College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
but those who left the nearly worshipful reviews don't seem to know that better and more up to date work has been done on the topic of Darwinian genetics. For one, Dawkins could have cleared a LOT of confusion about this book by simply using the term "self-interested" rather "selfish"--there is a considerable difference where genetics is concerned, especially when he starts shuffling around words/concepts like "selfish" and "altruistic" and "altruism for selfish means." The one huge flaw in his work is that he proclaims that "there is no higher purpose in nature than propagation of DNA..." This invokes the logical fallacy of begging the question. It is the most scientific explanation of nature, yes, but (the question it begs) "does/has science discover/discovered everything?" Read this book first as a primer, and then go on to the better work that has been done since on the theme of Darwinian genetics, self-interest and altruism, particularly that by Robert Wright, and especially his book THE MORAL ANIMAL.
This is Richard Dawkins 1976 masterwork on evolutionary biology from the perspective of gene selection. The updated edition is as poignant today as when it was penned. Updates include fascinating studies supporting many of the hypotheses forwarded in the original text.
Dawkins is an excellent writer and uses non-scientific vocabulary and analogies to explain complex biological models in an easy to understand and informative way.
Other areas touched on include game theory models (the prisoners dilemma) as a basis for understanding an ESS (Evolutionarily Stable Strategy), memes (a term he coined) and computer virus.
This would have been better presented as two options: 1) read with footnotes and asides inline, or 2) read without footnotes entirely. Classic book. Great listen. Gets a bit bogged down, unnecessarily.
Dawkins made the decision to read the footnotes thought the text of the book rather than update the book itself. The footnotes probably ended up being longer than the text itself. The self-important and unnecessary commentary sprinkled throughout also distracted from the point of the book.
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction addict.
I can't remember how but when I was 16 I came across this book and it changed my life. The title of Dawkins biography is "An appetite for wonder", and this appetite is no where more apparent than in this book (I have read most of his books). It is a wonderful introduction to the theory of evolution by natural (and sexual) selection, behavioral ecology, and the wonders of nature. At the same time it serves as a terrific example of first rate scientific reasoning. The writing is clear and fluid and extremely elegant. In his autobiography Dawkins admits that every sentence has been rewritten multiple times. Those that have survived this selection process really deliver. Every sentence seem to fill a purpose and yet, rarely does one feel that information is in some way lacking. This book, when it came out in the late seventies, influenced the general public and academics alike. It changed how academics thought about genes and evolution, and it introduced the meme, which has subsequently entered our dictionaries.
As I have said elsewhere, this book really is a literary masterpiece. The fact that it also teaches science to the reader is an added benefit that makes this book one of the best and most important ever written.
The book has a very good structure. At no point does it feel as if new concepts are introduced inappropriately. Dawkins begins by slowly and carefully introducing the replicator concept. In the widest sense a replicator is, as the name implies, something that replicates itself. This can be a mineral shape, a computer virus or a molecule such as RNA or DNA. It is inevitable that a replicator that produce more copies or copies that are more durable will become more prominent in the population. And so it is with our genes. The genes that exist in humans that are alive today are descendents of a very long series of genes that outperformed other genes. To achieve this success the genes have used many different tricks. Primary among these is cooperation with other genes to construct vehicles such as a plant or an animal that can both protect the genes and pass them on. Humans are thus "merely" vehicles created by genes for the benefit of genes (though in another sense we are of course much more than that).
Dawkins carefully builds from this starting point and reaches startling conclusions about many different aspects of nature and evolution. Why did sex evolve and why do the different sexes differ to a greater or a lesser extent in different species? Why are males in general more aggressive? Why do we cooperate? Does altruism exist? How did sterile ants evolve? Whatever he is discussing, Dawkins always provides illustrative examples from nature and when he use metaphors he is (unlike many others) always careful to translate those metaphors back into the language of replicators. The Selfish Gene also derives some of its fame from the fact that it introduced the meme concept. A meme, Dawkins suggested is like a gene in that it can replicate itself, typically via language or imitation. Successful memes (think viral youtube clips) will spread throughout population of less successful memes in the same way that successful genes spread, however, for memes the sexual reproduction of its host matters little. Rather, the success of a meme is determined by its ability to make its host share the idea with others. The meme concept is now in most dictionaries.
Throughout the book Dawkins is careful to point out that even though we are products of evolution and as a result have many instincts that are not always very noble, that does not mean that it is in anyway good or moral to follow ones evolutionary inclinations. Indeed if we understand human instincts we may be better able to construct societies that combat our caveman instincts.
A fellow listener inclined to share my opinion on these productions. Maybe even inspire someone toward a powerful, or educational audiobook!
This was an amazing read. In this 30 year revision he has added many footnotes and a marvelous introduction! If you have read earlier versions of this book you will be impressed at the additions; well worth it!
l'enfer c'est les autres
Author states that any philosophy of man's place in the universe before Darwin's 1859 "Origin of Species" will be incomplete. The book fully supports that statement. His metaphors for understanding genes and evolution are the best you'll ever come across. He explains the science so that even I can understand it.
I warn you, if you listen to this Dawkins book, you will listen to all of his others. I have and I am much wiser for it.
30 years on, and this book may well still be the definitive popular book on gene-centric evolutionary biology. This 3rd edition has new chapters and endnotes giving us Dawkins' reflection on his original ideas with the benefit of a good-deal of hindsight. An absolute must read for anyone wanting to claim modern scientific literacy!
In this version of The Selfish Gene, the footnotes are very cleanly added to the ends of chapters, and Dawkins went to a great effort to make sure the volume has been updated as the times have progressed. He and his wife have great voices when they are used in tandem as within.
The way they work together is charming, and it helped with the differentiation between the past and the present, the author and the non-author. It was a great instrument choice.
It widened my view in some ways and sharpened it in others. It forces you to critically observe natural phenomena from a new perspective that can, yes, at times be reminiscent of psychosis.