My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
Some science books have one or two key ideas but then resort to padding or rehashing to flesh out the rest of the book. This isn't one of those. Dawkins starts off with a premise about how the proper unit of evolutionary study is the gene rather than the organism, and then goes on with one fascinating topic after another, all designed to show how how the behavior patterns that exist today are the ones that outcompeted their rivals. Outcompeting is a misleading word here. Dawkins himself struggles with this point over and over. It's not that genes are consciously competing with each other. It's that behaviors that are less successful at propagating genes get squeezed out over time. One of his key examples is Evolutionary Stable Strategies (ESSs) where he shows how competing strategies often end up in some kind of optimal mix. His book is full of interesting examples and illustrations to support his ideas, some of which he acknowledges as speculative. I will not comment on all of them here. A good chunk of the end of the book is devoted to a deep analysis of The Prisoner's Dilemma. I hadn't thought of that as anything other than a cute logic puzzle, but Dawkins persuades me that it has extraordinary significance for competing behaviorial traits and societal development in general. I have to point out that this is also the book where Dawkins invented the idea of the meme. His discussion about memes as a kind of meta-gene with its own plane of existence emerging out of our own consciousness is as fascinating as anything else in this book.
I had not realized this book came out all the way back in 1976. I am glad he was able to revise it. And I am glad that the revisions were grafted on in the way they were. Leaving in the outdated portions and commenting on them in footnotes was enlightening. Other portions have simply been added to reflect new information in this extremely fast-moving subject area.
Dawkins is a tolerably good reader, and so is his wife, Lalla Ward. However, there were many times that I wish they had used a single, professional reader to record this book. I had to slow this book down a bit just because Dawkins's articulation is just a shade too muddied for clear understanding, or maybe I'm just getting old. Despite having been a fan of Romana (Lalla Ward's character on Doctor Who), her alternations with her husband sound a bit jarring and prissy. (And if you're a current Doctor Who fan, I should clarify that I'm talking about the Tom Baker era.)
"Who's driving this bus"
Having the footnotes and extra comments read by Ward was a highly effective way of keeping track of which idea stream we are in. A good idea very effectively implemented.
Well, I don't exactly know how to describe this book. It's profundity is beyond anything I am capable of putting into words. I basically had to listen to it two times because I needed to rewind it in order to grasp all of the rather complex ideas being shot out. I would say that I have an okay grasp of biology, but there are a whole lot of concepts that require a double take or a double listen because all of the ideas are so important. I must say however that if I had tried to read the book, I probably wouldn't have finished it because there are some boring and complex components, and I don't do all that well with reading stuff compared to listening. I would have fallen asleep after reading for five minutes. But it would be nice to have a picture reference for some of the stuff in the book. Maybe a 16 hour video narrative of the book with computer graphics demonstrating all of the concepts like the game theory stuff that would be appropriate and really help to understanding everything contained within this book. That would be a project. Heck that could comprise a college course on this subject. Really, to deeply understand all of the concepts that are touched on in this book you would probably need a college course or two on every chapter.
When I listened I got a sense of the rightness of evolutionary theory. This is why the book was so profound and life changing for me. The idea that life has evolved one little molecule at a time. Every little molecular change of a protein segment of DNA has caused the world to be what it is, is a profound idea, and this book explains this idea and all of the corresponding evidence so well that the truth becomes almost undeniable.
I don't know whether God exist or not. After reading this book a person comes to seriously doubt the existence or need for God. I don't suppose it really matters. The whole paradigm of the gene being the final determinant and driving force of life on earth simply is too good of an idea, as if there was any such thing, and in that sense the gene in all of its selfishness is God, but once the idea of a selfish gene takes hold of a persons mind it doesn't let go. That is why I say that this is the most important book I have ever read.
Dawkin's arrogance is matched only by his brilliance. I find it hard to listen to him, but his ideas are so compelling that you can't not listen. I decided to ignore his persona and stick with the content. This is a seminal book and should be viewed as a companion to the Origin of the Species. Dawkins lays out the framework of evolution through the unit of information called the gene (which has a special definition in this work--not quite what we think of as a "gene" today). I decided to read the Selfish Gene after reading James Gleick's wonderful book "The Information," which has a chapter that draws on Dawkin's theory in The Selfish Gene. While Gleick gives you the essential high points, there is no substitute for following Dawkins through his tight-nit, intellectually disciplined, and detailed support for his theory. I am glad I listened to this book, but it took more commitment than other science audiobooks. I suppose that is because unlike many books that try to popularize science or treat it as historical biography, The Selfish Gene is itself a scientific work in which Dawkins sets out his theory of the gene as the fundamental unit of evolution.
Each chapter is full of brilliant ideas. The argumentation methods are state-of-the-art. Such a pleasure to listen to. WOW!!!
I quite liked the fact that Dawkins didn't rewrite the book for this edition but added footnotes and explanations. May take a couple minutes of listening to get used to this, but will be certainly worth it. This will give you a flavor of how science is made. And you will have a true genius as your guide.
Narration: excellent, the switching between Richard and Lalla keeps the story fresh. They both understand what they read and have nice voices to listen to.
Story: science explained, and although this book is from 1976, endnotes from 1989 and 2011 update some aspects based on current insights. But they are rare, indicating the truth and value of the original work.
This book outlines why genes are the ultimate survivors, and all organisms mainly vehicles for the protection, survival en reproduction of genes. That this leads to a multifaceted world in which even behavior can be explained scientifically, is desribed wonderfully.
Well worth the read if you are interested in understanding the origins and perpetuation of life.
This audiobook is highly educational and has the potential to liberate someone who has been programmed by religious stories about life on earth and human behavior.
However; The truths in this audiobook about the behavior of animals due to their genetic programming via natural selection for continued replication, can feel like a dry eye opener and slap to the face vs the benevolent nature point of view.
Much respect to the author who has taken the responsibility of teaching us the ugliness of nature, while still advocating altruism among beeings as the most logical behavior (win win scenario) in most cases.
We can and should be genuinely good to each other and to nature and still we will be under our naturally selected selfish genetic objectivism. I am at peace with that.
This is an interesting book on genes and evolution. Although I thought I knew about this kind of thing I still found I could learn some things. Most of the time I find authors disappointing as readers but Dawkins and Ward both read really well so it's a comfortable listen. I think this "edition" was particularly good with Dawkins' recent updates and reflections added in with the text.
My only disappointment was when I got to the final chapter. This is a summary of the later book The Extended Phenotype. He says that is the work he is most proud of and recommends to switch to that rather than just read the summary. I was looking forward to doing just that but discovered Extended Phenotype doesn't seem to have an audiobook yet. Bring it on!
Get ready for scenarios and probability. Written in the 1970's, this book was certainly ahead of its time and is very much relevant to today. It even profferred a new word /concept - the meme - in use today. There are some updated comments in response to what Richard previously wrote (that are made known as the book progresses) which add to the quality of this thesis / book and often very funny.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
Originally published in 1976, this edition builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's first book Adaptation and Natural Selection. Dawkins coined the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centered view of evolution as opposed to the views focused on the organism and the group. The view suggests that the more two individuals are genetically related, the more sense (at the level of the genes) it makes for them to behave selflessly with each other. Interestingly, this does not necessarily connote a phenotype (physical expression) preference that is necessarily selfish. The biological concepts and constructs are somewhat technical and even esoteric at times. They are, however, immensely interesting to biologists (especially geneticists) and others interested in the science of evolution. That was what my understanding of the book was to be about. The book, however, goes further.
The Selfish Gene discusses philosophical and moral questions that go way beyond the biological arguments that Dawkins makes. While humanity finally gaining power over the "selfish replicators" is a major theme at the end of the book, Dawkins wastes no time at all in the beginning making his arguments against religion. What, you say, has religion got to do with biology? Exactly my question. Dawkins does this over and over and over again in each of his books that I have read. Frankly, I am as anti religious as he but I believe a book of this nature has no place for that argument. I love the subject of evolution. Generally, I cannot get enough of the subject. However, I am tired of reading Richard Dawkins' antireligion, hackneyed diatribes. I believe the mixing of science and personal agendas is bad science and makes all of an author's writing suspect and unprofessional.