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The Selfish Gene Paperback – January 1, 1979

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Paperback, January 1, 1979
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Oxford Univ Press; Reprint edition (1979)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000J4JWUQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (331 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,650,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Dawkins taught zoology at the University of California at Berkeley and at Oxford University and is now the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position he has held since 1995. Among his previous books are The Ancestor's Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil's Chaplain. Dawkins lives in Oxford with his wife, the actress and artist Lalla Ward.

Customer Reviews

This is the third book I have read by Richard Dawkins.
Randolph Eck
Dawkins also says that humans have a conscious and are one of the first organisms that can act independently from their selfish genes in thought and action.
Allison N. Ferree
Both of those books by Dawkins have a much broader, more generalized, look at natural selection and evolution.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 126 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Barrett on April 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read The Selfish Gene (2nd edition, 1989) because it is one of the twenty books Charlie Munger recommends in the second edition of Poor Charlie's Almanack (which I have recently read and recommend very strongly indeed).

I'm going to quote Dawkins from the preface to the original edition as he provides an excellent summary of the central message of the book and its effect upon him (and me):

"We are survival machines - robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment. Though I have known it for years, I never seem to get fully used to it."

Using one of the many excellent analogies utilised throughout his book, Dawkins explains that we are like a chess computer program that has been programmed by its creator to play in its absence. The programmer (genes) takes no part in the game (life) but instead provides the tools for its vehicle (animal, plant etc.) to play the game on its behalf.

I am glad that Dawkins says that he never gets fully used to this idea. I find it very difficult to replace the idea of my primacy in my body with the idea above. It requires a sort of `flip' in one's perception - but it is so different to what our senses tell us that it flips back without a conscious effort (or so I find, anyway). But how many of us have not regularly had to do battle with themselves to do what they know they should do rather than what they feel an urge to do? Dawkins' ideas provide an excellent framework in which to help understand these problems, which I suspect is a major part of the reason why Munger recommended this book.
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416 of 471 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Karaszewski on February 6, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Without going into the content of the book, which I find very good, the Kindle edition was poorly produced. It is littered with typos of the sort that look like it was simply run through OCR software and then the publisher called it a day. These are things like "1" being replaced with "i", ugly pixelated graphics for mathematical notation (even very simple stuff like "¼"), or commas being placed after rather than before the spaces separating clauses. Additionally, the endnotes aren't proper hyperlinks, and so navigating to them requires repeatedly setting and clearing bookmarks alternatively at your current point in the text and the section where the endnotes are.

It's a shame that a book of such excellent writing quality received such poor production treatment for this new format.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Skidney Frybabie on October 1, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My only complaint is that, unlike the 2nd edition, which greatly expanded on the 1st edition, including some very useful and clarifying notes by Dawkin's addressing much of the controvery his first edition created, this aniversary edition does not include any new material, other than a new forward. If you are interested in reading this book, a used second edition copy is as good as this one (skip the first edition -- lacks the last two chapters and Dawkins' comentaries).

The information in this book is worthy of five stars. It is the finest treatise on natural selection as the prime shaper of an evolutionary process to date. It clearly shows how a complex biological system (like humans) can arise from simple replicating molecules. It does not refute religious ideas of supernatural creation, but simply provides an alternative explanation via a natural biological mechanism. It isn't, as some think, ground breaking research -- as Dawkin's says himself, if is more a treatise of existing research. It's importance is in Dawkin's magnificent writing ability that bridged the technical fields of evolutionary biology and sociobiology to the layman.
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44 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Brandon on July 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
Than anything religion has to offer. Forget the fact that Mr Dawkins is an atheist. What this book has to offer goes far beyond the typical banter of creationist vs scientist. This book explains clearly and precisely some of the basic tenets of Darwinian natural selection and how that builds our world.

The greatest thing about this book, for me, is that it peaked my interest in science. Throughout highschool and college I never paid much mind to science in general, making statements like, "it's too complicated". Science can be complex and complicated, but it can also be simply and clearly explained by authors such as Mr. Dawkins.

I have to admit that prior to reading this book, I had no knowledge of Darwinian theory. Mr. Dawkins makes great use of simile to explain genes and how they effect animal behavior and structure.

**By the way, for those who still think humans are not animals, wake up!!**

This book opened up my mind to a whole new world of information. I truly believe that science will one day unravel all of the mysteries of humanity and the universe. At least scientists are willing to question themselves, to admit they don't have all the answers, yet. At least scientists are willing to admit when they are wrong and build on their mistakes. At least science relies on a universal methodology, clearly explained, which anyone can apply. At least scientific evidence has to pass rigorous testing and peer review. The same cannot be said of religion(s) which only re-interpret the same bundle of tired re-worded mythical stories. Religion uses fables to try and refute facts and evidence, of which it provides neither.

Science does no harm by explaining things.
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