Customer Reviews


 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A scholarly exposition of "the long reach of the gene".
Firstly in reference to another review below, I think it is mean-spirited to give a negative review to a book you confess not to be capable of understanding!
This book was marketed as the sequel to The Selfish Gene, and chronologically it certainly was. However, the book is far more scholarly in its approach and for that reason is different in tone from Dawkins'...
Published on 13 Jun. 2004 by Geoff Mather

versus
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Warning: very different from The Selfish Gene
This summary is primarily aimed as a warning to readers of the Selfish Gene and other books by Dawmins who are expecting more elaboration on the same theme. This is not the intention of The Extended Phenotype. Instead this book is aimed squarely at professional biologists and other life sciences professionals. The book presents very few down-to-earth examples or...
Published on 11 Mar. 2006


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A scholarly exposition of "the long reach of the gene"., 13 Jun. 2004
By 
Geoff Mather (Cheshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Firstly in reference to another review below, I think it is mean-spirited to give a negative review to a book you confess not to be capable of understanding!
This book was marketed as the sequel to The Selfish Gene, and chronologically it certainly was. However, the book is far more scholarly in its approach and for that reason is different in tone from Dawkins' other major works. Dawkins states at the outset that he is writing primarily for the professional biologist, but that anyone who makes the effort may understand and enjoy the work (I paraphrase).
This is true. With occasional reference to the helpful and educational glossary provided at the back of the book, I found it easy to make progress, to enjoy and to follow the arguments presented. I highly recommend this to all professionals, and to all others who may have read Dawkins' other works and feel ready to go deeper.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting but challenging read, 8 Dec. 2004
By 
Sally-Anne "mynameissally" (Leicestershire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
"The Extended Phenotype" is the 4th and most demanding of Richard Dawkins' books that I've read. I hadn't realized that it was aimed mainly at his professional colleagues so was surprised at the amount of concentration, hard thinking and puzzled head scratching required to work through it. But what a glow of satisfaction: to finish such a challenging book, feeling that most of it has made sense to me. Like his other books (the ones I've read: "The Selfish Gene", "The Blind Watchmaker" and "Unweaving The Rainbow"), it's beautifully clearly written, with most of the more esoteric terms defined in the glossary at the back of the book. Not all of the terms could be found there however and nor were many of those to be found in an ordinary dictionary. The book is not so self-contained as those aimed at the more 'popular science' end of the market - the ones that you can read from cover to cover without reaching for a dictionary or other source of clarification. That's why I can only claim to have understood *most* rather than *all* of the book.
This book follows on from "The Selfish Gene" and in it, Dawkins argues that the phonotypic effects of genes do not stop at the limits of the organisms that carry them. He suggests, for example, that the phenotypic expression of beaver genes stretch right to the edges of the lakes formed by their dams and the genes of some parasites are expressed in their hosts. So a snail might behave in a manner that puts itself in harm's way because the fluke living inside it has, somehow, managed to modify the snail's behaviour for its own ends - say to continue its life cycle inside one of the snail's predators. That is to say, the snail's behaviour is maximizing the survival of fluke genes rather than snail genes. He puts it very succinctly: 'an animal's behaviour tends to maximize the survival of the genes "for" that behaviour, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal performing it.' There are plenty of other fascinating examples of this sort. There are chapters covering such intriguing areas as evolutionary 'arms races', 'outlaw' genes and 'jumping' genes. Good use is made of thought experiments to help to figure out how and why certain adaptations might have evolved. 'Outlaw' genes for instance, might try to cheat the system to get themselves replicated more than their alleles, so how can the rest of the genome fight back? I particularly liked the idea of the 'green-beard effect' whereby genes might make the organism (not necessarily a man) carrying them recognisable to other organisms carrying that gene so that all the organisms carrying the 'green beard' gene would be altruistic towards each other but not to non-green-bearded organisms.
It's not the usual easy read. As the author points out, 'this book ... assumes that the reader has professional knowledge of evolutionary biology and its technical terms'. However, it's well worth the effort of struggling with it if you're interested in evolution and Richard Dawkins ideas about how it all works. If you've read "The Selfish Gene" and found it riveting, you'll probably enjoy this too.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth it, 10 Jan. 2005
They weren't kidding when they said that this book is a bit more scholarly than The Selfish Gene. But in a good way: you can be sure that this is really what Dawkins wanted to say rather than some editor's attempt to make it more "accessible". You don't need to be a professional biologist but it might be a good idea to keep one standing by.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent as always, 2 Aug. 2005
By 
Rob "latsot" (Middleton St George, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As much as I love all Dawkins' books, this is probably my favourite. It explains how genes are not content to build organisms to ride around in - they also build structures like beaver dams, nests and so on, which are just as much an expression of genes as overtly biological traits and further perpetuate the genes' selfish 'desires'.
This is a really good treatment of that subject - you are unlikely to find any better.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A philosophical interlude, 7 Dec. 2010
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It is tempting to translate R. Dawkins' splendid views on natural selection, adaptation and evolution into a dialogue between Kant, Nietzsche, Plato and Schopenhauer.

Schopenhauer: We got it! The `thing in itself'.

Kant: But, son, I told you before that we cannot know it.

Schopenhauer: Father, I explained to you that we can know the `thing in itself', because we know our own body. I called it first the `will'; but, now, someone found the real, biological, fundamental, potentially immortal `thing in itself'.

Nietzsche: the Will to Power!

Schopenhauer: No, my son, I know you think of Darwinism as a `complète bÍtise'. The Will to Power is not an end, but a means used by the `thing in itself' to attain immortality.

Plato: Immortality? Then, it is one of my `pure ideas', a universal!

Schopenhauer: No, dear grandfather, it is only potentially immortal. It can fail!

Kant, Nietzsche, Plato (together): So, what is it then?

Schopenhauer: It is called the gene, a really existing, living, active long strain of molecules, which exists everywhere in the world.

Kant: And has it phenomena?

Schopenhauer: Of course, father, you found them already. They are the individual living beings, the mortals, which are used as vehicles by the genes to survive for generations on this planet.

Kant: What a formidable `thing in itself'.

Nietzsche: I must revise my vision on science.

Plato: I got so very near the truth. But, genes are only potentially immortal.

Schopenhauer: Dear members of the family, now that we could lay our hands on the ruthless and opportunistic secret agent, the culprit of arms races, with his long arms all over the place, we should at least think about it in the interest of our family, of mankind in general and of the planet we live on.

With thanks to B. Magee, W. Kaufmann and G.C. Williams.

The books of R. Dawkins are a must read for all those who want to understand the world we live in.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great very accessible book on evolution, 9 Mar. 2008
By 
Kuma "kuma" (Reading, Berkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I read this one after the 30th anniversary of The Selfish Gene, and though Dawkins states in his intro that he regards this as his best work, I personally prefer the slightly expanded Selfish Gene which takes into account his extended phenotype theory. I guess one further point on this is that there is a lot of repetition between the material in the two works too! He also states that this is aimed at his academic colleagues rather than as a book for the layman but I found the science to be pretty straightforward and commonsense and only needed to check the glossary at the back for about half a dozen words. However, other than those points its pretty much faultless and the plot will keep you gripped to the bitter denoument... I'm certainly looking forward to the sequel!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essentials of life's story, 15 Aug. 2005
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Biodiversity is more than a buzzword for ecologists. Variation gives life its grandeur, and Richard Dawkins gives us a description of the workings of variation. Fortunately, with a sharp mind and sharper wit, he has the ability to deliver this portrayal so that nearly everyone can understand it. That's not to say this book is an easy read. Although he delivers his narration as if sitting with you in a quiet study, you may still need to review his words more than once. That's not a challenge or a chore, it's a pleasure.
Dawkins, unlike other science writers, is forthright in declaring his advocacy in writing this book. It's a refreshing start to his most serious effort. After publication of The Selfish Gene led to a storm of fatuous criticism, Extended Phenotype comes in response with more detail of how the gene manifests itself in the organism and its environment. It's clear that Dawkins' critics, who label him an "Ultra-Darwinist" [whatever that is] haven't read this book. His critics frequently argue that The Selfish Gene doesn't operate in a vacuum, but must deal within some kind of environment, from an individual cell to global scenarios. Dawkins deftly responds to critics in describing how genes rely on their environment for successful replication. If the replication doesn't survive in the environment it finds itself, then it, and perhaps its species, will die out.
The child's favourite question, "why" is difficult enough for parents and teachers to answer. Yet, as thinking humans we've become trained to deal with that question nearly every context. So well drilled that we consider something for which that question has no answer to be suspicious if not insidious. Part of Dawkins presentation here reiterates that there is no "why" to either the process of evolution nor its results. It isn't predictable, inevitable or reasonable. It's a tough situation to cope with, but Dawkins describes the mechanism with such precision and clarity, we readily understand "how" if not "why" evolution works. We comprehend because Dawkins does such an outstanding job in presenting its mechanics.
This edition carries three fine finales: Dawkins well thought out bibliography, a glossary, and most prized, indeed, an Afterword by Daniel C. Dennett. If any defense of this book is needed, Dennett is a peerless champion for the task. Dennett's capabilities in logical argument are superbly expressed here. As he's done elsewhere {Darwin's Dangerous Idea], Dennett mourns the lack of orginality and logic among Dawkins' critics. Excepting the more obstinate ones, these seem to be falling by the wayside. It's almost worthwhile reading Dennett's brief essay before starting Dawkins. It would be a gift to readers beyond measure if these two ever collaborated on a book. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking evolution one step further, 29 Feb. 2000
By 
Kristijan Secan (Ljubljana, Slovenia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
What happens (evolutionary speaking) after genes surround themselves with enough flesh and bone to support their replication ? Well, Dawkins tries to answer that in this brilliant sequel to Selfish Gene. The arguments are well presented and the whole book is written in clear language. You don't have to be a geneticist to understand the book. So, if you've read Selfish Gene you should add Extended Phenotype to your collection. If not, first buy Selfish Gene, read it until it makes sense and then proceed to this book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Insightful and Challenging View, 24 April 2010
The Extended Phenotype is Dawkin's second book after the Selfish Gene. It was written, I believe for two purposes. Firstly, to address critics of the ideas in the Selfish Gene and secondly, to expound Dawkin's ideas to an audience of professional biologists. This latter point is important for potential readers of this book. This is not an easy book to read: it is assumed that the reader is familiar with some fairly advanced biology. Do not worry though, the writing is of a high standard and the ideas are presented logically and reasonably. It is likely that you will need to re-read some paragraphs and think about what has been written. A book that makes you think is generally a good one.

The first chapters of the book discuss and expand the idea of the "selfish gene", an idea much misunderstood by its critics. In essence, the term means that the basic unit of selection is the gene, i.e. natural selection acts at the level of the gene rather than the individual, or the species (group selection). This is actually perfectly logical, since the gene is the basic replicating unit. For example, a gene for antibiotic resistance in bacteria can be transferred linearly to daughter cells and also horizontally to other bacterial species through conjugation. Clearly, it is the resistance gene that is being selected for. The essentially mathematical idea of the evolutionary stable strategy (ESS) is mentioned here, as it was in more detail in the Selfish Gene. This is an idea from game theory that demonstrates how ecological strategies can arise. The notion of group selection is a misunderstanding that can be overcome by applying game theory. A group of animals may cooperate by gathering food for the whole group, but natural selection would tend to favour an individual who simple took food that was collected by other individuals, with no expenditure for itself. Such "selfish individuals" would tend to have higher reproductive success. Eventually, the group would become extinct (i.e. with no ability to gather food). Thus, in a successful species, an ESS would arise that would be some compromise between the extremes. Thus selection in a sucessful species would favour genes that enable this compromise to exist.

There is an interesting chapter on how genes "behave" in the "ecosystem" of a genome. There is a rare (for Dawkins) and brief foray into molecular biology. The possible evolutionary role of "junk" DNA (non-coding sequences) is discussed. I feel an understanding of molecular biology is essential to undestanding evolution, especially with the gene's eye view of evolution. Although Dawkins is an ethologist (the study of animal behaviour), I feel more attention could be given to molecular biology in evolutionary writing (of which Dawkins is one of the best writers).

Towards the end of the book, the discussion moves onto the extended phenotype, essentially how genes can act at a distance beyond the cell or even organism that contains them. I found the discussion on the interaction of host and parasite genes fascinating, and an excellent demonstration of the extended phenotype idea.

Exactly why do complex multicellular organisms such as ourselves exist? This question is addressed but no clear answer can yet be given. Clearly, groups of differentiated clones i.e. organisms are successful from an evolutionary point of view. It would seem genes "co-operate" in an evolutionary stable way to form a multicellular complex.

Daniel Dennett, the philosopher of biology has added an afterword, and I agree with another reviewer that it may be a good idea to read this before the main text. It provides a helpful overview of the book as a whole.

Overall, I commend this book to those who wish to further their understanding of life on this planet and its myriad complexities. Be prepared to think and question though! I am grateful that the publishers enabled this work aimed at the professional biologist to be published and made available to the general public.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The long reach of the metaphor, 10 Jun. 2010
By 
G. Imroth (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In addition to the other positive reviews:

The 'extended phenotype' is an elaboration of the selfish gene principle, in which the target of selection is the gene (the replicator), of which the phenotype (the individual organism) is merely a vehicle. Not only this, the vehicle (the phenotype) need not be identical to the individual organism's body but can extend beyond, so that webs, dams and nests are as much the phenotypes of spider genes, beaver genes and bird genes as the individual organisms themselves. Moreover, the human chemical addiction to nicotine is an extended phenotype of tobacco genes and some behaviour of host organisms are extended phenotypes of their parasites. For example, a parasitic fluke modifies the behaviour of its snail host, so that the snail's body is as much the phenotype of the fluke's genes as the fluke body is itself.

A good question is how far the phenotype can extend. Dawkins thinks that lakes (which may be miles long) caused by beaver dams are the largest extended phenotype, but how can we exclude any effect of the genes that benefits them in a way they can control or plan for? In which case, perhaps temperate forests are the extended phenotype of moles (as has been conjectured because they push out horses, which would crop young trees) and is the weather an extended phenotype of bacteria (which create bio-precipitation by forming ice-nuclei in clouds)? This way lies the holistic nonsense of Gaia.

These questions aside, this excellent book is my favourite of Dawkins' works because it is full of clearly exposed ideas and brilliant examples. Dawkins is a master of scientific explanation. A slight criticism, therefore, is that many examples concerned fictional animals or fictional genetic processes, giving the impression that there are no real-life examples to cite; though the reason, clearly, is that a fiction illuminates the principle without getting us bogged down in the exceptions and complications that natural examples inevitably entail.

Besides all other of Richard Dawkins' works (compared to which, this is the most technical), a useful book to read before reading 'The Extended Phenotype' is 'Mendel's Demon: Gene Justice and the Complexity of Life' by Mark Ridley, which explains in layman's terms the gene's-eye view of evolution with regard to parasite DNA, outlaw genes, meiotic drive, segregation distorters, arms wars between mother and embryo and other examples of genes promoting themselves at the expense of other genes in the same organism.

Read and enjoy!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Only search this product's reviews