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

4.4 out of 5 stars 316 customer reviews

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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 (316 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

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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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
As far as evolutionary biology's concerned I'm very interested, but nevertheless a layman. Richard Dawkins has however the rare ability to explain any scientifically difficult subject to practically everybody. His style is easy to read, very understandable, sometimes funny, and he uses very good examples to explain. Anybody having difficulties to understand evolution (and there are many out there) should read Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. A very good book: convincing, informative, readable book.
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Format: Paperback
I'll stop short of saying I hated it, but I really did not enjoy the book after some high expectations.

Being a biologist, I was very much looking forward to reading up on the theory of evolution and natural selection in this popularised form (having only experienced the textbook version). However, as other reviewers have mentioned, I found the style very dry, overly wordy and to be honest, very repetitive. I persisted through the first two chapters but then glancing through other chapters (in the hope that things would improve) I saw the same concept applied to different aspects of the species from physiology to behaviour and I just could not bear being beaten over the head with the same idea over and over again. Ok Dawkins, you had a good idea, but a whole book? Really?

The book at the moment has two problems for me. The first is its age. I think people going to university in the 90s and 00s must have learnt about evolution/natural selection with Dawkins' ideas in the background anyway and so probably the novelty of the concept has worn off over time. Second, is that Dawkins has taken a vaguely interesting idea too far. A thinking person will not buy into his many assumptions, oversights (especially in the second chapter) and sometimes circular arguments. It then becomes very difficult to stay with the author on his journey once you feel his scientific footing is dodgy.

I can see why the book has gained popularity among non-scientists as it does make Darwin's ideas accessible and his (many) examples are well-illustrated. Those already familiar with Evolution and Natural Selection: be warned.
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