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The Selfish Gene

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  162,931 ratings  ·  4,348 reviews
"The Selfish Gene" caused a wave of excitement among biologists and the general public when it was first published in 1976. Its vivid rendering of a gene's eye view of life, in lucid prose, gathered together the strands of thought about the nature of natural selection into a conceptual framework with far-reaching implications for our understanding of evolution. Time has co ...more
Paperback, 30th Anniversary Edition, 360 pages
Published 2006 by Oxford University Press (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)
J_BlueFlower In short: No.

You may want to pick up a never edition, like for instance the 40th Anniversary Edition published in 2016. (ISBN 0198788606 https://www.g…more
In short: No.

You may want to pick up a never edition, like for instance the 40th Anniversary Edition published in 2016. (ISBN 0198788606 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... )
He corrects tiny details of the original book. Like around page 173 he started that as far as we know only insects have evolved a division into bears and cares. In the end notes he then describes new finds of naked mole rats that lives in that way too.

The main concept of the selfish gene stands as close to proven science as you can get.(less)

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Nov 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
- 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 rated it did not like it  ·  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
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
Petra in Cancun being tortured by a dentist
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
David Rubenstein
Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Richard Dawkins shot to celebrity in 1976 with this rabble-rousing book, which change the game by inventing the word "meme" and basically nothing else, the rest of his ideas range from "ehhh not exactly" to "yeah but so what." Fun to read though! The gist 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, fi
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Color me very impressed. I can now see why this is considered to be one of those hugely popular science books I keep hearing about and the reason why Dawkins has become so widely known and/or respected with or without his notoriety.

Indeed, the pure science bits were pretty much awesome. We, or at least I, have heard of this theory in other contexts before and none of it really comes as much surprise to see that genes, themselves, have evolved strategies that are exactly the same as Game Theory i
Orhan Pelinkovic
The Selfish Gene (1976) is exactly how I prefer my non-fiction science books to be written. Richard Dawkins is clear, stays on topic, and explains the necessary details and complexities using simple everyday life examples. Dawkins, is entertaining, and gives you a hand when you get lost in his genetic pool analysis.

His writing talks to me. His argumentation challenge and encourage me to think and feel that I am gaining knowledge. It's a rewarding read. The author discusses the plants, animals,
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is pretty good! Professor Richard Dawkins has narrated this topic on life and evolution in a very interesting way.

A must read - all about The Immortal Gene and The Immortal Replicator!

"Death, of course, is not a failure. Death is normal. Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things."
Nandakishore Mridula
Oct 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Infinite Jen
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Last night, while watching a fusillade of pyrotechnic spermatozoa ejaculated from gaudy tubes of erectile aspect, I saw the whole of human desire captured in Incarusian defiance. With shells striving to pierce the black ovum of space, but having their motility sapped by the deformational geometries which encircle our terrestrial biosphere. Disclosing their metal salts and iron filings with violent punctuations of barometric pressure and visual amplitude, only to be completely consumed, mere seco ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins

The gene-centred view of evolution that Dawkins championed and crystallized is now central both to evolutionary theorizing and to lay commentaries on natural history such as wildlife documentaries.

A bird or a bee risks its life and health to bring its offspring into the world not to help itself, and certainly not to help its species — the prevailing, lazy thinking of the 1960's, even among luminaries of evolution such as Julian Huxley and Konrad Lorenz — but (un
Jono Davis
Apr 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Reading this book was like meeting with a person about whom you have heard a lot, who has some kind of legendary status, and overall so well-acclaimed that you cannot resist the temptation to meet the person.

Another thing you have heard is that the person is so simple, down to earth that he would take the trouble to talk to any layman, to make these biological terms easier, more comprehensible and comfortable to deal with. And you think talking to you won't cause him much trouble because you ar
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review 2022

This was somewhat repetitious since I've read quite a few books on evolution since I last read this in April 2018 & Dawkins takes pains in this, the 30th anniversary edition, to correct mistakes he made, updates others have made, & to answer some of his critics. Some of the explanations seem needlessly pedantic until I realized just how subtle & powerful his theory is. Even if it doesn't hold up in all circumstances (I'm not sure that it doesn't.) it has changed the field considerably
Feb 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Priscila Jordão
Apr 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: britânica
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
Valliya Rennell
3 stars

and in this book, this concept is explained through the perspective of genes. Dawkins manages to present complicated topics like cell division, probability, and animal behaviours through the "eyes" of the gene which will use its survival machine (the organism) to survive.

It was fascinating to to learn about relationships and customs that I took for granted, and to now get more understanding on why they occur as they do (especially mutualism and parasitism). Since I learn a lot about this
Sidharth Vardhan
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 1-africa
“ 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 stup
Alexander McNabb
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Any reader of fiction understands the importance of narrative point of view. Influential evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins adopts that idea here. The point of view is that of the gene. His “selfish gene” is a metaphor, an anthropomorphic representation of a replicating sequence of genetic code.

He clarifies this idea with an astonishing admission: “There is no universally agreed definition of a gene.”(p.36) Starting with this blank slate frees him to create parameters that suit his own purp
Oct 02, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  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
Abubakar Mehdi
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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..
Apr 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology
The Selfish Gene is still widely read 40 years after publication, remarkable for a science book, and it continues to cause controversy. In straightforward language Dawkins offers theories for the beginning of life, evolution, sexual differentiation and altruism in human behavior. He takes literary license and uses anthropomorphic language to describe genetic attributes best described by mathematics. This technique makes the book accessible to the lay reader but also makes it read like our genes ...more
Elyse  Walters
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.
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books ever written :)

“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.”
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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"Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete...
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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.” 263 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.” 145 likes
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