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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.

    28 of 29 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
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  • Michael
    Banbury, United Kingdom
    7/9/11
    Overall
    "A wonderful book, wonderfully narrated"

    I have lost count of the number of times I have read this book. From my battered copy of the first edition to the newer, but still well thumbed, later one. Now an audio book! An audio book narrated by Richard Dawkins himself and his wife Lalla Ward. It was a must have! It is a must have for anyone interested in the great question - where did we come from! In this early book Dawkins has not yet displayed his atheistic position quite so obviously [although it is still present] and, in a way, that makes the book even more impressive. As a scientific narrative it is excellent. The arguments, the examples, and the explanations are crystal clear and, whether or not you actually agree with the position he takes, it is an interesting journey. It was a book which helped me to get to where I am today and, being honest, clarified my thoughts about God, the Universe, and everything! I think it is the sheer wonder of natural selection as a 'system' that destroys the foundation for a creator. It is such a 'simple' thing.
    The narration is above excellent. Dawkins has a wonderfully effective speaking voice [his lectures are a pleasure] and the interposition of his wife's voice add interest and variety. If you have an interest in one of the 'great questions' - if not the only one - then listen to this book.

    17 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    8/20/11
    Overall
    "Great listen"

    The Selfish Gene restarted a function and feeling in my brain that I've not felt for a long time. It was a much welcome catalyst for brain activity. I'm a 23 year old without any A-levels or degree with no (other than intrinsic) interest in the theory of natural selection.

    It is an interesting book, full of great ideas and explanations. I found myself having several 'ah-ha' moments and feeling enlightened by many of the explanations. I was quite happy with all off the explanations put forward in the book, since I could apply my own logic in all cases. You shouldn't belive everything you read in a book, but in this case I am yet to be convinced otherwise. It made sense and in a brain-excercise kind of way, was incredibly enjoyable.

    I've remember reading somewhere that this book was a depressing realisation of life and I'd tend to agree, since it breaks life down to a single motivation - survival. For that reason, I found the book even more interesting to absorb.

    The naration is excellent, from both Lalla Ward and Richard Dawkins himself.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • R
    Bishops Stortford, United Kingdom
    3/10/12
    Overall
    "gene and survival machine"

    I bought this book wondering whether the passage of time would have dulled it but far from it, the end-notes added by Richard Dawkins, inserted in the right place in the audio track, really add to the story and make it clear when things have changed (few) and when they have been reinforced (many). This is a clear benefit of the audio over the written version. Well-argued, clear and thought-provoking - if you haven't heard it you should. Excellent book, read really well (I like the double act of voices).

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Ross
    Faversham, United Kingdom
    12/27/12
    Overall
    "The Original and Best of Dawkins"

    All Dawkin's books are good, but in my view this is the best of the lot. This was a truely groundbreaking book when published in '76. This audio version, incorporating updates since the first publication shows how all Dawkins original arguments have stood the test of time.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Dr
    Barnsley, United Kingdom
    9/8/12
    Overall
    "Much more than just the book"

    I first read The Selfish Gene as a year one psychology student in 1982, and had not kept up with the new editions, aside for putting them on reading lists (The Extended Phenotype is my favourite of Darwkins' books). The point about the audiobook is that it is much, much more than a new edition: Prof. Dawkins has used the possibilities of the medium to create a new and more worthwhile communication of his ideas, and perhaps more importantly, the changes in them, as evidence has appeared which tests them. So, using his own voice, and that of Lalla Ward, he weaves the changes in his ideas around the stable parts. As scientific text this works brilliantly, but as a study of change in ideas it would be hard to better. This format is going on my new "reading list" - so that my students can experience the philosophy and development of science, as well as grasp the ideas of a distinguished biologist. Almost as good as a term of Oxford University College tutorials (well, you can stop the play, but not ask a question). Brilliant, highly recommend.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Lindsay Kay Caddy
    Guildford, United Kingdom
    7/5/12
    Overall
    "Thoroughly interesting"

    Ive always wanted to read one of Dawkins books, I bought the Blind Watchmaker but didn't get round to reading it and so bought this audiobook. I'm glad I did it, although the book was more interesting in some places than others that is only to be expected. I loved hearing Dawkins updates to the original text, well narrated and an excellent read.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Jeremy
    Malvern Wells, United Kingdom
    2/6/12
    Overall
    "If you only read one book on evolution - read TSG!"

    I first read this book back in 1981, and I loved it then. Such a clear, concise and closely argued exegesis of the "genes eye view" of evolution, it is a delight hearing it read by Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward.

    He has a gift for bringing evolution alive, and all his evolutionary biology books sparkle like gems with clarity and brilliance. TSG is no exception. Please do more! I would love to hear "The Extended Phenotype", "Unweaving the Rainbow", "River Out of Eden" and "The Devils Chaplain" and all his others as audiobooks.

    One thing I should say is "The Selfish Gene" is probably one of the most misunderstood books in history (second only to "The Origin of Species"). It is about altruism as much as selfishness, cooperation as much as competition, mutualism and reciprocity as much as parasitism and predation. In short, it is a thorough working out, using Game Theory and the Hamilton Equation, the best Evolutionary Stable Strategy for a gene to thrive in the gene pool. In short, the consequences of evolution for us as vehicles built by genes for their survival. It explains basic questions, like why there are two sexes, why males take greater risks, why there is sex at all, and why we all start life from a single cell.

    Nowadays, there are many variants on evolutionary theory, such as "Multi Level Selection", "Punctuated Equilibrium" and (my personal favourite) "Dual Inheritance Theory". However, in this competitive environment TSG hold up well, with surprisingly little that needed changing from 1973. Perhaps a chapter on epigenetic inheritance, inducible mutation and gene networks might be added if written today...

    However, if you want a clear, rational, enlightening explanation of evolution, the strategies used by genes, and the consequences for us as gene vehicles, get this audiobook.

    12 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • Miss Ee Hayward
    8/3/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A real eye opener"
    Would you listen to The Selfish Gene again? Why?

    I will listen to this book over and over again because of the immense detail.


    What about Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward ’s performance did you like?

    Clear and easy to understand their voices.


    Any additional comments?

    Very well written and read, additional notes are read at the end chapter to make the book flow nicely.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • T. Griffith
    London, UK
    4/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Amazing book"
    What did you like most about The Selfish Gene?

    I love the natural history that is introduced - as well as his referring to mathematical models, some erudition concerning the fate/state of man - with not TOO much politically correct screening. I also love the way he debates things - with himself - and others and brings their work and his work in. It might sound self-serving from a distance but it's also analytical and discerning.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Having the female voice breaks up the listening experience and helps to differentiate between the different threads. I love the fact that footnotes are read throughout.


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

    I had never heard his voice before. It's fascinating.


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

    It felt quite nostalgic. Back in the 60s and 70s people seemed to have time for animals and research. I'm not sure we do now.


    Any additional comments?

    I look forward to listening to it many more times, perhaps taking notes and looking at the internet at the same time sometimes to give me a "bigger picture".

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Harihar
    United Kingdom
    7/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A mind opener"
    If you could sum up The Selfish Gene in three words, what would they be?

    Impressive, persuasive and conclusive.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Although this is not really a story, but the way the whole concept has been explained with clear examples, it really leaves no questions. Once you've gone through the whole book, one becomes a strong supporter of Darwinism automatically. Great respect for Richard Dawkins and ofcourse finally to Darwin. Once you understand the theory one wonders how such an obvious point is not clear to anyone.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    The parts which explains True altruism.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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