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203 of 223 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, and an utterly compelling read
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...
Published on 28 Jun 2006 by D. P. G. Bellinger

versus
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book - dreadful mistakes in Kindle edition
Wonderful book, let's say that up front. There are however SO MANY annoying mistakes in the Kindle edition and this is SUCH a shame! Especially with dates. eg 19705 for 1970s and 19805 for 1980s.
In the 'Extracts from Reviews' the first (Pro bono publico) was (will be rofl) written in 7977. Then in 'Genes and Memes' we see 'during the 19605 and 19705'. This is just...
Published on 1 May 2012 by G. Harris


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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 13 Sep 2014
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 10 Aug 2014
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genes are forever, 31 July 2010
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
The great biologist G.C. Williams said that `natural selection, albeit stupid, is a story of unending arms races, slaughter and suffering. Its immorality has to be accepted and, at least, to be thought about'. R. Dawkins did think about it. His provocative scientific analysis changed (should change) our vision on mankind. In superb endnotes he puts some points on the i's of former editions.

Genes
In a Darwinian world without design or purpose the fundamental unit of selection is the gene (a portion of chromosome material). The predominant quality of a successful and potentially immortal gene is ruthless selfishness.

Replicators and Vehicles
Genes compose replicators and use discrete vehicles (organisms with specializing cells) for the propagation of their replicators. The qualities of a good replicator are longevity, fecundity and copying fidelity. The master-replicator is DNA. It supervises the manufacture of proteins, which in turn control chemical processes in the cell. A particular gene is all the replicas of a particular portion of DNA distributed throughout the world.
Individual bodies (organisms), not species, are the sole vehicles in the evolutionary process. The essential quality of an effective gene vehicle is the possession of an impartial exit channel into the future for all genes inside it (fertilized egg). Genes exert ultimate power over the vehicles through the nervous system and use the vehicle's brain as executive (in a completely unconscious manner).
Gene differences emerge only in the phenotypic effects on bodies and the world.

Gene pools, altruism and battles
Genes live in gene pools, evolutionary stable sets of genes, which are only occasionally invaded by a new gene (= evolution).
Kin altruism, like parental care, can be explained by the fact that close relatives have a greater than average chance of sharing genes. Reciprocal altruism is a win-win solution for all gene participants. In their struggle for domination (survival) genes generate unconscious amoral behaviour in generation and gender conflicts (of interest).

Memes
In the soup of human culture the meme is the unit of (un)successful imitation, the new (cultural) replicator.
Memes and genes can reinforce each other, but can also be staunch enemies.

Very serious warning
Even if we assume that individuals are fundamentally selfish, their conscious foresight could (should) save us from the worst excesses of the blind replicators. One of these excesses is a demographic explosion. It the population growth continues at the actual rate, the world is not so far away from the point where its human population, jacked in standing position, will form a solid human carpet all over our planet.

In a clear, easily understandable vocabulary with brilliant metaphors (book, boat, (non)zero sum games, gambling, dilemmas), Richard Dawkins simply destroyed scientifically the utmost selfish Right and Left Moral Majority, wherefore eternal thanks.

N.B. I encountered one typing error: (p.7 before last line) IF, not IT.
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8 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Muddled morass with trademark PC plagiarism, 25 Nov 2010
By 
Rerevisionist (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
** THIS IS A VERY LONG REVIEW!***

I've watched Richard Dawkins speak several times; at one such event, he was asked: "Which came first - the chicken or the egg?" and he dodged the issue: "The egg - if by that we mean the self replicating mechanism. - the chicken, the body, is the temporary receptacle of the information... that's the essence of modern neo-Darwinism." Presumably, neither came first.

It took me years to grasp Dawkins's starting-point. If, like Dawkins, you assume that replication came first, it's natural to adopt a Dawkins-style view. But, speaking as a multi-celled organism, I had assumed more or less unconsciously that proto-life may have come first, into which replication somehow intruded. So far as I can tell, none of this is yet decidable; most evidence must have gone long since, disappearing as food or fertiliser.

Anyway ... Dawkins calls it 'neo-Darwinism', because the detail of genes in evolution was unknown to Darwin. (And one might add: Alfred Russel Wallace's priority is unknown to Dawkins).

By the 1990s, automatic gene sequencing (based on DNA of course) by machine became easy, with the results all supposedly put online. Dawkins is not a practising scientist in that sense; and the observations of animals - for example, accounts of rather weird parasites and the behaviurs they cause in their victims, are mostly taken from other peoples' patient observations. His professorship was (is?) specifically in promoting public awareness of science, e.g. in 1991/2 Royal Institution lectures, and countless others His manner is very polite. He tends to say the right thing: he even said he was given 'a new respect' for the profession of TV filmmakers, after a 1985 TV programme on evolution.

Dawkins lists many general influences, along with individual papers. Niko Tinbergen (1953, 'Social Behaviour in Animals'). W D Hamilton and G C Williams on 'social ethology'. R L Trivers (1970s books on 'reciprocal altruism', 'parental investment', 'parent offspring conflict', 'social insects'). V.C.Wynne-Edwards, e.g. 1962 popularised by Robert Ardrey in The Social Contract of 1970. John Maynard Smith on game theory (simple grids with simple outcomes of actions - which assume there's some common measurement of outcome). Later titles (postdating his first edition) include cultural transmission - as in 'memes'.

One has to wonder how much of this is talked up, after the fashion of early popular writers on biology. For example, Dawkins quotes such things as the 'Utter selfishness of the Ik of Uganda', as described by Colin Turnbull, and the gentle altruism of Margaret Mead's Arapesh. He doesn't seem to know about Mead's exposure as a fraud - just one example suggesting he takes sources rather too much at face value.

Dawkins writes well, in the sense of describing individual modules of the world; it's pulling things together in an overview that's problematical. I'll try to identify some of these serious problems....

[1] MEANINGS OF WORDS
As many people have pointed out, there are problems with meanings. Let's look at 'evolution', 'selfish', 'gene' and 'altruism', and 'meme'.

The peculiarity of biological evolution is that its mechanism is built into the organism itself. Organisms are so remote from unliving matter, that they only exist because of ancestors - they don't spontaneously generate. 'Evolution' is the change in the totality of life forms from one time period to the next. But this is NOT the same as the 'evolution of ideas' or 'evolution of language' or 'social evolution'. Of course the verbal issue has been with us since at least the 19th century.

Assuming that genes generally operate at a low level - as surely most or all they have to, in order to code the fantastic complications of living things - most of the influences listed by Dawkins aren't anything do do with evolution or genes: he, or at least the reader, can hardly help confusing 'evolution' with things like 'social evolution', meaning change which in some way depends on what happened before. I don't think the issue is ever made clear.

Dawkins points out many times that 'selfish gene' - 'thinking of the individual [gene] as though it had a conscious purpose .. is just a figure of speech. A body is really a machine blindly programmed by its selfish genes.' There can't be many authors who admit their book's title is misleading!

Dawkins is careful to define a 'gene' 'as a unit of convenience, a length of chromosome with just sufficient copying-fidelity to serve as a viable unit of natural selection. This allows for whole chunks of chromosomes to be selected, which allows the meaning of 'gene' to be stretched out.

Another issue is long-term changes in genes; since new alleles can form e.g. by mutation, it seems possible many genes are unstable in the long term. In fact, no genes from the origin of life can have persisted to the present day. This suggests genes may not be as permanent as Dawkins implies.

On 'altruism' - here's a typical passage: 'Recently there has been a reaction against racialism and patriotism, and a tendency to substitute the whole human species..' and 'The muddle in human ethics over the level at which altruism is desirable - family, nation, race, species, or all living things..' Dawkins never makes it clear what 'altruism' is. Just a set of well-meaning phrases? Propaganda? The suggestion people should be nice to each other? Genuine action of some sort? The word is often used in a sense which is entirely hypocritical - trying to persuade people to have costs offloaded onto them, as in pop-star fronted begging. It is significant that Dawkins, following others, considers 'altruism', 'lies' and 'deceit' in various forms at a simple level, such as nesting birds, but not hypocrisy and lies at the serious, global, political level; this of course is part of the unmentionable material of 'correctness' which allows politicians and others to bemoan mass starvation etc without foind anything about it.

Near the end of 'The Selfish Gene' is an elaborate account of 'memes', and this makes sense as a logical progression, since these having nothing physically to do with genes at all. I saw Susan Blackmore speak on memes, and was struck by her trivial examples - a bit of Beethoven's Fifth, a pop song, an ad jingle, a baseball cap worn backwards. In short, a 'meme' is usually something remembered, but not important enough to be worth considering as an 'idea'. The entire process of learning a 'meme' and interpreting it, relying on a lifetime's memory of language to internalise it, is complicated; it only seems simple because we're used to it. Dawkins's more complex examples of e.g. faith, fear of hell fire, and also injunction to never ask for evidence, may have 'deep psychological impact', but rely on lots of repetition at school or whatever. There's some suggestive matter on 'memes' jostling for survival, but that's it.

[2] GENES WITH MAGICAL POWERS
Much of this book assumes there's a gene 'for' something - penis length is one example. I don't think Dawkins ever considers what limits can be expected from genes. There must for example be some sort of determinant of skeleton size and shape; but does every part of it have to be defined in detail? Would each finger and toenail need to be specified? Every blood cell? Surely not. His penis example sounds like a bit of sex put in to excite the punters.

A good example is a supposed gene to spread 'altruism'. Altruism in any of the normal senses means assessing some situation, and weighing up all the likely consequences of an action on more than one person (or other life form). This is an elaborate intellectual exercise involving the entire perceptual and memory system; how can there possibly be a gene for it?

Another example is survival. No organism in the world is descended from an ancestor that sampled death to see what it was like. How can fear of death be genetically determined? Such 'fear' certainly must exist - the human verbalised form isn't necessary - no doubt through avoidance of discomfort and so on; but at some point there must be some perception that something unpleasant to the organism may happen. How can there be a gene for that?

Dawkins gets around this: 'it can be perfectly proper to speak of a 'gene for
behaviour so-and-so' even if we haven't the faintest idea of the ... causes leading from gene to behaviour.' But this is in a discussion on certain bees cleaning up larval cells in their hives, obviosuly a very stereotyped behaviour, nothing like something as abstarct as 'altruism'.

[3] DETERMINISM AND INTELLIGENCE
'A body is really a machine blindly programmed by its selfish genes' illustrates Dawkins in behaviouristic mode. It's true that animals (like children) are highly egocentric and don't think much about the past, the future, or the universe. But it seems perfectly possible that animal brains are a lot better than Dawkins thinks when he brushes e.g. dog behaviour which he thinks only mimics purposive activity, such as looking for food. Animals are handicapped in the sense of lacking efficient mouth/tongue/ear elaborations. But I'd guess even though mute, animal brains are efficient and active. Since nobody knows what the brain does, apart from clearly being at the centre of nerves and senses, the point is difficult to to argue. It seems realistic to argue that genes define a body's plan and send out in the world to do its best. I'm not sure animals such as dogs are as brainless as Dawkins assumes.

[Even tiny animals - flies, spiders - sense danger and run away. How come? Do they think - I see a creature and know that if it contacts me with a large object I may be crushed and die; however by increasing the distance between us, the probability is reduced so I'm more likely to be safe? Can there be a gene which caters for all such situations?]

[4] SEXUAL REPRODUCTION
Throughout this book, Dawkins assumes organisms want to pass on as many genes as possible. And they should (e.g.) be indifferent between all their offspring. (It seems to follow that incest ought to be common). However all this seems based on a mistake.

Why have sexual reproduction? One of its strong points, paradoxically, is precisely that half the genes of each parent are not used. Assume (this is all simplified) the probability of a gene mistake is say .00001. Then the probability of correct copying is .99999. An organism with 100 genes has probability .99999^100 of transcribing correctly. Fairly simple algebra indicates that longer genomes will show errors roughly in proportion to the number of genes. The must come a point where females only will have a significant probability of passing on defective genomes, not reproducing properly. There simple life forms (aphids? worms? bacteria?) where breeding rates are so fast and easy that dead-end lines don't matter. But if women in an asexual world duplicated themselves wrongly, mistakes would build up to the point where costs of defective children would be too great.

If half the genes are thrown away, the result is something like regression to the mean. Parents with large numbers of genetic problems will cause many spontaneous abortions. It's also true that indusputably superior specimens will have little chance of having indisputably superior offspring. Sex supplies stability - essential for complex organisms - there's a sort of stabilising mediocrity. A descendant of (say) William the Conqueror may have none of his genes. This stabilising idea, where a small proportion of embryos are rejected as a quality control mechanism, is omitted by Dawkins. He claims parents should be indifferent between all offspring, even with lethal deformaties which parents presumably would wish to not reappear.

There's some interesting material on why e.g. eggs should become 'large' and sperms small. And why there should be 50:50 males and females, attributed to R A Fisher - who however relied on the fact that modern creatures have 50:50 sperms from which it seems to follow. Does this prove there couldn't be a different arrangement?

[5] GLORIFICATION OF EVOLUTION
There are (at least) seven types of writers on biology. The rather dim Fred Hoyle types, who seem unable to understand that vast ranges of time and space are usually needed for evolution. (I recall someone telling me: "I don't see cats turning into dogs"). And the Fabre type, emphasising repetitious stupidity (e.g. caterpillars that follow a leader - around the rim of a plant pot - for days). And the types (e.g. Bergson, G B Shaw) who have a rather fantastic attitude to evolution, expecting incredible new things to 'emerge'. There are also those who emphasise the incredible wastefulness of the evolutionary process: evolution compared with building houses by trial and error of techniques, leaving the world littered with the remains of innumerable incomplete houses. And the D'Arcy Thompson types ('On Growth and Form') who, as with J B S Haldane, consider lengths, areas, volumes, air pressure, surface tension and so on as influences on organisms. And the encyclopaedist types - H G Wells's 'Outline of Life' was brilliant - Faust mythically sold his soul for reference volumes of this sort.

Dawkins is influenced by all these types, but leans towards marvelling over the diversity of life, and the process of Darwinism, in my view unrealistically. He praises the 'miserly economy' and 'maximal efficiency' of 'survival machines'. A counter-view is that evolution is insanely wasteful, a series of bodges which just about work, but with numerous weak points.

- We saw this in the chapter on aggression. Even though
a 'conspiracy of doves' would be better for √√every single individualÄÄ than the
evolutionarily stable strategy, natural selection is bound to favour the ESS.

[6] GENES WORKING TOGETHER
Dawkins's oarsman example seems very weak. He talks of a typical university boat. But suppose there were 10o,000 rowers - given colossal numbers of genes, replacing one by a better one surely can be expected to make almost no difference. I'd have thought somehting like a factory or city would be a better exmaple, but with almost no job replacement - if one of the workers did the wrong thing, the whole affair could crash.

[7] COMPUTER ANALOGIES
Dawkins loves or loved his Mac (and incidentally believes viruses are simple to write, certainly a mistake). He seems to think the brain is similar to a computer generated display: 'The evolution of the capacity to simulate seems to have culminated in subjective consciousness. Why this should have happened is, to me, the most profound mystery facing modern biology. .. Perhaps consciousness arises when the brain's simulation of the world becomes so complete that it must include a model of itself.'

This seems to be a mistake of the same type as in 1930s drawings of the brain showing vision as something projected on a screen. And/or an overestimate of the ease by which the brain is fooled. Surely, in practice, optical illusions are quite rare and need careful design to work. Dawkins hasn't heard the idea that belief in ghosts fell as electric lighting rose.

[8] DISAPPOINTING OMISSIONS
Given an atmosphere of perhaps methane, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, with ammonia in the sea, and lightning, it's been known since the 1920s that a 'soup' could form - a dilute sea of organic molecules - carbon in almost unique in forming chains of almost any length. Dawkins puts emphasis on amino-acids and proteins, but metal ions, possibly dissolved from minerals by weak nitric/hydrochloric acid, and sulphate ions could be there too. If replicating chemcials appeared, the question is how the hell there could be some coded way for 'instructions' for life to develop from that. One might specualte that a molecule could attract a tiny shell or coating or arrangement of auquatic ions or other molecules, and maybe grow by absorption, and split at some point, carrying primitive instructions to repeat the process. I was disappointed that there's nothing on such possibilities, or indeed certainties.

Dawkins says little on the evolution of insects: at first sight, eggs -> caterpillars -> pupae -> flying insects seems impossible to square with evolution; perhaps more difficult than the eye. There must have been intermediate stages, such as pupae able to move (as in dragonflies), and some predecessor stage to eggs. It's easy to see the advantage of the process - an early stage of eating low-value food, followed by a winged phase of looking about to deposit eggs. But it's less easy to see how it could have taken place. Just as with the chicken and egg.

Another thing I missed was discussion on the very long term (though the 'ESS' = evolutionary stable strategy' incorporates this). Many books with a biological tinge have scenarios such as: one person having more children than another, and feeling they've won an evolutionary battle. Or people with lots of children, supported by social services, described as 'fit'. Or mass murders of specific types (for example, of intellectuals in the USSR) don't have any effects. It's easy to miss the extreme long-term consequences, especially of course with human beings, who tinker with the world more than any other species.

----------------------
Dawkins' 'Selfish Gene' without doubt tapped into some need for understanding of the world. But I don't think, in cool retrospect, its influence was very positive. Many Amazon reviews show people interpreting it as sociobiological praise for selfishness, or as showing that ethical beliefs are meaningless, or worrying over determinism. I remember a woman in a radio programme saying "some men aren't interested in a loving relationship, because they want an heir; I read about it in a book by Richard Dawkins". Maybe they misunderstood it, of course, but the misunderstanding is only possible because the messages are muddled.

The book doesn't help much, even with topics which are explicitly discussed, such as 'fast women' and 'philanderers'. The undiscussed problems include killing, or getting killed, under military command; why people dying on the streets don't just desperately grab at money to survive; overpopulation problems; genetic defects. Nor are political group issues discussed much - tribal and other groups working in secret, propaganda and its meme effects, competitin over resources. The book does have the vitally important underpinning of evolution. But the detail of the book is questionable. Three stars?
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Scientific Myth", 19 Dec 2009
By 
Sebastian Leaver "Moon Light Leaver" (Burnley, Lancashire, NorthWest England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book is very good, i found it helpfull when studying behavioural ecology at college
and tho it is factual inside it should be read as if it was "Scientific Myth"
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14 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, 16 April 2007
If you haven't read this book, then you don't know anything about how life works. Seriously recommended reading.
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7 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dawkins the Invented Originator and Selfish Replicator, 7 Mar 2013
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Despite the fact that this book is excellent at making complex material accessible to everyone, it is most disappointing that Dawkins to this day has not ceded priority for the phrase selfish gene to Hamilton who coined it 7 years before Dawkins at a Smithsonian conference and published it 5 years before Dawkins took the phrase and ran with it.

At the most basic level in this case it is true that "the phrase or term IS the concept" and this is where Dawkins lets himself down because it's merely a clever distraction for him to argue (as he has done a decade ago in defense of accusations that he he should cede priority to Hamilton) that his notion of selfish gene is different to Hamilton's notion. This defense is a red herring that has worked, to date, to silence his detractors on this issue. It is such a fishy defense because, at the basic level Dawkins and Hamilton share the exact same concept that is encapsulated by the phrase selfish gene. Namely that genes do what they do to pass on their characteristics into the future and that the organisms that carry them (e.g.a worm or a human etc) are merely vessels (or perhaps vassals is a better word) for the natural selection of those genes.

The problem with this book is that just like the first edition Dawkins cleverly fosters his own Dawkins myth that he coined the phrase by failing to admit that he never did so, because Hamilton got there seven years earlier.

I have a first edition copy of this book and I bought this 30th Anniversary copy on Amazon in the hope that Dawkins would after 37 years have admitted that others so obviously influenced him and so do have unquestionable priority for the selfish gene phrase and therefore for the most basic concept.

What Dawkins, weirdly, completely fails to admit in this book is that in 1969 William, D. Hamilton presented a paper on selfish and altruistic behavior, which includes the exact phrase selfish gene, at the Smithsonian Institute Annual Symposium. Hamilton then published the paper in 1971. In coining the phrase, in this 1969 paper and its 1971 publication, Hamilton is proven to be the originator of the phrase as well as the basic selfish gene concept.

Here is the selfish gene priority timeline which is taken from a full critical review of Dawkins as an invented originator, which can be found via a link published on the home page of my website: Dysology

1969 - William, D. Hamilton presents a paper on selfish and altruistic behavior, which includes the phrase selfish gene, at the Smithsonian Institute Annual Symposium. He publishes the paper in 1971. In coining the phrase in this 1969 paper Hamilton is proven to be the originator of the basic selfish gene concept.

1974 - Richard, D. Alexander publishes the phrase selfish gene in an article on the evolution of social behavior. He becomes the second person to use it.

1975 - Donald, T. Campbell publishes the phrase selfish gene in an article on biological evolution. He is the third person to use it.

1976 - Richard Dawkins comes fourth in the selfish gene stakes. He publishes the first edition of his best selling book The Selfish Gene. Weirdly, the book makes no mention at all of the fact that three earlier scientists `anticipated' Dawkins with both the phrase and concept `selfish gene'.

2006 - Dawkins 30th Anniversary Edition of his 1 million copy best seller The Selfish Gene still fails to admit that neither the book's title nor its basic concept were coined or originated by Dawkins.

Most ironically, given all the selfish, un-cited, replication of the discoveries of genuine originators and genuine great thinkers in science, in The Selfish Gene, Chapter 2 is even called `The Replicators'. In that chapter we can find further evidence for why uninformed readers might be drawn into concluding that Dawkins is a great thinker in science because surely he must have coined the word replicator and invented the most basic biological concept, because, for all the World, Dawkins appears to genuinely believe that he is personally coining the term for the first time (Dawkins, 1976, p.15):

`At some point a particularly remarkable molecule was formed by accident. We will call it the Replicator. It may not necessarily have been the biggest or most complex molecule around, but it had the extraordinary property of being able to create copies of itself.'

Why on Earth did Dawkins write "we will call it" when the same basic concept was already called a replicator in the 1940s and many times since in the published literature? Furthermore, why does Dawkins give the word a capital letter and italicize it as though it is a radical new discovery? Most importantly of all, why does he not cite anyone who used the word before, as we would expect from such a widely read scientific scholar as Dawkins? After all, as said, the same basic idea of genes and DNA being replicated was already in the literature years earlier. Among many examples, Jacob at al (1963) provided a diagram of what they call a `DNA replicator' and Lurie (1969) writes:

`This substance combines and activates a replicator gene, allowing replication of DNA attached to it.'

Thanks to his self-serving impression that he is the originator of this concept and term, yet another embarrassing Dawkinist myth abounds in typically embarrassing numbers in the literature. This time its the myth that Richard Dawkins coined the word replicator (e.g.: Hull, 1980; Weibull 1997; Gross 2013; p. 270). If you simply enter the search term "Dawkins coined replicator" into Google and you will begin to get an idea of the extent of this pervasive science myth - even in dozens of 'expert' books on evolution and sociobiology.

I think it's clear that Dawkins has got some explaining to do. Perhaps he'll address the Myth of Dawkins in his next selfish gene edition of the replication of ideas and discoveries of others?

References

Alexander, R. D. (1974) The Evolution of Social Behavior. Paper at the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science symposium "The Human Prospect: Heilbroner's Challenge to Religion and Science," Washington, D.C., October 23-24, 1974. Published in Johnston, R. F, Frank, P. W. and Michener, C. D. (eds.) Annual review of ecology and systematics - Volume 5 - Page 343.

Campbell, D. T. (1975), THE CONFLICT BETWEEN SOCIAL AND BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION AND THE CONCEPT OF ORIGINAL SIN. Zygon, Journal of Religion and Science. 10: 234-249.

Gross, R. (2013) Being Human: Psychological and Philosophical Perspectives. Abingdon. Routledge.

Hamilton, W. D. ( 1971) Selection of Selfish and Altruistic Behaviour in Some Extreme Models. Paper delivered at the Smithsonian Institution Annual Symposium 14 - 16 May 1969. In Eisenberg, J. F., Dillon, W. S. (eds) Smithsonian Annual III. Man and Beast: Comparative Social Behaviour. Washington. Smithsonian Institution Press.

Hull, D. L. (1990) Science as a Process: An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science. Chicago. Chicago University Press.

Jacob, F. Brenner, S. and Cuzin, F. (1963) On the Regulation of DNA Replication in Bacteria. Cold Spring Harbor Symp. Quant Biol. 28. 239-347.

Lurie, M. (1969) The Darwinian selection theory of antibody formation. Journal of Theoretical Biology. Volume 23, Issue 3, June 1969, Pages 380-386.

Weibull, J, W, (1997) Evolutionary game theory. Cambridge Mass. MIT Press.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who is selfish here??????, 12 Jan 2014
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Darwin writes like a scientist. Clear, structured, observant. This is not the case with Richard Dawkins. In this book he says there is no architect or intelligence required for us to be. But in another book, "The Blind Watchmaker", he claims that we have been "Designed"! Make up your mind, Sir. You cannot have it both ways.
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52 of 228 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Blind theorizing, 27 Jun 2008
By 
Midasin (London, England) - See all my reviews
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Dawkins writes that "the argument of this book is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes" (p.xxi) and that "We are survival machines - robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes" (p.xxi). Yet, according to him, this book "is not science fiction; it is science" (p.xxi)!

Dawkins contrives to overlook the twin discoveries that:
1. the observable traits of organisms are mostly conditioned by the interactions of many genes;
2. most genes have multiple effects on many of these traits.

Dawkins transfers characteristics with which he is familiar from human behaviour on the macro-level to the inanimate components, "genes", of which we are physically constructed. He then proceeds to argue that these impersonal entities, which he imagines to possess characteristically human traits, infallibly generate the same unpleasant traits in human behaviour on the macro-level. So he writes: "The gene is the basic unit of selfishness" (p.36).

The absurdity is evident in that genes or other nonconscious entities cannot be either selfish or unselfish. They cannot "compete" against anything or "choose" anything.

If Dawkins were right, what would be the point of declaring, as he does: "Let us try to *teach* generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish" (p.3)? For if we really were machines, as he believes, even these very concepts would be meaningless to us. And certainly his oratory could have no effect whatever on our actual behaviour.

In fact genes do not force us to behave in any particular way. Neither can they possess the ability to direct or to comprehend all that is required to adopt a course of either heartless selfishness or heartfelt, sacrificial compassion.

The arguments in this review have been challenged by the claim that Dawkins himself answers these charges. His claim is, in effect, that that "the evolution of behavioural reactions or patterns via natural selection" and "control by nonconscious mechanisms" are two vastly different ideas. Also it is said that Dawkins does not deny a freedom of choice as the very last lines in this book itself "celebrate the human ability to make choices that transcend genetic control and instinctive reactions." So it is said that Dawkins "repeatedly draws clear distinctions" to prevent his readers from jumping to the conclusions expressed above.

However, there is a vast difference between asserting that such distinctions exist and actually laying a solid theoretical foundation for such distinctions. To lay the kinds of foundations which Dawkins does and then to go on to insist that these foundations do not lead to their logical conclusion is nothing less than an act of faith on Dawkins' part. It certainly does not bestow any validity upon Dawkins alleged distinctions. The bottom line is that Dawkins' presuppositions simply do not lead logically to the sort of distinction which he asserts.

Essentially this debate is an argument not about data, but about underlying assumptions. Here is a example of what I mean:

ASSUMPTION: 1. "evolution is a fact";
DATUM: 2. "human beings have consciousness";
ASSUMPTION: 3. "therefore evolution is capable of generating consciousness".

Once again, it is a case of "garbage in, garbage out" (as Dawkins himself would say).

The major challenge to evolution's status as a 'hypothesis' is that it has no predictive value. Whereas Newton's account of planetary motion, for instance, enables us to make accurate predictions of the future 'behaviour' of the planets, the evolutionary paradigm does no such thing.
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1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mistake, 18 Mar 2013
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Sam Dorrian (Liverpool, England) - See all my reviews
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Bought this when I was a bit tipsy watching atheist videos on youtube. Sat here collecting dust. I hear it's good, though.
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