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River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

(The Science Masters Series)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  6,688 ratings  ·  269 reviews
How did the replication bomb we call ”life” begin and where in the world, or rather, in the universe, is it heading? Writing with characteristic wit and an ability to clarify complex phenomena (the New York Times described his style as ”the sort of science writing that makes the reader feel like a genius”), Richard Dawkins confronts this ancient mystery.
Paperback, 172 pages
Published August 23rd 1996 by HarperCollinsPublishers (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  6,688 ratings  ·  269 reviews

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Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book takes about 30 minutes to read, but is probably the best book I've read when it comes to shooting down morons who believe in stupid shit. If you're offended by the fact that I think creationism is utter bullshit, I'm sorry - but Richard Dawkins isn't, and he's more than happy to give a hundred reasons why you're a moron for believing it.

On top of giving ammo to those of us who do come in contact with the less scientifically enlightened among us (snobbery, anyone?), he manages to put a
Sep 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
There is a point in River Out of Eden when the stark brutality of nature really hits home. With a nervous system programmed to kill anything that moves near its young unless it emits a babies cry, a deaf mother turkey mistakes her children for predators and, in a bid to protect them, ends up massacring every last one. It's one of several tragic anecdotes used to make an important point, and the kind of jolt that Dawkins does best. This is not however a pessimistic book. Far from it. As Dawkins ...more
Jul 03, 2012 rated it liked it
There are some good examples in this book, in addition to some good science-fiction scenarios that were enjoyable and original, but I found it hurrying from topic to topic without much depth. There's nothing special here that can't be found in Dawkins' other book. If you still didn't read The Blind Watchmaker, or better still The Ancestor's Tale, I would suggest you opt for them as the topics he is talking about in this book are better treated in in the others and in the case of The Ancestor's ...more
Simon Maginn
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Magisterial. In person, Richard Dawkins can seem defensive, arrogant: chippy. Hardly surprising, considering that he is a dignified and serious scientist who has had to spend years combating preposterous and impudent attacks. But his books are meticulous, supple and surprisingly sensual. His love of, and fascination with, the mechanics of the natural world is exhilarating and a joy to read. Complexities melt away, leaving a view of the world which is infinitely more beautiful, mysterious and ...more
Apr 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
This was okay, but it felt like a simplified version of his other work. A good place to start, but maybe one to skip over if you've read The Selfish Gene or The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design.
Toni Daugherty
Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I finally get him!!! Guess what? Your DNA is eternal, not you. It flows like a river through us (and all creatures) and we are merely the banks (of the river) that house the DNA for its continuation into next generation, and the next (or not).

I have read many of Dawkins' books and articles and this is a winner! If you're interested in learning exactly what Dawkins means by "The Selfish Gene" or the DNA river - this is the read & it's a quicky! The concepts are not as difficult in this book
Cassandra Kay Silva
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I didn't connect with the river analogy and also felt that the "greatest show on earth" and some of his other works were much stronger but this was still enjoyable.
Rod Hilton
May 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, science
This is simply a beautiful book. It's kind of hard to put into words why this book is worth reading, or even really what it's about, but I'll try.

Richard Dawkins was catapulted into popular stardom by his views on religion, not his views on science. But what the average person (who now knows his name) doesn't know is that Dawkins was a well-respected evolutionary biologist long before he released "The God Delusion". The vast majority of his books are written within his primary field of
Ulyana Kubini
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a great book to introduce me to the wonders of evolutionary biology. Richard Dawkins is one of the most intelligent writers in this topic and will easily describe and outline the best arguments for evolution in this book. Plus, he is able to give an amazing description of the natural processes that occur everyday, and do so with great examples which are relatively easy to understand. I didn't quite grasp everything, but I got Richard's point. He has written other great books on similar ...more
James Murphy
Jun 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
I thought this book elegant. The writing is elegant. Dawkins's use of analogy and example to explain the complexities of evolution is elegant. He glides from idea to idea as elegantly as dance. I only wish I had more background. Dawkins' writing here isn't overbearingly technical. Still, not being a strong swimmer in science, I found myself at times over my head in deep pools of DNA and replicator genes and had to flail a bit before finding a toehold on some sandbar of familiar detail. That's ...more
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
A wonderfully exciting read. There were bits of it (like the last chapter)that were way over my head, but a lot of it was absolutely fascinating. Dawkins writes enchantingly. My understanding of DNA has changed...and I loved all the wonderful examples and illustrations that he brings to his arguments.

I'm grossly ignorant, yet even I managed to get tons from this book. Now I need to read it again.
Elisa Clawson
Feb 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
I got this book for an english class. Richard Dawkins really bugs me. His view is that people who are religious are uneducated and delusional - hence his newest book "The God Delusion".
Christopher Rytting
Feb 19, 2019 rated it liked it
"I very well could expect too much from 160 pages..." I worry, as I give this slender book, which I hear is supposed to explain evolution, a cursory front to back scan.

"But these aren't just any 160 pages!" And I dive in.

Indeed, evolution is a big and exciting topic. The preface's claim with respect to Darwinian selection, that "never were so many facts explained by so few assumptions", holds true for me. Point to nearly any phenomenon of life -- and by life I don't mean reality, but rather
Alan Williamson
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Through the deceptively simple metaphor of a river of genetic information, coursing through time, Dawkins guides us on an incisive explanation of life. It's far more inspiring and intellectually satisfying than any mythological Eden.

Some Dawkins books can be a challenging read but, aside from a somewhat dull section on sex ratios (studied them in university and never found the subject interesting) this is a book that wastes no time. Short and insightful.
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
Dawkins is a genius, but he writes in a condescending way. His points could’ve been made without this style.
Awraam Waśkowski
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read it, liked it. Am i a certified atheist now?
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Every now and then it's good to read about evolution to be in wonder yet again of nature and the universe that we live in...
Umang Rohani
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-bitch
this has to be the most fascinating popular science book i’ve read so far.
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another great Dawkins book on evolution, that “life is a river ofgenesflowing throughgeological timewhereorganismsare mere temporary bodies.” It explains quite clearly how evolution works and how any difference amongst organisms is simply due to evolution over different places and time. It is very intriguing to think about how different organisms have evolved and have ended up so radically different from one another. Enlightening read and recommended.

“Yet the genetic code is in fact literally
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I like how the author goes on tangents and tells the reader about interesting animal behaviors. Some of the topics are comical, like tricking bees to fly into rocks. The topics discussed were very interesting-it may have been the presentation-but the thoughts at the beginning were so novel that I really wanted to hear more. Some of the things it said have inspired me to look at some normally mundane things in a new perspective. When I finished the book, I was anxious for more.

River Out Of Eden
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
You can easily read this book in one afternoon, which is both its strength and its weakness. Dawkins manages to cram the whole essence of evolution by natural selection in less than 200 pages. And not only this, he also brings his unique style of educating the audience to bear on this project.

Nevertheless, there's nothing in this book that Dawkins (never mind other authors) hasn't explained in a more comprehensive and more complete way elsewhere. If you want to learn about the gene-centered
Michael P.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really have only three minor problems with this book. I am not impressed by Dawkins as a writer. His extended metaphor of the river down which all life flows, from the first single cell creatures to our eventual descendants, is actually quite an effective way of explaining the ins and outs of evolution, but it goes on and on and on, much like the river itself. Boredom sets in.

Though many do not find it so, Dawkins’s style is dull to me. It is too much of a chore to read his book.

I am not
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
A Digital DNA river runs into the future. It has extremely high (but not perfect) replication fidelity, and may bifurcate, giving rise to new species. Evolution and biology is (again) beautifully explained by Dawkins.
Some of the points I found interesting in the book:
1. Living organisms evoke a strong illusion of design, which makes sense at first glance. But science (often counter-intuitive) shows otherwise. The key to understand that is to imagine gradual change over long span of time , and
Jan 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-science-y
Short enough. Mostly interesting, but I also knew a lot that he covered. And even though it was written in 1995, it felt slightly dated. A little episodic, and a little short. Five (mostly independent) chapters at around 35 pages each. Two were not that interesting to me. I did like the one trying to respond to the argument that evolution is impossible because half an eye is not at all useful. (He focused on that as well as a letter he received about how an orchid is shaped just so that a male ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dawkin's shortest book is a concentrated study of the genetic inheritance and progressive genetic development of organic life forms. This book was remarkably easier to follow than his first book and shows much more of his personality, enthusiasm and passion for biology. He seems to pick out fewer examples to communicate each point than in "The Selfish Gene" but they seem to be those carefully selected because they are the points which can be more thoroughly developed for the purpose of ...more
Michael Anderson
Jun 08, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a "big picture" book of Dawkins's views on evolution. There is not a lot of depth, maybe not enough in some cases, but there are plenty of examples illustrating evolutionary developmental technique and purpose, the callousness of nature's approach to life's advances, and various theories on DNA and gene self replication. It's a good, short read and may well lead me to more of Dawkins's science oriented texts.
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got a bit lost at the beginning, and totally sidetracked by digital vs analogue, but that led to some interesting discussions with hubby, who has no problems understanding that kind of thing. Chapter 2 was much more interesting to me. I had no idea that so much had been found out about the honeybee dance and I'd like to read more about it. I heart Richard Dawkins. Will have to read his latest soon.
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it
I can't say I understood 100% of this book, but I enjoyed this closer look at and exploration of Darwinism, DNA, and natural selection. I particularly enjoyed all the interesting tidbits about different animals that I learned along the way. Nature is fascinating!
Oct 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-audio
Classic, but still so good. :)

It was interesting picking this one up again after so many years away.
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A tip to authors; any book that tells me stories about bees will get a good rating from me. I love bees.
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“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” 389 likes
“DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” 51 likes
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