The trunk of the author's argument about gene selection is as godless and "anti-agency of man" as anything I've ever read. It's persuasive, fascinating, shocking, educational and hopeless all at the same time. He doesn't present his ideas as theory, he promotes them as doctrine. On its face, it helped me understand gene selection. More broadly it also lends perspective to whole segments of liberal academia and society--especially those who despise religion (like the author). Other reviews have mentioned how it rocked their faith. For me it made me appreciate mine more.
As interesting as the content is, the recorded performance is almost unlistenable. They chose a narrator with an erudite British accent. It's pretty much straight out of the BBC and infers a sense of academic superiority. When it is combined with the author’s pretentious way of expressing himself, it's almost unlistenable. In this 30th anniversary edition, the author himself reads his own footnotes, which interrupt the main narrator's flow. It's like watching a movie you've never seen and it has the soundtrack for the directors commentary turned on. Just about the time you are following the idea in the chapter he chimes in with a footnote that more often than not amounts to him taking a victory lap for how great his book has been after 30 years--that and he spends a lot of time tisk tisking his academic rivals (who the lay person has never heard of). The author is obviously brilliant but if he were at a party you wouldn't be able to stand being around him.
Since I was heading to the Galapagos Islands, I thought some additional perspectives on Darwinism would be informative. The Selfish Gene is about natural selection but it goes about it with too many statistical examples. Darwin said it better!
I did learn from the book and have a new view of the reason for my body, but it was too difficult to listen to this book and follow it.
The footnotes are read into the text in such a way as to destroy the continuity of the book. I would recommend the original edtion without so many inane footnotes.
Slow going, still trying to finish it after many months. I occasionally come back to to it in between books.
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.)
I doubt I'll get that far
This book is not a story so much as it is a bunch of random theories about how we developed from some single sell organism.
While I appreciate the authors obvious attempts to hide and or obfuscate there "opinions" and instead relying on what they believe to be "science", none of the "evolution theory" can be proved so.. it is after all.. "all opinion".
From the stand point of trying to understand "Evolution Theory" this book would be an excellent start.
I got this book thinking it would be more about humanity's selfish needs and driving forces. However it's more of an analysis of how a specific gene survives each generation. Which in and of it's self is interesting.
I like the reading and narrative, it made it easy to listen to and understand the arguments and points made in this book, even if I don't agree with such nonsense.
If you believe in Evolution Theory you should get this book. If you don't believe in it, it is still an interesting book, so unless you want to "open your mind".. your $$ is better spent elsewhere.
Say something about yourself!
I get it! You can get the point in the first half of the book.
I tried to listen on a few different occasions and it was to tedious. I did not like this book at all.
Have to agree with all the 1 & 2 star ratings – Had hoped to come away with a deluge of thought provoking concepts, ideals and “makes perfect sense” theories – instead I had to “force” myself to finish the book and grateful to be done.
Practically, drivel. Old information, presented in a sanctimonious and patronizing manner. Dawkins recent, public rants enforces my view that he's got a God complex of epic proportion...oh, yes, he doesn't believe in God. Don't waste your money as I did...does Audible have a return policy?