Dawkins' theory about "the selfish gene" is correct, then we are the biggest fools of all if we believe we gain immortality through children and grandchildren, etc. Biology, mathematics, and time, reduces "you" to nothing. :)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER 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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy M. Harris on Sept. 5 2002
Format: Paperback
Personification, or (more awkwardly) anthropomorphization, is a slightly silly convention practiced daily by all of us. It consists of attributing sentient human characteristics to non-human entities, as in "the computer thinks you want to shut it down," or "my car is out to get me." Such expressions are usually harmless because everyone knows the metaphors aren't meant literally. There are certain contexts, though, where personification becomes troublesome. Two of them are biology and evolution. I once criticized Michael Behe for writing that viruses mutate "in order to evade the immune system." Viruses cannot strategize or harbor motives, and to imply that they do carelessly misstates the fundamentals of evolution, a theory Behe was attempting to refute! Tacky.
The title itself should put any "Selfish Gene" reader on notice that a megadose of personification is coming, but even thus forewarned I was taken aback by the extent of it. The author seems to be in the peculiar position of understanding perfectly well the drawbacks of anthropomorphization, but pressing on with it anyway. An unfortunate result is that Dawkins incessantly uses the language of conscious motives while issuing caveats about it. In both main text and chapter notes (1989 edition), he alternates between backpedaling from personification (e.g. top, page 89) and irritably dismissing any reader or critic obtuse enough to suppose he means what he says (e.g. page 278). Perhaps I am unreasonably sensitive, but personification issues in "Selfish Gene" significantly reduced my ability to enjoy it.
So if that's how I felt about the book, why did I finish it? Because it was more than worthwhile to do so.
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