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.
Fascinating, magnificent, solid
The general message; let go of thinking of the world as inhabited by individuals (men or animals). Instead we are machines, used by our genes to stay alive indefinitely.
Alright, sounds creepy, but explains so much more from the world around us.
Just fascination, and great to be able to grasp the theory of evolution on a deeper level than I was taught in school.
The Narrators did a great job of not making this sound boring by avoiding monotone voices and by switching the voice from time to time between male and female. Additionally, it is written in a way that includes humor from time to time which also makes it enjoyable.
I really loved the part discussing ants farming the aphids for food. Fascinating.
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction audiobook 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.
Biology of the human psyche.
It kept me listening. Even though it was not a novel, it kept me going, wanting to know more.
Chet Yarbrough, an audio book addict, exercises two cocker spaniels twice a day with an Ipod in his pocket and earbuds in his ears. Hope these few reviews seduce the public into a similar obsession but walk safely and be aware of the unaware.
Charles Darwin is in the pantheon of great intuitive geniuses. Richard Dawkins reinforces Darwin’s beliefs in his 30th anniversary edition of “The Selfish Gene”, originally published in 1976.
“The Selfish Gene” theory fails biology like string theory fails physics. Controlled experiments cannot presently prove or disprove Dawkins’ gene hypothesis. On the other hand, both gene and string theory hypotheses are plausible arguments for the evolution of biological life and the physics of a Planck’ sized world.
Putting aside Dawkins’ gene hypothesis, his game theory analogies for human behavior are terrific and worth knowing, whether one believes in “The Selfish Gene” or not. In this time of government turmoil in the United States, Dawkins explanation of suckers, cheaters, and grudgers is enlightening.
Suckers are all the tax paying Americans that want to be left alone and only pay taxes to comply with the law. Cheaters are Americans that game the system through tax avoidance, exploitation, and political contribution based on self-interest. The remaining Americans are grudgers that fight the cheaters and rally the suckers to preserve human freedom, and equal opportunity. If the grudgers are outweighed by the suckers and cheaters, democracy in America is destined to become as extinct as the Dodo bird.
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!
Author, Richard Dawkins, does an outstanding job in laying out a lot of scientific evidence of why living organisms (humans included) do what they do throughout nature. Is it a simple matter of survival, or do most living organisms actually undergo a process of "cost/benefit" analysis?
This book does a wonderful job of giving some fantastic examples of animal/human behavior and how so much of it is driven by our genetic makeup. Essentially, genes are using the various living organisms that they inhabit, to procreate and carry on the next generation of themselves.
I learned so much from this book, and it kept me captivated and fascinated throughout.