- Series: Oxford Landmark Science
- Paperback: 440 pages
- Publisher: Oxford Univ Pr; Reprint edition (November 1, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0198788916
- ISBN-13: 978-0198788911
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.4 x 7.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 95 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Oxford Landmark Science) Paperback – November 1, 2016
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"The Extended Phenotype is a sequel to The Selfish Gene ... he writes so clearly it could be understood by anyone prepared to make the effort"
--John Maynard Smith, LRB
"This entertaining and thought-provoking book is an excellent illustration of why the study of evolution is in such an exciting ferment these days."
About the Author
Professor Richard Dawkins is one of the most influential science writers and communicators of our generation. He was the first holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position he held from 1995 until 2008, and is Emeritus Fellow of New College,
Oxford. His bestselling books include The Selfish Gene (1976), The Extended Phenotype (1982) and its sequel The Blind Watchmaker (1986), River Out of Eden (1995), Climbing Mount Improbable (1996), Unweaving the Rainbow (1998), A Devil's Chaplain (2004), The Ancestor's Tale (2004), and The God
Delusion (2007). He has won many literary and scientific awards, including the 1987 Royal Society of Literature Award, the 1990 Michael Faraday Award of the Royal Society, the 1994 Nakayama Prize for Human Science, the 1997 International Cosmos Prize, and the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the
Public Interest in 2009.
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Too often science is regarded as simple and undescriptive by those unfamiliar with the complexity of every moment of life in every individual. We have retained far too much dependence upon simplistic explanations. halfway between description of DNA and present molecular understanding Dawkins wrote this, discussing some weaknesses in limited ideas professed by the greatest evolutionary thinkers of the latter 20th century, and suggesting that the environment and the mechanisms of heritability work more harmoniously in sychronization than was understood.
Today the fast-developing science of epigenesis must be understood by everyone, and even scientists might fail to expand their conceptualizing enough. For those who are following Epigenetics, the cognitive sciences, and the complexity of genetic expression anywhere from molecular to biospheric levels, this work will continually open you to new syntheses of understanding.
RNA, DNA, are very old molecules, and I believe that ideas of spandrel and even the attempt to isolate any single unit of reproduction, are passe'. Evolution happens at all and any speeds, and Dawkins' finest work is his understanding of multiple levels and dimensions of the process.
In order to successfully analyze how the highly variable proteome works, we have to embrace complexity and contingency. Reading, and from time to time, rereading either the whole or part, will give geneticists and general biologists, not to mention those hoping to move behavioral and cognitive sciences ahead, some periodic turbo-boosts.
Put it in your library, and even after having done the extensive work o freading it, reopen it on any passing day, and you will be enriched.
After drilling into the 'selfish gene' in greater detail that the eponymous work, the next three chapters do a fantastic job of advocating the view that the effects of genes (their phenotype) are not limited to body parts (blue eyes, brown hair, etc.) but extend out to aspects of animal behavior, animal artifacts and even, in the case of a beaver making a dam that makes a lake, the surrounding environment. We can talk about genes 'for' a beaver lake. He uses well-chosen examples to illustrate how thinking outside the individual organism is conceptually no different than tracing the (actually very complex) chain of events that lead from a single gene to something like blue vs. brown eyes.
The argument of the book was very skillfully crafted. Every one of the ten chapters rehashing and developing the Selfish Gene ended up providing intellectual scaffolding for making the jump outside the body in the later chapters, even if it wasn't obvious that the information would be necessary while reading it. There was almost a sense of a well-constructed trap snapping shut in the final chapters. Dawkins also has a delightful habit of starting a 'thought experiment' that seems utterly bizarre just to get a point across, and right when you think he's pushed the experiment too far, he trots out a real example from nature that is even more wonderful and strange than his thought experiment was. Brilliant work!
Having in a sense finished what he started in the Selfish Gene, developing a gene's-eye view of the world, Dawkins ends The Extended Phenotype with a chapter that contemplates the place and importance of the individual organism.
As far as the concepts in the book, and especially the idea of the extended phenotype itself, it was very interesting, I just feel that the book could've laid out these concepts without the academic jargon and obscure references, but I basically knew what I was getting into it and read it anyway--it's not Dawkins's fault. But as I said, I feel this could've been written in a vein closer to The Selfish Gene, where it was more a book for everyone. My general advice to stay away from this unless you're confident that you're already largely familiar with the biology vocabulary. That's not to say it's not a good book, but I would imagine these concepts are probably explained in other books that are probably more accessible.