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)
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.
I didn't realize the book was decades old. Even the update is the 80's. A lot has changed in this field.
The book doesn't agree with many of my priors (beliefs, assumptions, etc.) about the world but I found the arguments pretty insightful and compelling. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the author (and he is as committed a Darwinist as they come), it is well worth the read even though I found it's implications to be somewhat depressing. I would have liked to think that elephants, trees, humans, etc. are more than just an efficient mechanism to propagate elephant, tree, and human DNA.
Great read, but I didn't like the way the reader kept switching between Dawkins and Ward. Sometimes it seemed like they almost switched mid-sentence. I wish Dawkins has just read the whole thing.
I've enjoyed listening to this book tremendously. I'm totally new to this topic but still found it easy to understand. Can't wait to read (listen to) his other books.
Up there with the best, it puts what I have seen in nature into a context that allows greater understanding of why nature goes to extremes.
Some sections required a second listen, the understanding to flow is worth the effort.
Not that sort of book.
I could not listen to it in one sitting, it required concentration, but the quality of writing made the subject easier, it is great to feel comfortable with my level of understanding now, but I suspect very few people could get a good understanding in one sitting. Like a complex movie, the second time around is just as revealing as the first.
Book Listener & Radio Drama Enthusiast.
It brought clarity to my understanding of the beginnings and developments of life.
I would recommend this book to everyone.
The alternation between voices was a good way of adding notes
and breaking up sections clearly.
Both Dawkins and Ward have pleasant voices.
The book was highly recommended by a couple of friends. So I bought it. As it turns out this audio version is a new and improved (???) version of the original book. With insertion of rebuttal by author against every little slight inflicted by any and all intellectual experts on the subject over the past 20+ years. The result is horrible. The author interjects in every paragraph refereeing to some slight by someone and tries to rebut the slight. We the poor reader has no clue about the full extent and the context of the slight asa result this might get the ego of the author satisfied, but for a reader it is most irritating and completely takes away from the central point the author was trying to make. After first couple of hours of listening the whole experience was irritating that I stopped listening.
I took a course Genetics in college eons ago and purchased the book to bring myself up to date on evolutionary theory. The science in the book was quite informative and I enjoyed it. Unfortunately the science is buried in mounds of self justification by the author who attempts to defend in this redo his original 1970's work. It may have been criticized heavily at the time, judging by the lengths to which the author goes, but other than the Nobel Committee, who would care? I should have bought the original edition.
I bought this book based on the rave reviews of Dr. Dawkins original book. Unfortunately, the frequent asides referring to his first book and the many references to journal articles he has written make the new book tedious. Rather than rewrite his book and update the material, the author takes the original book and adds various paragraphs explaining how his findings have either been upheld or misunderstood. The book is unnecessarily long and repetitive. Can I get my money back?
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