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The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Popular Science) Paperback – 4 Mar 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 2Rev Ed edition (4 Mar. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192880519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192880512
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 2 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

The Extended Phenotype is a sequel to The Selfish Gene ... he writes so clearly it could be understood by anyone prepared to make the effort (John Maynard Smith, LRB)

This entertaining and thought-provoking book is an excellent illustration of why the study of evolution is in such an exciting ferment these days. (Science)

Book Description

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

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
"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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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