- Series: Science Masters Series
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (August 23, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465069908
- ISBN-13: 978-0465069903
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 93 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (Science Masters Series) Reprint Edition
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Nearly a century and a half after Charles Darwin formulated it, the theory of evolution is still the subject of considerable debate. Oxford scientist Richard Dawkins is among Darwin's chief defenders, and an able one indeed-- witty, literate, capable of turning a beautiful phrase. In River Out of Eden he introduces general readers to some fairly abstract problems in evolutionary biology, gently guiding us through the tangles of mitochondrial DNA and the survival-of-the- fittest ethos. (Superheroes need not apply: Dawkins writes, "The genes that survive . . . will be the ones that are good at surviving in the average environment of the species.") Dawkins argues for the essential unity of humanity, noting that "we are much closer cousins of one another than we normally realize, and we have many fewer ancestors than simple calculations suggest."
From Publishers Weekly
Dawkins (The Selfish Gene) pictures evolution as a vast river of DNA-coded information flowing over millennia and splitting into three billion branches, of which 30 million branches?today's extant species?survive. Emphasizing that the genetic code is uncannily computer-like, comprising long strings of digital information, the eminent Oxford evolutionary biologist surmises that we are "survival machines" programmed to propagate the database we carry. From his perspective, nature is not cruel?only indifferent?and the goal of a presumed Divine Engineer is maximizing DNA survival. Dawkins cautiously endorses the controversial "African Eve" theory, according to which the most recent common ancestor of all modern humans probably lived in Africa fewer than 250,000 years ago. The author's narrative masterfully deals with controversies in evolutionary biology. Natural Science Book Club dual main selection; Library of Science alternate.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I have read many of Dawkins' books and articles and this is a winner! If you're interested in learning exactly what Dawkins means by "The Selfish Gene" or the DNA river - this is the read & it's a quickie! The concepts are not as difficult in this book as in many others. Rather, it's a layman's explanation of our beginnings from the replication bombs in space to the biological zygote (or previous bacteria) and on to our own technological replication bombs. Now, I get why he was lead to the next step: memes.
A fun read about the river of DNA that flows in all of us! And, it was particularly interesting to learn about Mitochondrial eve and the importance of the female line as it is always a pure line (no mixing of DNA there!), making it much easier for scientists to study.
In this short read, Dawkins manages to cram an unbelievable amount of insight and information into 5 distinct chapters. With Each chapter, he delves deeper and deeper into the arguments and theories that describe a "Darwinian View of Life", which is far more complex than I ever anticipated. While reading this book, one feels as though Dawkins is whole-heartedly trying to make you understand what seems so simple in his mind (while what is simple for him to understand, would require years of study for an individual of normal IQ). The evidence of this disconnect in level of comprehension is evident in phrases such as "knowing this, one would obviously make the assumption", and "this is a conclusion derived from simple, arm-chair logic" (both phrases relating to concepts of genetic mathematics that flew way over my head). However, while his narration is somewhat difficult to follow at times, his ample and ingenious use of analogies, examples and metaphors result in chapters that ultimately convey their points to even the least scientific of minds (such as mine). For example, Dawkins explains the course that natural selection plays on the height of trees in a forest, by relating it to people shouting above one another at a cocktail party (something we have all experienced).
Through the course of this book, he does a beautiful job of deconstructing the illusion of intelligent design, by going back to the very root of all genetic life, demonstrating along the way how many arguments that theists use can be shattered with relatively simple scientific evidence and concepts. He also breaks down the mystery of the foundation of life, by explaining our (probable) natural history in purely genetic, indifferent terms (devoid of human egoism).
Prior to reading this book, I considered myself an open-minded person. However, this book showed me just how deep the rabbit hole goes, and I feel more intelligent as a result. All things considered, this book is very difficult to explain in a short review, so you will just have to go ahead and read it yourself.
An enjoyable read. I would have liked it to be longer.