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The Selfish Gene Paperback – 19 Oct 1989

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Product details

  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; 2nd Revised edition edition (19 Oct. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192860925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192860927
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 2 x 12.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,005 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


"the sort of popular science writing that makes the reader feel like a genius" -- New York Times

About the Author

Richard Dawkins is Lecturer in Animal Behavior and Fellow of New College, Oxford. He is the author of The Blind Watchmaker.

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First Sentence
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

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Epsilon on 20 April 2001
Format: Paperback
I always find it best when a critic first outlines the platform upon which they stand. I'll do just that by saying I'm a 2nd year Zoology student, an avid follower and believer of evolutionary theory and an agnostic.
Do these facts colour my views on "The Selfish Gene"? Yes, no one is completely objective, not even the fiercest of scientists (anyone who tells you they are doesn't understand that the observer is as much a part of the system as the observed).
In my opinion, "The Selfish Gene" represents scientific writing (not just of the popular variety) at its finest. Richard Dawkins' fluid prose and vivid analogies illuminate the most complex of concepts. This is the perfect introductory text to evolutionary thought and I recommend it to lay and professional audiences alike.
As a matter of note, unlike many of the reviewers on Amazon, I reserve 5 stars for the truly exceptional works - those that represent milestones in their genre and medium. I class this book as one.
Dawkin's hard-line on evolution is not universally held in the field (many of his contempories label him an "Ultra-Darwinian") but the conviction with which he outlines his interpretation of Darwin's theory is intoxicating.
Please understand (precious few do) that though many in the scientific community do not completely mirror Dawkins in their perception of evolution, they still believe in it. Too many when viewing the ranks of biologists mistake debate for dissension.
There have been many people who have posed rather flimsy arguments against the claims this book makes.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Pete UK VINE VOICE on 4 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback
I have to smile. A fellow reader has given up on "The Selfish Gene" for two reasons. Firstly, Dawkins is too arrogant. Secondly, it is too difficult to read on a bus and you have to skip to the appendices sometimes. Well, there are plenty of good reviews here, so rather than add one more, can we just consider these two obstacles for a moment?
Yes, arrogant could describe the tone. Still, what's in a tone? Telephone directories are pretty insipid (and ungrammatical) but I still use them now and then. I think my fellow reader is put off because he is suspicious of anyone who presents an argument with this force and passion. My advice - if that bothers you, concentrate on the message rather than the voice. Call me biased, or converted, but Dawkins is entitled to push hard, because.... like it or not, he's probably spot on.
Difficult to read? Well, not for me, but everyone is different. And personally, I find anything more demanding than Peanuts pretty hard going on public transport. So - read it at home - on the sofa instead of a week's worth of EastEnders, or locked in your bathroom if your dad is a Creationist.
And who said books have to be linear experiences? Joan Collins? Skip around. Read ALL the appendices first, twice. I promise I won't tell anyone.
So what if it is "difficult to read"? Since when did everything worthwhile have to be Big-Mac easy? Maybe in some cases what you get out is proportional to what you put in... Ask the shades of Edmund Hillary or Winston Churchill. If you're a lottery winner then this is all patently false, but then you probably wouldn't be bothering with Dawkins or buses.
I'm guilty of feebleness too. Doctor Zhivago is a wonderful novel, but I'm told you only get the full measure of it if you read it in Pasternak's original Russian.
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Format: Paperback
The paradigm shift of this book's title will blow your mind.

Everyone knows about Richard Dawkins now, with his brilliantly original, elegant reasoning, and riveting articulacy.

This book is truly a must read. His stunning account of evolutionary logic inevitably provokes in the reader the astonishing epiphany captured by the title: it makes more sense to regard ourselves as our genes' mechanism of reproduction, rather than the other way round.

From the first exhilarating chapter in which he imagines the evolutionary survival of the first stable molecules - `the replicators' - the book is compelling throughout, as we encounter, first, elementary genetics, and then, progressively, the whole repertoire of evolutionary theory: kin selection, evolved altruism, sexual selection, parental investment, game theory, evolutionary stable strategies, group selection, generational competition.

This is Dawkins at his absolute magisterial best. (Remember this was written in 1976). It's a six-star book. No-one should fail to read it.
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37 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 12 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
Given the amount of dreck published about this book over the past two decades, it seemed a worthwhile exercise to reread and comment on it for a new generation of readers. As with Darwin's Origin of Species, more people have commented on this work than have read or understood it. Dawkins is a superb writer, able to convey his ideas with clarity and wit. As he has stated elsewhere, however, those very ideas still challenge those whose minds are locked by preconceptions. Dawkins must be, and is, a staunch advocate in presenting to us what genes are all about. He does so in order that we better understand ourselves.
He begins by anticipating the outcry of those who must see humans set apart from the rest of life. "Why Are People" examines several behavioral aspects of animals and people. Altruism receives particular attention because the term "selfish" applied to life returns us to the concept of nature "red in tooth and claw" which he wishes to avoid. Genes are not conscious entities who make decisions about their existence or future. Genes are simply replicators, using whatever resources are available to make more of themselves. With luck, the environment in which they do this allows them to survive and continue replicating. If not, the gene, and whatever characteristic it represents, goes extinct. Enough bad matches and a whole species follows the gene into extinction.
In the beginning our very earliest ancestors weren't likely to even have been organisms, but simply chemicals. From this, Dawkins traces the development of the DNA molecule and the organisms that came to carry it in their cells. These organisms, "survival machines" in Dawkins' expression, carry the genes, supplying them with the raw material to continue replicating.
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