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Richard Dawkins: How a scientist changed the way we think Hardcover – 16 Mar 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st Edition edition (16 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199291160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199291168
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 2.8 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 841,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

An interesting series of essays. (Philip Hensher, The Spectator)

A sparkling collection. (Prospect)

This book presents a vivid picture of how one man, by force of rigorous analysis and clear writing, taught a generation of biologists how to think about evolution (New York Times)

While such festschrifts are usually deadly dull, designed to flatter rather than enlighten, this is a delightful exception, containing a number of thought-provoking essays that go beyond mere appreciation of Dawkins's book. (Jerry A. Coyne, Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Alan Grafen is Professor of Theoretical Biology in the Department of Zoology, at Oxford University. Mark Ridley lectures in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University. He is best known as the author of a number of popular books, including the critically acclaimed Mendel's Demon.

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PILLOW talk first introduced me to The Selfish Gene. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

163 of 176 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 11 Jun. 2006
Format: Hardcover
If Darwin's revelation of natural selection is "the best idea anyone, any where, ever had", then Richard Dawkins' identification of the "selfish gene" must run a close second. While Darwin's concept explained the workings of life, Dawkins' insight disclosed the mechanism of natural selection. The 1976 publication of "The Selfish Gene" not only stimulated a fresh wave of thinking among biologists, it also stirred public interest and imagination. If life was under the thrall of those strings of chemicals in our cells, how far did that influence reach? In this set of excellent essays on the issues, Dawkins ideas and their impact are presented and discussed. The fruit of his insights are bittersweet, and while most of these writings applaud his probity and communication skills, there is the tang of doubt about some of them.

More than two dozen essays comprise this collection. They are topically organised, starting with the biology issues, moving through the logic Dawkins uses to his writing skills. Today, the biology seems straightforward: genes build bodies. Those bodies contain nervous systems and brains - the root of behaviours. At the publication of "The Selfish Gene", it was widely thought that evolution worked at the species' level. Dawkins moved that mechanism much deeper. Its effect is manifested through various ways, with mate choice one of the more significant. Andrew Read explains how evolutionary pressure forces such practices as "lekking" in certain bird species. The mechanism can be readily projected to other creatures, and is manifested in humans, as well.

The "selfish gene" operating in humans has, of course, caused the greatest distress among many readers. An entire section of the book is devoted to that issue.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mr. SDL Cane on 13 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
Edited by Mark Grafen and Matt Ridley, this anthology of essays by such luminaries as Ridley himself, along with, among others, Daniel C. Dennett, A.C. Grayling and Philip Pullman, functions very effectively as either an introduction to Dawkins or as an overview for those more familiar with Dawkins's work. Discussing both the scientific context of Dawkins's work and exposing some of the controversies borne out of it, these essays are well worth exploring. I recommend this book very highly.
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Format: Paperback
Here is a collection of essays in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the publication of Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. Let’s get the bad news out of the way straight off – such an exercise is almost always a piece of academic self-indulgence, and this particular example is no exception. It has no real point. And to make matters worse, the vast majority of the essays demonstrate extremely well why Dawkins was awarded a chair of public understanding of science – because unlike most academics he can write clearly and engagingly. Most of these essays could do with a serious dose of Dawkins’ delightful prose.

Even the ones that start off well, like John Krebs’ contribution, which gives us a lovely picture of a woman at a dinner party plonkingly announcing “But we don’t believe in science in our family,” soon beds down into obscurity and all the thrill of reading a textbook. Even Michael Shermer, who writes excellently lucid columns for Scientific American, succumbs to the urge to be worthy. Honourable mention should go to Randolph M. Ness, not only for having the best title of the bunch in “Why a lot of people with selfish genes are pretty nice except for their hatred of The Selfish Gene,” but also in producing the most readable of the essays.

What none of the essays explore, sadly, is the fascinating study of the paradox that is Dawkins. Though he writes superbly, arguably there are few scientists less well qualified for a chair of public understanding of science than he is. I have never come across a scientist better at putting ordinary people’s backs up, and making them resistant to the message of science.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting first-hand accounts of how the basic biological principle of accumulating small difference over time to give large change against an improbability gradient, involved in gene-centred evolution, as explained in Dawkins very readable books on the subject, have influenced many modern thinkers, not just biologists.

Biology is often seen as merely applied physics and chemistry rather than a 'proper' science in its own right. This book shows how the principles of neo-Darwinian evolution have much wider ramifications and applications.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Podogrodzki on 26 Aug. 2006
Format: Hardcover
For a Dawkins fan, which I am, it's a wonderful book. Even if you don't share his beliefs on biology and/or philosophy this book will certainly deepen your appreciation and knowledge of the man in question.

However if you are looking for an introduction to Dawkins it's better to read "Selfish gene" or "The blind watchmaker" instead. These should be the main course. "Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think" can be treated as a nice dessert.
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