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The Selfish Gene | [Richard Dawkins]

The Selfish Gene

Richard Dawkins' brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands to rethink their beliefs about life.
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Publisher's Summary

Richard Dawkins' brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands to rethink their beliefs about life.

In his internationally best-selling, now classic, volume, The Selfish Gene, Dawkins explains how the selfish gene can also be a subtle gene. The world of the selfish gene revolves around savage competition, ruthless exploitation, and deceit, and yet, Dawkins argues, acts of apparent altruism do exist in nature. Bees, for example, will commit suicide when they sting to protect the hive, and birds will risk their lives to warn the flock of an approaching hawk.

©1989 Richard Dawkins (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Dawkins first book, The Selfish Gene, was a smash hit.... Best of all, Dawkins laid out this biology - some of it truly subtle - in stunningly lucid prose. (It is, in my view, the best work of popular science ever written.)" (H. Allen Orr, Professor of Biology, University of Rochester, in The New York Review of Books)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 03-04-12
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 03-04-12 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

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    "A seminal book..."

    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.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan Tegucigalpa, Honduras 04-18-13
    Alan Tegucigalpa, Honduras 04-18-13
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    "Truth isn't always pretty"

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-22-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-22-12 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

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    "Still relevant after all these years"

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    michael EAST PEORIA, IL, United States 01-15-12
    michael EAST PEORIA, IL, United States 01-15-12 Member Since 2005

    vancholland77

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    "The most important book I've ever read"

    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.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Encino, CA, United States 12-21-11
    Robert Encino, CA, United States 12-21-11 Member Since 2003
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    "A reluctant fan."

    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.

    8 of 13 people found this review helpful
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    Levan Tbilisi, Georgia 08-25-11
    Levan Tbilisi, Georgia 08-25-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Brilliant!"

    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.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven Caulfield, Australia 08-23-12
    Steven Caulfield, Australia 08-23-12 Member Since 2008
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    "The Real Deal"

    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
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    E. Smakman Netherlands 10-23-11
    E. Smakman Netherlands 10-23-11 Member Since 2007
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    "Understand evolution and how it shapes behavior"

    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Simon Minato-ku, Japan 07-24-11
    Simon Minato-ku, Japan 07-24-11 Member Since 2004
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    "Very interesting"

    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!

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-18-14
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-18-14 Member Since 2007

    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.

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    "SUCKERS, CHEATERS, AND GRUDGERS"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 66 results PREVIOUS1237NEXT
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  • S. Jenö
    Budapest, Hungary
    6/11/14
    Overall
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    "impressive"

    It was an essential book, when it came out first, and thanks to the careful rewrites of the new editions, it's still on the top. If everyone would understand it, the world would be a better place. Or at least it would be well understood.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rob
    Hornchurch, United Kingdom
    12/14/13
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    "A great read for biology students"
    Would you listen to The Selfish Gene again? Why?

    Brilliantly written and easy to understand


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Selfish Gene?

    The subtle humour mixed with inspiring knowledge of the world.


    What does Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    Keeps my attention longer.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    No

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Florence
    UK
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "You will not be disappointed"

    If you're like me...

    I've always wanted to 'have' read this book but I'm realistic and know what I'm like nowadays. It's a long book but in this format it's brilliant, I can listen whilst doing other things.

    It's fascinating and thought-provoking although at the same time just so obvious. It's almost as though I suspected as much all the time but just needed to have the science explained to me, but I guess I'm saying that with hindsight...

    I think the main thought that I will take away from this book is that we as humans are continually struggling with our 'instincts' - for better or worse.

    An excellent book.

    Thank you Richard Dawkins.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Julian
    Surrey, United Kingdom
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "An insight into the world of DNA"

    A brilliant read which comes highly recommended and will illustrate the complicated world of genes to the listener. This book can be intense and full of scientific terms, with some chapters adopting a monotone and dragging into what may feel like reading an actual science textbook but clearly a great effort has been made to explain genes, evolution and the theories outlined and explained by Richard Dawkins in laymans terms.

    A must read for everyone who seeks to understand their nature and the world around them better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • James
    Wakefield, United Kingdom
    12/29/12
    Overall
    "Each to his own format...."

    I think this is a tremendously important book, and everyone should own it. But I'm just not sure that it is suited to the audiobook format. Some of the concepts can be quite complicated and I prefer to have a book in my hand when I feel the need to re-read something a couple of times... You are perfectly entitled to disagree and if you think you can digest a reasonably complex layman's book on science via audio then go for it.



    However, I'm also not a fan of Lalla Ward's contributions. I find her more of a hindrance to understanding than a help (especially in 'The God Delusion' where a second voice was meant to clarify the narrative).



    My advice to people is to actually buy the book physically, or as an eBook... sorry audible ;p

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Balor of the Evil Eye
    Éire
    2/14/14
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    Story
    "An engaging portrait of our fundamentals!"

    This updated edition of The Selfish Gene showcases much of what people love and hate about Richard Dawkins' preferences when presenting his theses. An unquestionably solid empirical approach to explaining his theory of the form, function and dissemination of genes tainted in part by a somewhat arrogant demand that you either accept his conclusions or admit that you are at best being obtuse, or at worst, a religious zealot.
    Interesting examples are presented to assist the listener understand how genes move down through the generations, perhaps the most interesting are those that detail why certain genes proliferate and others fall away as they engage in a possibly hopeless mission to achieve a stable evolutionary strategy.
    Undoubtedly the best explanation of gene theory I've encountered thus far.

    The narration performance by Dawkins and Ward is quite good and logically implemented.

    I have bought other Dawkins audiobooks, this is probably the most satisfying.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Stan
    Auckland, New Zealand
    4/8/13
    Overall
    "Truly a great learning experience"

    I was recently asked "why are humans the only species to have developed intelligence to the level we have?". This fascinating book, with a lot of information in it, has been written in such a way that I was able to give a pretty reasonable answer. This book is wonderful and explains things in such a way that average Joes like me can comprehend.



    Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward co-narrate the book (as in other RD books) and it works really well. If you are interested in the natural sciences, this book is a must.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Gail
    United Kingdom
    8/6/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Astonishing arrogance"
    Any additional comments?

    I haven't reviewed other books before which is to my shame as I have been a member for some time now and have enjoyed many excellent books, both fact and fiction, and great readings of them.

    However, this one I can't even bring myself to finish. The extreme arrogance of Dawkins is just unbearable. His view is all-important and all-correct, and any number of leading scientists who have put forward a different view are dismissed as amusing, or interesting but misguided, with no real evidence other than what Dawkins says is fact simply because he says it. He spends hours, (probably minutes, but it seemed like hours) explaining how profound an effect his book has had on mere mortals such as you and I who were simply unaware of the Dawkins Truth, and how their life has now changed irreversibly.It simply doesn't read as objective or even factual, but more as a condescending lecture with the implication that the world would be so much less misguided if we were all as enlightened as Dawkins.

    As a point of openness, I must repeat that I didn't finish the book, but a few hours was just too much for me. Perhaps, just perhaps, it improves but I very much doubt it.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
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