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

4.5 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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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 179 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #20,471 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

`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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Richard Dawkins is a scientist of the highest caliber and an excellent writer. While not as interesting as The Ancestor's Tale or Greatest Show on Earth (Selfish Gene is more academic and most of it is over my head), it is a fascinating look into fundamental concepts of Biology. What's more is that this particular edition is worth the additional cost compared to the paperback - the paper is high quality and the binding is anything but cheap (as all books I own which were published by Oxford are). This isn't so much a book as it is an investment for future generations.
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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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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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