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The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary edition Paperback – Special Edition, 16 Mar 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 30th Anniversary edition edition (16 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199291152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199291151
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (294 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Richard Dawkins first catapulted to fame with his iconic work The Selfish Gene, which he followed with a string of bestselling books: The Extended Phenotype, The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, The Ancestor's Tale, The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth, The Magic of Reality, and a collection of his shorter writings, A Devil's Chaplain.

Dawkins is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. He is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the Royal Society of Literature Award (1987), the Michael Faraday Award of the Royal Society (1990), the International Cosmos Prize for Achievement in Human Science (1997), the Kistler Prize (2001), the Shakespeare Prize (2005), the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science (2006), the Galaxy British Book Awards Author of the Year Award (2007), the Deschner Prize (2007) and the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest (2009). He retired from his position as the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University in 2008 and remains a fellow of New College.

In 2012, scientists studying fish in Sri Lanka created Dawkinsia as a new genus name, in recognition of his contribution to the public understanding of evolutionary science. In the same year, Richard Dawkins appeared in the BBC Four television series Beautiful Minds, revealing how he came to write The Selfish Gene and speaking about some of the events covered in his latest book, An Appetite for Wonder. In 2013, Dawkins was voted the world's top thinker in Prospect magazine's poll of 10,000 readers from over 100 countries.

Product Description


Dawkins's 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, New York Review of Books)

The Selfish Gene is a classic. (Robin McKie, The Observer)

A genuine cultural landmark of our time. (The Independent)

Review from previous edition The sort of popular science writing that makes the reader feel like a genius. (New York Times)

Book Description

Anniversary Edition. Voted 'Author of the Year' at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2007

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Inside This Book

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Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

220 of 242 people found the following review helpful By D. P. G. Bellinger on 28 Jun. 2006
Format: Hardcover
While you might expect Dawkins' classic to be terrifically interesting (and you'd be right), you'd probably expect it to be a bit of a slog. In this respect you'd be completely mistaken - it flows beautifully, and is seriously difficult to put down. And the whole way through you have the wonderful sense that you're being educated as well as entertained.

The book starts right from first principles, describing a plausible theory for the origin of life, and explaining how more and more complex molecules could have formed in the 'primaeval soup'. Eventually a molecule arose that could replicate itself, and life has never looked back. Dawkins goes on to define a gene, which turns out to be quite an important step (I thought I knew what the word meant already, but I was wrong), and relates how genes have indirect control over what he calls 'gene machines', i.e. living things. Subsequent chapters then detail various survival strategies, 'altruism' and how it can be explained genetically, tensions between sexes and generations, and a new replicator, the 'meme'.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is the way that Dawkins draws on game theory to assess mathematically the most sensible way for a gene machine to act. In particular, the sections on 'the Prisoner's Dilemma' (a specific game theory scenario which crops up all over the place in nature) are, to me at least, a radical new way of thinking of many problems in (human) life, and how we should approach them. It could have ramifications for politics, social policy, economics, and the environment, to name only a few. Like all the difficult concepts in this book, Dawkins explains this simply and thoroughly, and the reader never feels patronised.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Dexter on 22 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
It's ironic that I should have read one of Dawkins' earliest works after reading his newest - doubly so given that the quality of the former eclipses that of the latter by a substantial margin. The Selfish Gene represents Dawkins at his very best: lucid and witty without ever sacrificing his intellectual rigour, he presents his arguments with an unassailable logic that precludes disagreement. Perhaps it is a cliché, but everyone who has an interest in Darwinian evolution should read this book.

That said, there are times when Dawkins belabours some of his points unnecessarily and, occasionally, over-indulges his proclivity for observing the niceties of academic modesty, but the prose never ceases to sparkle and these minor issues really are the harshest criticisms I can muster! The 30th anniversary edition has been updated with some insightful endnotes that enhance (but not interrupt) the original text and bring The Selfish Gene up to date, making it a worthy addition to any library collection.
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135 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Mike J. Wheeler on 21 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a landmark piece of writing without any doubt. This was in fact the book that sparked a whole genre. Until the success of 'The Selfish Gene' popular science writing was spectacularly under-read. After this popular science sections became noticeable in every self-respecting bookshop.

The book itself tackles what in essence could be a very difficult subject (the level at which natural selection acts) but it articulates it so well. Many since have tried to contribute to the debate but none have the prose skills of Dawkins nor the ability to put over a difficult subject with the reader seeing it as outstandingly obvious and common sense. Dawkins also initiates the idea of the meme as a unit of cultural evolution here for the first time. In the long run this may turn out to be Dawkins biggest original contribution to science and it has spawned many books on the subject since.

I have a particular fondness for this book. It was having read this and 'The Blind Watchmaker' which sent me back to full-time education at the age of 29 to read Genetics and subsequently develop a career in science myself. Truly an inspirational piece of work - one of the outstanding books of the Twentieth Century.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr Brian Livingstone on 5 Aug. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is still as good a read as when I first saw it in 1975 but you should be aware that it is probably more controversial now (2015) than it has been for years. This edition came out in 2005 and Prof Dawkins' additional comments in the introduction and the end notes are well worth reading.However since then reasoned academic arguments have been appearing in reputable journals, which oppose the ideas that the book promoted. As a counterbalance you should read EO Wilson " The Social Conquest of Earth" section iii,"How Social Insects Conquered the Invertebrate World" which summarises his and others' arguments against at least some important elements of the "Selfish Gene".
Nevertheless I still like reading it from time time (5-10 year intervals is about right).It is not my favourite of his books...that is "The Blind Watchmaker" ....but it should still be on any educated person's shelf (I n my view) and, of course,Hamilton's theory of "Inclusive Fitness" that "Selfish Gene" was written to explain and support, may still defeat the attacks of it's opponents.
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