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.
"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)
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
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.
This is Richard Dawkins 1976 masterwork on evolutionary biology from the perspective of gene selection. The updated edition is as poignant today as when it was penned. Updates include fascinating studies supporting many of the hypotheses forwarded in the original text.
Dawkins is an excellent writer and uses non-scientific vocabulary and analogies to explain complex biological models in an easy to understand and informative way.
Other areas touched on include game theory models (the prisoners dilemma) as a basis for understanding an ESS (Evolutionarily Stable Strategy), memes (a term he coined) and computer virus.
This would have been better presented as two options: 1) read with footnotes and asides inline, or 2) read without footnotes entirely. Classic book. Great listen. Gets a bit bogged down, unnecessarily.
Dawkins made the decision to read the footnotes thought the text of the book rather than update the book itself. The footnotes probably ended up being longer than the text itself. The self-important and unnecessary commentary sprinkled throughout also distracted from the point of the book.
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction 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.
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!
l'enfer c'est les autres
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.
30 years on, and this book may well still be the definitive popular book on gene-centric evolutionary biology. This 3rd edition has new chapters and endnotes giving us Dawkins' reflection on his original ideas with the benefit of a good-deal of hindsight. An absolute must read for anyone wanting to claim modern scientific literacy!
In this version of The Selfish Gene, the footnotes are very cleanly added to the ends of chapters, and Dawkins went to a great effort to make sure the volume has been updated as the times have progressed. He and his wife have great voices when they are used in tandem as within.
The way they work together is charming, and it helped with the differentiation between the past and the present, the author and the non-author. It was a great instrument choice.
It widened my view in some ways and sharpened it in others. It forces you to critically observe natural phenomena from a new perspective that can, yes, at times be reminiscent of psychosis.
"A real eye opener"
I will listen to this book over and over again because of the immense detail.
Clear and easy to understand their voices.
Very well written and read, additional notes are read at the end chapter to make the book flow nicely.
"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.
Lalla Ward narrated her part very well, but I found this to be spoiled by Richard Dawkins reading additional material. If Richard Dawkins had interwove the amendment more and either read the book himself or left it to Lalla Ward to read ( which I personally think would have been good ) I might have liked the book more. This title I would not overly recommend. But if a friend wanted to have a longer sample I would lend them my iPad rather than tell them to buy the book.
"A must read!"
I have listened to it 5 times already and will definitely return to it. It's a deep and complex book, explaining the core ideas of biology in a simple and elegant manner.
Yes, couldn't stop listening!
This is a must read for every even semi-intelligent person. No question about it!
Well written and easy to listen too. I'm very pleased with my purchase of this audiobook!
This is one of the best audio books I've listened to so far. Dawkins and Ward read very clearly and make it easy to listen to the book forever. The arguments in this book are very elaborately explained and comprehensible to a mortal human. I also loved that Dawkins explains what he does not mean by XYZ, it made it even more comprehensible. Sometimes I thought that references were slightly confusing, but this may be due to the fact that I had a couple of days break between listening sessions, maybe if you listen more frequently you'll remember all the arguments supported by the references.
I definitely would recommend this audio book!
The book itself is incredibly informative and well written. The audio adaptation is a quality production as you might expect.
A wonderful text, a pleasure to listen to. Dawkins shows his in depth understanding of evolutionary biology and manages brilliantly to convey its wonders to the listener
Great start to finish. Interesting, approachable and well performed. I will be getting further books by Dawkins.
"A great read for biology students"
Brilliantly written and easy to understand
The subtle humour mixed with inspiring knowledge of the world.
Keeps my attention longer.
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