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The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene Paperback – Feb 18 2003
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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?
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'.Read more ›
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!
Dawkins, unlike other science writers, is forthright in declaring his advocacy in writing this book. It's a refreshing start to his most serious effort. After publication of The Selfish Gene led to a storm of fatuous criticism, Extended Phenotype comes in response with more detail of how the gene manifests itself in the organism and its environment. It's clear that Dawkins' critics, who label him an "Ultra-Darwinist" [whatever that is] haven't read this book. His critics frequently argue that The Selfish Gene doesn't operate in a vacuum, but must deal within some kind of environment, from an individual cell to global scenarios. Dawkins deftly responds to critics in describing how genes rely on their environment for successful replication. If the replication doesn't survive in the environment it finds itself, then it, and perhaps its species, will die out.
The child's favourite question, "why" is difficult enough for parents and teachers to answer. Yet, as thinking humans we've become trained to deal with that question nearly every context. So well drilled that we consider something for which that question has no answer to be suspicious if not insidious.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Anything by Richard Dawkins is an amazing read, this is one his best, only second to the Selfish Gene. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Brett mccabe
I love Dawkins but I gotta admit this one got me confused sometimes. I have to say that french is my first language but I had no problems with The Selfish Gene...Published 17 months ago by Alex Douc
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.Published on July 5 2014 by Ben
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. Read morePublished on Nov. 2 2013 by Dom
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 morePublished on June 25 2011 by bmk
Dawkins refuses to let it go. Astrobiology and microbiology is pushing the final nail in the coffin of this ultra-Darwinist garbage. Read morePublished on Aug. 4 2003
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 morePublished on March 12 2003
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
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