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The Selfish Gene

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  60,047 ratings  ·  1,601 reviews
The original edition was published 30 years ago and remains a classic in the development of evolutionary thought. This edition has a new introduction by the author.
Paperback, 30th Anniversary Edition, 360 pages
Published May 25th 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1976)
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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingCosmos by Carl SaganThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Science Books - Non-Fiction Only
4th out of 864 books — 2,002 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
51st out of 3,038 books — 5,010 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Jono Davis
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
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
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
Ali Alyami
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
Oct 02, 2007 M D rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
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 20, 2008 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Luke Baumgarten
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
I know that you're all swooning now and sitting in awe of how incredibly well read I am, but let's just all settle down a minute so that I can tell you what I thought of this. Because really, that's why we're here. ;)

Overall, I thought that this was really interesting. I like Dawkins already after listening to The God Delusion (although I liked that one much more than this one). I think The Selfish Gene is intriguing and plausible and actually makes a lot of sense. It was really interesting to l
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
Steve Van Slyke
I'm a fan of Dawkins' work both in biology and skepticism, so take my praise and criticism with that calibrating qualification. I've read, I think, five of his books. I did not like this one quite as much as The Ancestor's Tale. While I agreed with the premise and theory proposed, sometimes his style of writing got in the way. Normally, I like analogies and metaphors to help explain complex ideas, but in this case I think he went too far in that direction, at least in the first half of the book. ...more
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..
It's hard to argue with Dawkins especially since he has logic on his side. Evolution is one of my favourite subjects and so it's not a surprise that I enjoyed the chapters in this book. Some may argue that we, as a species, are not selfish. They may add that we build communities and societies thanks to our altruistic nature. The truth is, as Dwakins pointed out, that even our most selfless actions have selfish motives. We cooperate and live in communities because we figured out that living toget ...more
Giovanni Gigliozzi Bianco
The Selfish Gene has become a classic in scientific popular literature. It is the herald of a certain popular genetic reductionism that still pervades biology.

Its merit is to make a competent presentation of evolution in a genetic perspective, using numerous examples and applications of neo-Darwinian logic. Additionally, there is a good selection of "stories and tales" of natural life, which color and elucidate the aridity of their arguments and make the book more interesting.

Nevertheless, the b
Feb 20, 2012 Rohini rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rohini by: Riku Sayuj
Selfish gene is the story of evolution and animal behaviour written in an almost impeccable style by Dawkins through the language of genes.

With advances in biology, we definitely need to employ this outlook towards understanding why and how does an organism evolve from a single celled free living entity to merged symbiotic establishments eventually giving rise to complex multicellular organisms. It is all the course of the 'selfish gene' trying to survive in this dynamic, highly selective world
Apr 27, 2008 Dave rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to learn more about the world
I was led to read this book by way of one of those six-degrees-of-separation links that make the world the place that it is... I was watching the excellent documentary "The Smartest Guys in the Room" about my former employer, Enron, and it struck with me that the movie mentions "The Selfish Gene" as being one of Jeff Skilling's favorite books. A reader of Stephen Jay Gould's, I already had a bit of an interest in genetics and understood the book to expound upon one of my favorite subjects, Darwi ...more
In the indispensable words of my university genetics professor, "buy the book, read it, burn the book and then burn down the book story where you bought it. Dawkins write absolute rubbish that he uses neither for the betterment of science or humanity, but for his own personal vendetta against creationists and the church." Great summary of the book.
Nandakishore Varma
A really thought provoking book and a must-read.

Read the review on my BLOG .
Andrew Glynn
Richard Dawkins is not a scientist, but a capitalist ideologue. His major work, The Selfish Gene, precisely embeds capitalism into biology. As science it's nonsense, because the implicit teleology (the goal is the replication of the gene, the organism merely the vehicle) would, in terms of the efficiency requirement in natural selection, create a situation where more complex organisms are inherently less efficient at the fundamental goal. So with that teleology there would be no increase in comp ...more
This damn book put me to sleep.


I am not in any way disputing the thesis; I find that which is stated so obvious and then he goes on and on and on theorizing it to pieces.

The audiobook I read was an updated edition. It is narrated by the author and Laila Ward. Ward reads the original text of the book, and the author reads the copious notes modifying the original text. He further analyzes some points (into oblivion), disputes criticisms that have been made and makes corrections. W
This is just an amazing book. It is clearly the most influential book I have read on the topic of Evolution and I am very sure this will have a long lasting affect on me for years to come. Sure this book is not perfect and it has it's share of highs and lows but lows are very few and if I had actually lived in the time when this book was originally published, I wouldn't have even considered them lows.

Just the idea that we exist temporarily so micro organisms can live through us is something dif
This book is a bad book,because in the book there is nothing I think very good .all of my classmate agree with me .In the book ,there are many yellow ,violence,and nothing good. It's really a rubbish!rubbish ,rubbish rubbish rubbish rubbish,rubbish ,rubbish, rubbish ,rubbish ,rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish ,rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don't
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  • The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
  • Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History
  • Why Evolution Is True
  • Freedom Evolves
  • Sociobiology: The New Synthesis
  • Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine
  • Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
  • The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution
  • The Meme Machine
  • Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
  • Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
  • Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
  • Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life
The God Delusion The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True

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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.” 124 likes
“The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.” 54 likes
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