Definitely. Richard Dawkins is certainly one of the most interesting figures in modern biology. His ideas are revolutionary, and everyone should be introduced to them. Dawkins is very skilled at making complex ideas understandable!
Well, it is about life, about us, about where we came from and why we are here. Fascinating. You won't see the world in the same way after digesting this book.
It was very helpful to have a different voice for the foot/end notes.
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.
Reading, the arts and physical activity clarify, explain, illustrate, and interpret life’s goods and bads.
Okay, The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins is a complete analysis of gene theory; meaning the basis by which traits are passed from parents to offspring through gene transmission. Genes are located on chromosomes and consist of DNA. Who you are is dependant upon what your DNA physically makes you into. They are passed from parent to offspring through reproduction. In the analysis Prof. Dawkins attempts to determine how the gene manifests itself into everyday life. Note merely human life but all life. Now, I rarely find myself out of agreement with Prof. Dawkins conclusions and he may very well have the true answer here but even after reading this study I am not so sure he has persuaded me as to his thinking on the universal working of genes and compatibility with the Darwinian process.
The attempted persuasion here is that the gene has a universal scheme by which it functions. The book is filled with statistical analysis attempting to persuade. Not so fast though. Prof. Dawkins seems to contend genes have a path they follow, as if they were subject to specific process, a prescribed roadmap. His process is well thought out but there may be more of a catch- as-catch-can effect to gene interaction of Darwinian development rather than statistic practicalities. Perhaps at the gene level variances occur without any relevance to real world factors. It is conceivable genes have no particular communication to the actual world. Then once manifested, their effects move into the world and create living things, by happenstance, not statistical certainty.
This is a brilliant work, but it did not convince me as to its veracity. Anyhow, I found this a very difficult read. Laborious. Too much repeated explanation of Dawkins and other scientist’s statistical analysis. (This book is a little unique as it was republished and Dawkins, uses the republication to comment on his original thoughts – right and wrong conclusions.) Dawkins reliance on statistical analysis is specious: that stuff that tells us how the stock market will work or who will win the next election. Now if you are a biologist or a statistician this would be a very good work to have in your bailiwick of knowledge. But if you just want to know the results of other’s studies, this work may be too data specific to be an enjoyable read or listen.
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.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
I recall being very excited after I listened to The Blind Watchmaker (last year I think) and very much looking forward to re-visiting this book. After all, it was this book that sparked the debate about evolution that has flared for decades, now. I think I got too excited.
By the time I listened to this production, the novelty of the Dawkinses' reading of Richard Dawkins' text didn't have the same sparkle for me. In fact, I thought the exchange of his and Lalla Ward's voices wasn't used enough (as opposed to my view about it when employed in The Blind Watchmaker). There was more than one occasion that I was not sure if I was in the 1989 footnote or back in the original text. I had to check the hardcopy more than once. Still, Dawkins' reading is infectious in its enthusiasm and it is hard to fault Lalla Ward's lovely voice.
Also, because of the many advances since the book was first published in the mid '70s and since I first read it in the mid 1980's, some of the original thesis seemed a bit dated. Of course that can hardly be laid at the author's door. It would be unfair indeed to accuse him of being too successful in the promotion of debate, investigation and the development of his Darwinian based theories. I guess I (unfairly) expected the book to have evolved, too.
In one way, the book has evolved. The two new (to me at least) Chapters, particularly the last one, came as a very pleasant surprise. They have provoked me to go in search of The Extended Phenotype. I can't find it in Audible (I understand it is quite long - 300+ pages - from the Amazon reference), but it really seems very interesting if the last Chapter is a fair precise of its content. I look forward to its addition to Audible's collection!
In summary, if you haven't read Dawkins before, you might want to skip this seminal work and move to the more recent writings, many of which summarise this book. I enjoyed it because I enjoy the way Dawkins writes, reasons and argues a case. You don't have to agree with his argument, but you need to be particular dull not to understand it. For me it remains a classic treatment of his basic arguments. It was worth the re-listening and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to study good argumentative writing and wants to understand something about natural selection.