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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

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    J. D. May California, USA 07-31-12
    J. D. May California, USA 07-31-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Better than print!"
    Any additional comments?

    This is one of those special cases where the audiobook has features that are better than reading a printed book. This is an updated version (after more than 30 years) of an important and controversial work, and the newer revisions are read by a different narrator, so the newer material is always distinct from the original. The copious footnotes are read as they occur, so you hear them seamlessly in context, and without the constant page-flipping that is required if you read a print version. Both narrators are a pleasure to listen to, and since one of them is Dawkins himself you have the added pleasure of having the author speaking directly to you.

    26 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William 03-02-13
    William 03-02-13 Member Since 2009

    Life long learner of all sorts of things.

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    "Long, but explanitory"

    This is a very good book which is both informative on the subject of genes themselves, but also serves as a kind of historical overview of changing ideas, and why they were discarded or affirmed.

    Dawkins, as always, is given to digressions that could be considered by some, to be tedious. Even so, a bit of patients is rewarded well by way of learning.

    All in all... Excellent.

    this book is not light in content, so even though Dawkins does an exception job in explaining things with clarity, it is not for someone looking to kill a bit of time. Attention is required to get the most of this book.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles USA 04-22-11
    Charles USA 04-22-11 Member Since 2008

    Wonderchuck

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    "A pearl of great price"

    I had long heard of this book, it is oft cited and praised in other scientific works for the lay man. Because of all this notoriety, I had high expectations when I began listening. I was not disappointed at all, it managed to exceed my expectations. I finished listening 20 min ago, and as I write this, I am still riding an emotional high that comes from increased insight and understanding. I cannot recommend it highly enough, there is more to be had here than (perhaps) any other book I have ever read.

    55 of 63 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Hammond, IN, United States 01-07-13
    Scott Hammond, IN, United States 01-07-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Selfish in the truest sense"

    Selfish is doing what is in your Best Interest, not doing what you want at everybody else's expense. Popular use of the word has confused it with Greedy, Foolishly Demanding even Stupid. So doing what is in your best interest is a virtue not a negative. Deciding what is in your best interest is not always easy. But once you have decided, it is the only course to take.
    The Gene has a different time frame than us mere humans. The Gene Pool has experimented for many hundreds of millions of years. Genes may try being lazy or stupid or greedy in all that time, but the Genes that are passed on have chosen what is in their best interest or the "Selfish" choice. The Genes that are greedy or lazy find it harder and harder to reproduce and do not continue.
    I loved this book. The change of narrator between Richard and Lalla was at appropriate and necessary points. The cadence and tone were good. The book kept me (a layman) interested till the end.
    The fact that you have read this far into a review on a book with this title makes me believe you are a thinker. Listen to this book to clarify your thinking.
    Enjoy!


    27 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shane eden, VT, United States 04-01-11
    shane eden, VT, United States 04-01-11 Member Since 2010

    McCarthy king Martin Abercrombie Sanderson and Tolkien My favorite book as of 900 listened to ... Sutree

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    "incredible"

    it is now the number one book on my desert island list , dawkins gives you a practical window into what genes are and how they do what they do . this book is amazing

    59 of 69 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry Nolensville, TN, United States 02-04-13
    Terry Nolensville, TN, United States 02-04-13
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    "An excellent audiobook"
    Would you listen to The Selfish Gene again? Why?

    Yes! There is a lot of content and you can't pick it all up in one go around.


    Have you listened to any of Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have listened to "The Blind Watchmaker" and this book is also an excellent source of information. Both were wonderful.


    Any additional comments?

    If you are a person who believes or doesn't believe in evolution, and want to be more informed please give this a listen. The when you're done go check out The Blind Watchmaker. Richard Dawkins and his wife Lalla Ward do a great job narrating both books. Nothing is more convincing than when an author reads their own material to you.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carter United States 01-28-12
    Carter United States 01-28-12 Member Since 2011

    Insert Name Here

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    "DId Someone Say Paradigm Shifter?"

    Dawkins is such a figurehead that to say anything about him seems pointless. While most people of my generation will know him as author of "The God Delusion," that same is to be said for this book for any previous generation. However, this book hits more closely to what Dawkins is actually expert in. (This is not intended to be a slant towards Dawkins understanding of theology or philosophy. What is meant by this is that Dawkins was actually educated as a zoologist. He seems to be well versed in Theology enough to speak intelligibly about it, though his social perspective is profound enough.)

    The Selfish Gene presents an evocative formulation of the genetic world. And creates a huge foundation for how genetic life affects the entire world around us. It is an intelligent, persuasive presentation of evolutionary biology. Dawkins also has great respect for his reader. As he explains in his preface, the book is for the general public, but it is not dumbed down so as to not be engaging. I do not think that from reading this I can profess any proficient knowledge in evolutionary biology, but I can engage in the discussion of the Selfish Gene. Being so, I do not find the Selfish Gene entirely convincing, but something fundamental does seem to be present in Dawkins theoretical apparatus.

    The narration of this piece is purposefully disjunctive. This is the first audiobook I've encountered that was like this. The foot notes are read in as they occur in the text and the updated text is read by a differing voice. All of this is explained at the beginning of the book (forget now who reads what, but all footnotes are indicated by Dawkins saying "Footnote"). It took me a second to get used to this style, but once acclimated I flowed on pretty smoothly. The only drawback of this is that when the footnote is particularly long it does become hard to recall what prompted the footnote. Having a text nearby, I suppose, would be an easy remedy. Though, any textless listeners, like me, will probably have little trouble with this.

    In many respects this book is a gateway to modern-thought. I highly recommend any one to at least be familiar with Dawkins set-up of genetic evolution.

    14 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wade T. Brooks Portland, OR, USA 06-25-12
    Wade T. Brooks Portland, OR, USA 06-25-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Pure Awesome"

    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.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Abingdon, United Kingdom 04-29-11
    Thomas Abingdon, United Kingdom 04-29-11 Member Since 2010
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    "A must-read"

    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!

    19 of 25 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 73 results PREVIOUS128NEXT
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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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    "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
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    "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 6 people found this review helpful
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