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The Selfish Gene

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  89,347 Ratings  ·  2,157 Reviews
Inheriting the mantle of revolutionary biologist from Darwin, Watson, and Crick, Richard Dawkins forced an enormous change in the way we see ourselves and the world with the publication of The Selfish Gene. Suppose, instead of thinking about organisms using genes to reproduce themselves, as we had since Mendel's work was rediscovered, we turn it around and imagine that "ou ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 25th 1990 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1976)
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John Words like "it's not true" and "just theory" belie a deep misunderstanding of what science is. I assume you mean "not proven" and "not law" - but even…moreWords like "it's not true" and "just theory" belie a deep misunderstanding of what science is. I assume you mean "not proven" and "not law" - but even that misunderstands science. Almost nothing in science is "proven" - that's not how science works. Science is an iterative process. We have theories, and "theory" does not mean "guesswork" - it means "the best understanding that we currently have of the nature of reality." It's a "theory" because in science there's always the possibility of disproving a theory, but the wonderful thing is, a disproven theory teaches us even more about reality and nature by supplanting the theory with a better one.

At almost no point does science say "this is an absolute truth" because that is incredibly conceited - ANYONE that tells you they know an absolute truth is probably selling something. Science simply says "This is true as far as we can tell right now. But please, if you think differently, set up a rational, testable and repeatable way to prove this theory wrong. The science community welcomes your input if it follows these rules, because that's the way forward."

To date the core theories of this book have not been proven wrong, and are therefore considered to be true as far as we know right now.(less)
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Community Reviews

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- What some people seem to find hard to understand is that there's a part of you, in fact the most important part, that's immaterial and immortal. Your body is really no more than a temporary shell for the immortal part, and houses it for a little while until it dies.

The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)
Oct 03, 2007 Nathan rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People who think atheism isn't a religion.
Didactic, patronizing, condescending and arguably neo-intellectual twaddle. I do not believe in a God, certainly not any God that's been conceived by man, but I also believe Richard Dawkins is a self-satisfied thought-Nazi who is as fundamental in his view of religion as any right-wing minister. Fundamentalists of all faiths scare me, and atheism is just as much a faith as any religion. The existence or non-existence of a God cannot be proven, nor can the existence or non-existence of a soul, an ...more
Brian Hodges
Although I consider myself a Jesus-loving, god-fearing, creationist, I simply LOVE reading about evolution. I'm not sure what it is, but I find the whole concept, when explained by a lucid and accessible author, fascinating. And Dawkins is nothing if not lucid and accessible. He presents the topic and various questions and scientific controversies in a way that anybody with a willingness to pay attention can follow it. Some of the chapters were a bit more of a slog as Dawkins has to resort to sc ...more
Jono Davis
Apr 21, 2008 Jono Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most important things I took from The Selfish Gene is an idea that I find a bit difficult to put into words. Richard Dawkins is really good at crafting metaphors to describe scientific principles that on their own may be not be so interesting, or may be stubbornly inaccessible. While his rhetoric may make concepts more accessible and convenient to discuss, he openly warns that no metaphor is completely accurate. Understanding that the metaphors must be viewed skeptically, he offers ...more
Petra X
Sep 15, 2015 Petra X marked it as books-reviewed-but-not-read  ·  review of another edition
If you are bored look up the Community Reviews, sort by 1-star. They are very entertaining. One of them as a uni professor advising a student to burn down the book store where they bought this book. Then we have the creationists, then the person who thinks it is all a capitalist manifesto. There are those who think he is arrogant, depraved, uses philistine language (!) ...

How can anyone be a creationist and not believe in dinosaurs and such? Do they believe that the earth is flat? Are they the
Jun 18, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the 30th anniversary edition of this book--it is a true "classic". I note that there are over 48,000 ratings and 1,400 reviews of this book on Goodreads! Richard Dawkins put an entirely original slant on Darwin's theory of natural selection. The book has turned people around, to the understanding that the gene plays the single most central role in natural selection, rather than the individual organism. Over the course of generations, evolution plays a role to ensure the survival of the ge ...more
peiman-mir5 rezakhani
دوستانِ گرانقدر این کتاب از 500 صفحه و 13 فصل تشکیل شده است
عزیزانم، به ژنی در انتخابِ طبیعی برتری داده میشود که تجمعِ همتاهایِ آن در خزانۀ ژنی رو به افزایش باشد.توجهِ ما به ژن هایی است که به نظر میرسد رویِ رفتارِ اجتماعیِ دارندگانش اثر میگذارد، پس بیایید برایِ ژن ها تا حدی هوش و آزادی قائل شویم تا این نوشته و ریویو برایتان ملموس تر باشد
دوستانِ گرامی، ژنِ خودخواه، فقط یک قطعۀ کوچک از دی اِن اِی نیست. بلکه همۀ نسخه هایِ قطعۀ خاصی از دی اِن اِی منتشر شده در سراسرِ جهان است و هدفش این است که تعدادِ
Aug 03, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Dawkin's 1976 classic game changer The Selfish Gene contains information I still didn't know, almost 40 years later. His basic idea is that the essential unit of life is the gene; our bodies are just big fleshy protection robots for the gene. Dawkins says I'm a tool. Right? High five!

And you might be like "Okay, so who cares?" What difference does that make, right? Well, first of all I'm gonna go have some pie because fuck you, genes, you're not the boss of me. Woohoo! Other than that, n
Jun 09, 2012 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally, and after an excessive period of time, the main cause of which was college overwhelming demands, I managed to read and finish, from cover to cover, the book that launched the fame of the most distinguished evolutionary biologist in the world (Richard Dawkins): The Selfish Gene.

Dawkins is often characterized as the World's Most Outspoken Atheist. This may be true, but it's concerned with a relatively recent development in his character. I think such reduction is misleading and unfair, qu
Nandakishore Varma
Jan 10, 2016 Nandakishore Varma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
On 27 December 1831, a young naturalist by the name of Charles Robert Darwin set upon a voyage of discovery on the HMS Beagle which was to last five years and take him all over the globe. He came back with a lot of specimens, copious scientific notes and an explosive theory which was to rock the world of ideas: the theory of evolution by natural selection. Suddenly, God became an unnecessary and unlikely hypothesis: man was pulled down from his high throne as the master of creation: and existenc ...more
Oct 02, 2007 rachelm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Writing lucidly about science for a lay audience while remaining scientifically rigorous is not easy, and Dawkins does a tremendous job as he examines evolution from the point of view of the gene rather than the organism.

I found this book to contain a number of "aha" moments -- for example, that rather than pose the question "Why is DNA an efficient mechanism for an individual organism to reproduce itself?", we should ask instead "How did a giant, complicated lumbering robot such as myself beco
Sidharth Vardhan
Sep 03, 2016 Sidharth Vardhan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, non-fiction
“ There are more possible games of chess than there are atoms in the galaxy.”

Sometimes science books can become unintentionally funny:

“What is the good of sex? This is an extremely difficult question for the evolutionist to answer. Most serious attempts to answer it involve sophisticated mathematical reasoning.”


One of stupidest criticism here on Goodreads of Adam Smith’s Theory of Wealth of Nations’ was that he made the human selfishness as basis of his theory. It was stupid as Smith
Alexander McNabb
I asked Twitter for reading recommendations just before Christmas and one of them was this book. It's so outside my comfort zone (a book about genetics? Are you MAD?), I just went for it. And I am very glad I did.

That's the great thing about Kindles. You can do mad stuff in seconds flat.

Skip the forewords and introductions, they're sententious verbiage. Just start reading the book - by the time you've done, you'll actually WANT to go back to the forewords and revision notes. Because this book is
Sep 17, 2016 Γκόλεμ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ο Ντόκινς δεν είναι μόνο μεγάλος επιστήμονας αλλά και είναι και μεγάλος συγγραφέας. Αυτά τα δυο όμως είναι αλληλένδετα. Όταν στην επιστήμη σου έχεις βαθιά γνώση του αντικειμένου τότε μπορείς να ο εξηγήσεις και στον πιο απλό άνθρωπο. Γιαυτό και ο Ντόκινς στα βιβλία του γράφει (όπως λέει ο ίδιος ) στον απλό αναγνώστη, στον ειδικό και στον φοιτητή του.
Τι είναι εγωισμός; Γιατί το γονίδιο του πάντα μας καθορίζει τις αποφάσεις και τις πράξεις μας;
Τι είναι το μιμίδιο; Είναι πιο ισχυρό από το γονίδιο;
Jan 11, 2016 tyranus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
** Bilime yabancı olan okuyucunun bu konulara özel ilgisinin ve bilgisinin olmadığı göz önüne alınarak konuyla ilgili teknik terim kullanılmamış; ancak bu konularda uzmanlaşmış kimseler de unutulmamış ve basit, yalın sayılabilecek bu anlatım tarzının, uzmanlaşmış kimseler için eğlendirici olması temenni edilmiş. Genetik bilimi mezunu olarak, Dawkins'in ikinci hedef okur grubu içindeyim; lakin bana çok eğlendirici gelmedi.

** Kitap eğlendirici olmaktan daha ziyade, gen kavramının ortaya atıldığı y
Oct 02, 2007 M D rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
I read this book when I was a student and studying genetics at the time. This helped a lot, it made an awful lot more sense than what I was learning and I have Professor Dawkins to thank for making me look like a genius in a lecture and completely getting my head round an essay.

I am a big fan of Richard Dawkins, and this is his genius. I admire his ability to argue something so comprehensively and convincingly. I first discovered him in a book of essays where he wrote a letter to his daughter Ju
Abubakar Mehdi
Nov 29, 2015 Abubakar Mehdi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love reading books that challenge my worldview and compel me to change it. This book is an excellent work on Evolutionary biology, Genes, Behavioral biology and Natural selection, among many other fascinating topics. Dawkins is succinct, eloquent and a very intelligent tutor. He uses examples and metaphors to illustrate his point and to coalesce them all to form one unifying picture, of a universe, not in perfect harmony, but in tumult and constant change. The chapter on “Memes” blew me off ab ...more
Priscila Jordão
Although a lot has changed in social biology and ethology since this book was originally published in 1976, “The Selfish Gene” brought me numerous insights which made my respect for Dawkins grow immensely. I’ll explain why.

The book can be considered today almost out of date, I think, and there’s much in it to be criticized. Dawkins language is particularly reductionist as he explains various types of animal behaviors mathematically while attributing them solely to genetic factors.

He says, for i
Dec 03, 2012 Leajk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I read this a couple of years ago, I loved it. I've also been at a loss to see why people had troubles liking Richard Dawkins, sure he was harsh sometimes in debates, but mostly I found him intellectually honest.

It's higly ironic that not even a week after I was defending my idol Dawkins against accusations of his research being biased, I find myself in some serious doubts regarding my previous respect for him.

This is to the best of my memory what happened last week:

My fellow beer drinke
Feb 11, 2016 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book because I'm fascinated by the idea of evolution - I mean, at first glance it appears utterly preposterous, right? So I wanted to take a closer look. I started by reading The Origin of Species (Darwin, of course). That was well worth-while but clearly his theory was wrong, for many reasons, most of which are given in the book, by Darwin himself. The key problem for Darwin was that whilst he knew there had to be some kind of inheritance of characteristics, he had no idea what th ...more
Aug 17, 2007 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
listen to this story.
10 people in a private room with a big deal/money insurance company eating expensive steaks and drinking expensive wine. one guy says to the effect: "simple starches convert almost instantly to sugar, sugar actually makes you more hungry."

so i say to the guy "so, evolutionarily we have develop to take advantage when we find food with alot of sugar. like hoarding."

to which the gentleman, well dressed, presumably well paid, replies: "i don't believe in evolution."

holy fuck. i
Jan 28, 2016 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: Science and Inquiry Book Club
Shelves: science
The Science and Inquiry Book Club selection for August. Also the inaugural selection - yippie!

-- -- --
Key concepts for me:
+The universe is populated by stable things
+"In sexually reproducing species, the individual is too large and too temporary a genetic unit to qualify as a significant unit of natural selection."
+"The individual is a survival machine built by a short-lived confederation of long-lived genes."
+Evolutionarily stable strategies (ESS), instead of group selection
+Stable polymorphis
Nov 16, 2015 Negativni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Knjiga je odlično napisana. Dawkins lijepo piše, jasno i nastoji izbjegavati stručne termine, ako je to moguće i objasniti riječima koje mogu razumjeti i oni koji nisu genetičari, odnosno laici poput mene. Mislim da uopće nema niti jedne riječi latinskog - što je pravo čudo za jednog biologa!

No, istovremeno ovo je i knjiga koja je namjenjena i znanstvenicima. Danas je njegova teza gotovo potpuno prihvaćena, ali kada je knjiga izašla 1976., teza da su geni odgovorni i za ponašanje bila je revoluc
"يتشارك قرد الشامبانزي والإنسان بقرابة 99.5% من تاريخهما الجيني، ومع ذلك يعتبر معظم المفكرين من البشر أن الشامبانزي ما هو إلا مسخ غريب بينما يعتبرون أنفسهم صورة الإله".
هذه كانت كلمات دوكينز الأولى في مقدمته للإصدار الأول من كتابه "الجين الأناني"، وبهذه الكلمات يأخذنا الكاتب عبر رحلة مثيرة تبدأ من "الحساء الأولي" قبل أربعة مليارات سنة قائلاً "في البدء كانت البساطة"، مروراً بالكثير من الأمثلة المذهلة عن تكيفات الكائنات الحية عبر العصور، يعرض فيها صوراً من ممالك الطبيعة تتنوع بأشكالها حتى يكاد العق
There's a point in this book where Dawkins tells the story of how, after publishing it, he received a letter from a man who said that this work has put him in depression. I can understand why. Although I see it as a brilliant work of science, I can't help but feel a little bit scared of the truth of it. Scared not in the sense of wishing it weren't true, but scared for understanding exactly how much of a nothing there exists before and after us, and how we are only vehicles for the tiny little r ...more
Luke Baumgarten
Nov 12, 2007 Luke Baumgarten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book, ostensibly about how evolution acts primarily at the level of genes rather than organisms, is damn cool. Also, though, tacked into the back is the coining and brief explanation of the idea of memetics, applying a genetic evolutionary model to the way ideas disperse amongst cultural groups and become entrenched in the societal fabric. It's an utterly mindblowing epistemological theory that's totally changed the way I think about ... everything really ... and it's included almost as an a ...more
Feb 22, 2013 Melki rated it really liked it
Shelves: sciency-stuff
I didn't find this one nearly as interesting or as fun as The God Delusion. At times, reading it felt like a homework assignment, but for that I will have to fault my own intellectual shortcomings, and NOT Dawkins' logic or writing ability.

After all, I'm not about to criticize a man who manages to mention lawyers AND vampire bats in the same sentence..
May 23, 2015 Elyse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago.. It was the first book I read with The Bay Area Book club..(the local book club I'm still in.
I don't think I was a member of Goodreads yet.

I thought this book was a little more 'textbook' in sections than I would have preferred .. At the time anyway..
But I got value.. It's a good book..,
And our book club discussion was excellent.
Oct 06, 2007 Charles rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the crown jewel of Dawkin's popular works. It is a masterpiece of choice illustration, finely honed definitions and pedantically nuanced distinctions, all framed by his engaging, pacey style. It has justly made him an iconic populariser. It is his best referenced and most tightly reasoned book.

He starts with characteristic confidence: Darwinian evolution is as established as the earth's solar orbit. Blind prejudice or intellectual deficiency alone could misinterpret the data. The debate
Nov 11, 2015 Roberto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Richard Dawkins inizia questo importante saggio scrivendo:

"Questo libro dovrebbe essere letto quasi come se fosse un libro di fantascienza. Infatti è stato pensato per stimolare l'immaginazione del lettore. Tuttavia, non tratta di fantascienza, ma di scienza vera. ... Noi siamo macchine da sopravvivenza ‐ robot semoventi programmati ciecamente per preservare quelle molecole egoiste note sotto il nome di geni"

Darwin sosteneva che la selezione naturale agisce sul singolo essere vivente, che è dota
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  • Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History
  • Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life
  • The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
  • The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution
  • The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal
  • Why Evolution Is True
  • Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence
  • The Meme Machine
  • Sociobiology: The New Synthesis
  • Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
  • Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
  • On Growth and Form
  • What Evolution Is
  • The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature
  • Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design

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“Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.” 172 likes
“We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.” 74 likes
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