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The Selfish Gene

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4.13  ·  Rating details ·  110,101 Ratings  ·  2,785 Reviews
The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition--with a new Introduction by the Author

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
...more
Paperback, 30th Anniversary Edition, 360 pages
Published May 25th 2006 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)
Isaac Kerson This book has been made obsolete by the field of epigenetics. The type of genetic (over) determinism espoused here was questionable from the start. It…moreThis book has been made obsolete by the field of epigenetics. The type of genetic (over) determinism espoused here was questionable from the start. It was always unlikely that a single, overriding factor -- "the selfish gene" -- could explain a process as complex as evolution. Today, epigenetics has shown that environmental factors can cause the body to put certain genetic expressions on hold for generations. Genes are one player in a symphony rather than the conductor.

For a fuller, better explanation read this article: The Selfish Gene is a Great Meme, Too Bad It's so Wrong. Here are a couple key quotes:

The gene-centric view is thus ‘an artefact of history’, says Michael Eisen, an evolutionary biologist who researches fruit flies at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘It rose simply because it was easier to identify individual genes as something that shaped evolution. But that’s about opportunity and convenience rather than accuracy. People confuse the fact that we can more easily study it with the idea that it’s more important.’


... [T]he gene-centric model survives because simplicity is a hugely advantageous trait for an idea to possess. People will select a simple idea over a complex idea almost every time. This holds especially in a hostile environment, like, say, a sceptical crowd... [W]hen talking to the public ... a simple story is a damned good thing to have.


For my part, I think what accounts for the continued popularity of this book is not so much the explanatory powers of "the selfish gene", but rather the tribalistic squabbling it encourages: Atheist vs. Religious, Evolutionists vs. Creationists, Selfish Geners vs. Altruistic Geners. Your position on this book signals your tribe identifications more than your belief in or understanding of the underlying ideas. (less)

Community Reviews

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Manny
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)
Nathan
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
Huda Yahya
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science

نحن لسنا إلا مركبات تنتقل الجينات عبرها من جيل إلى جيل
تشهد تطور الخليقة منذ بدئها وحتى اندثارها
وترتبط أهميتنا بما نستطيع تقديمه لتلك الجينات كي تنتشر وتظل موجودة
وكلما كانت هذه الجينات "أنانية" بقت واستمرت وانتشرت
يتصرف الجين عموما بطريقة تعزز فرص نجاته
على حساب الجينات الأخرى المنافسة

فهل هذا ما يود دوكينز أن يؤكده لنا؟
أهو يدعو للداروينية الإجتماعية؟
إنه لا يدعو لأي شيء في الواقع سوى محبة العلم وتصديقه
إنها الحقيقة لا غير
وهو مجرد ناقل لها ...

ألا تصدقني
فكر للحظة في ردة فعل أغلبية من حولك لو أخبرتهم
...more
Rebecca McNutt
Jan 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
I'm agnostic myself, so I'm impartial, but Dawkins is so cynical, so against the idea that there is more to us as individual human beings than just "intelligent apes meant to give birth, grow old and die", that he seems almost, for lack of a better phrase, sociopathic or antisocial. He leaves very little room for the profound depths of emotion, companionship, imagination, nostalgia or anything that goes against his view that we are just materialistic monkeys who won't matter to anyone a hundred ...more
David
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
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 تعداد
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Bradley
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
...more
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
Petra X
May 24, 2015 marked it as books-reviewed-but-not-read
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
...more
Alex
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Mohammed-Makram

لم أر أكثر أنانية من عبدالباسط حموده الذى بدأ أغنية أنا مش عارفنى قائلا



أنا أنا أنا أنا أنا أنا أنا أنا أنا أنا
أنا مش عارفنى أنا تهت منى أنا مش أنا

ما كفاية أنا واحده يا أستاذ عبدالباسط بلاش الإسراف ده

من منا لا يحب نفسه

هل حب النفس هو أنانية أم أن الأنانية هي الميل إلى عدم التعاون مع الغير
في الواقع الكتاب يمكن اعتباره عن نفى الإيثار و حياة التعاون أكثر من اثباته لصفة الأنانية

من الصعب جدا القراءة لهذا الرجل و هذا سبب النجمات الثلاث و الا فإن الكتاب جدير بنجمة أخرى
طيب ندخل في الموضوع و نجيب من الآخر
...more
Nandakishore Varma
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
Ali
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
...more
Sidharth Vardhan
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.”



Okay!

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 d
...more
rachelm
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
...more
M D
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
...more
Jafar Isbarov
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in evolution
Darwin had postulated the revolutionary hypothesis in scarceness of empirical data and with shortcoming knowledge in biology. A century passed, improving the biological science we possess, alongside with absorption of natural selection among elite society, which eventually lead to emergence of sophisticated advocates of the theory (and yes, that 100 years were enough to call natural selection a theory). We knew more than necessary to revolutionize it. "The Selfish Gene" and "The Extended Phenoty ...more
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
...more
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
...more
tyranus
Jul 24, 2015 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
...more
Robert
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
Farhana
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 much easier, more comprehensible and comfortable for him. And you think talking to you won't cause him much trouble because you ar
...more
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
Leajk
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
...more
Melki
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..
Syrian_researchers
"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
...more
Jason
Aug 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Jessica
Jul 29, 2008 rated it liked it
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
...more
Roberto
Jan 02, 2013 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
...more
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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.” 209 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.” 91 likes
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