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The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  8,448 ratings  ·  185 reviews
People commonly view evolution as a process of competition between individuals—known as “survival of the fittest”—with the individual representing the “unit of selection.” Richard Dawkins offers a controversial reinterpretation of that idea in The Extended Phenotype, now being reissued to coincide with the publication of the second edition of his highly-acclaimed The Selfi ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 5th 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1982)
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Almodather Fathallah As a matter of fact, the field of evolutionary biology has been busy with many progresses in recent years, but the essence of the conclusion drawn her…moreAs a matter of fact, the field of evolutionary biology has been busy with many progresses in recent years, but the essence of the conclusion drawn here by Prof. Dawkins remains true, even if some of the material supporting the conclusion has been outdated.(less)

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Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If you’re keen on understanding the marvelous artifacts of animal intelligence, this is a must read. Have you ever, while plumb blown in the creek on lead-tainted moonshine pissed from a noisy radiator, grew irate while watching a spider craft a beautiful web and systematically took a sledge hammer to all the toilets in your house, while screaming: “Competence without comprehension makes me sick!”? Well, that might’ve been a tad bit of an overreaction, even if your heart was in the right place. ...more
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in evolution
The book is a logical continuation of his devastating book The Selfish Gene. Here Dawkins turns his critical eye and razor sharp words to evolutionary views that take the individual organism as the definitive playing field for natural selection to operate.
Using the gene's eye view of life that he developed so well in The Selfish Gene, he shows that animal artifacts are better understood as objects engineered by natural selection, rather than as by products of the behavior of organisms. He als
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great but fatiguing

Contrary to Dawkin's most famous "Selfish Gene" this book is much more difficult to read for a non-biologist person. Some parts required me to google terms definitions and problem backgrounds each paragraph, if not line.
Despite of this the whole reading experience is very satisfying. Lot of new concepts that bring up interesting ideas, numerous facts and remarkably great language - all of this teams up to build the great book. It's great reading for everyone ready to grind thr
The essentials of life's story: Biodiversity is more than a buzzword for ecologists. Variation gives life its grandeur, and Richard Dawkins gives us a description of the workings of variation. Fortunately, with a sharp mind and sharper wit, he has the ability to deliver this portrayal so that nearly everyone can understand it. That's not to say this book is an easy read. Although he delivers his narration as if sitting with you in a quiet study, you may still need to review his words more than o ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The language of the book cannot be called simple and it takes some efforts to follow the authors reasoning, but these efforts will reap big reward. In process of reading you will experience the happiness of discovers time and again, have finished the book you will get another angle of view of the phenomenon of life. Don't panic, extend your mind. ...more
Oct 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm sure this is great, but I'm not a scientist and as one of Dawkins least accessible books, this one was overkill. It's an expansion of topics covered in The Selfish Gene, which I'd previously enjoyed, but there was too much detail for me to take in. I'll skip back to some of his later books. ...more
Dennis Littrell
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Difficult but eminently worthwhile

This is a long and difficult book, although not as long and difficult as it might be if it had been written by somebody without Richard Dawkins' gift for clarity of thought and expression.

The crux of Dawkins' thesis is expressed early on and much of what follows is a very detailed supporting argument. What he wants us to see is that the "selfish gene" has a reach that extends beyond the confines of the individual organism that houses the gene. The phenotype of o
Bob Nichols
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, Dawkins picks up his selfish gene theme and extends its influence to organs and systems within the body and then to the external environment. In doing so, Dawkins never strays from his central themes: Genes are in charge, pursuing their self-interest; the body and its behavior is their vehicle; and the germ-line replicator is the unit of selection.

Dawkins argues* that the gene replicators first begin to transcend their gene-only behavior within the body when they cooperate with ot
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First half 3*, Second 5*

This is a good book. Off the back of reading The Selfish Gene, and reading that The Extended Phenotype is Dawkin's favourite of his products, I was expecting big things. From the get-go, the style of the book is a lot more science-heavy—more jargon, more in depth scientific ideas and reasoning, which (as a scientist myself) I enjoyed: Dawkins is terrific at scientific reasoning, and this was a good outing from him, even by his standards.

The problem with the first half (m
People say my name should be Jeff
I'd give it 5 stars if I knew enough biology to be able to confirm it (or 1 if I could refute it). ...more
Sheng Peng
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
2015: Built upon and more advanced than The Selfish Gene. Readers beware!

2017: Re-read this after re-reading The Selfish Gene. It definitely makes more sense to me this time around.
Michael Kress
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1980s-early, science
"It doesn't matter if you ever read anything else of mine, please at least read this." -Richard Dawkins
As someone who has read a lot of Dawkins's books, I wholeheartedly disagree with this request. I can understand his claim that this book is his most unique contribution to science, but the only way this should be your first Dawkins book is if you are already familiar with biological concepts. After all, the book was written for professionals, not laypeople. I started with River out of Eden, an
Tien Manh
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Richard Dawkins asks us (again) to try to think of evolution in terms of selfish *genes*.

The book promotes concepts called replicators (genes, DNA) and vehicles (organisms, groups, species...). Examples are given of how this replicator/gene-centric view of evolution tries to make sense of evolutionary phenomena that otherwise we would have a hard time explaining if we stuck to the traditional, organism-centric view.

I got to about mid-way through the book, then Dawkins went on a "Lamarckism bash"
Jake Chisausky
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have picked up and put this book down a few times over the past 5 years, and it took the better part of a biology degree to finally understand it. But well worth the work! Nearly every page was thought-provoking and brought a deeper understanding of how evolution works.
Harry H.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dawkins is a contemporary genius with fresh perspectives in several fields. Good read.
Scott Holstad
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Typical Dawkins. Solid work, possibly great, but I’ve never viewed him as the most scintillating writer. Still, I’ve always viewed his content over his writing style and I find little fault with most any of his content. Definitely recommended.
Mehul Sharma
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book. Simple yet radical. A worthy descendant of The Selfish Gene, the book delves into the intricacies and technicalities of gene selectionism and enlarges it into the extended phenotype theory. A truly fascinating read. Dawkins never fails to achieve radicality with simplicity.
Bob Anderson
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Richard Dawkins here explains his view that the largest unit on which natural selection can reasonably be said to operate is the gene rather than the organism, and explores this idea’s consequences for the standard conceptions of organisms, groups, and selection. The motif he introduces to show this best is a Necker Cube, which is a simple line drawing of all the edges of a cube: when looked at for the first time, it seems to be an overhead view of the cube. But with some visual effort, you can ...more
Oct 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pierre Franckx
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it
For a non-biologist like me a rather challenging read, but eventually worth the effort. The first half of the book was hard to read, but the second half was better. Very interesting (like any book written by Dawkins). Actually written for a professional public (as said in the preface) back in the beginning of the eighties of the last century, it looks shockingly modern to me. Anyone who disagrees can let me know (politely please).
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: evolution
"[The] 'central theorem' of the extended phenotype: An animal's behaviour tends to maximize the survival of the genes 'for' that behaviour, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal
performing it." p233

Dawkin's theory of the extended phenotype is given full expression in this his self-proclaimed favorite work. It is only now that I realize the publication of The Extended Phenotype (TEP) was in 1982, a mere three years after my favorite work of his The Selfish Ge
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a very informative but mentally exhausting book. The technical aspect of the distinction between the organism(s) and the components to which are said to benefit from 'phenotypic effects' was cause for re-reading many paragraphs. Often more than once. It's not new for me to sit with a dictionary/the Internet to research what Dawkins is saying just to get a context, but this felt like a full-blown revisit to Biology.

Thankfully because he summarizes his points at the end of each paragraph
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, science
In The Extended Phenotype, Richard Dawkins proposes that the expression of a gene is not limited simply to the organism's physical appearance or phenotype, that is the direct synthesis of proteins, or to the organism's behaviour, but also includes the impact of the phenotype and the behaviour on the organism's environment. This hypothesis is not experimental in the traditional sense; rather it's a new way to think about the impact of the gene. Of course, this new approach revolves around the ide ...more
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology-zoology
I have always had a passion for biology, and there's just something about Dawkins prose that makes it incredibly appealing. He offers a looking glass that enables me to make sense (or at least convince myself that I am making sense) of many of the things that I can see going on in the world around me. And that, in a situation where it is increasingly hard to make sense of anything, comes as a welcome relief.
Apr 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, ru, non-fiction
An extra read for those who liked "The Selfish Gene". This one was written for biologists but the glossary in the end of the book and Dawkins' illuminating prose make it easy to follow. The first chapters are aimed at precluding any possible misunderstandings of what Dawkins meant in "The Selfish Gene". The last four chapters explain the long-reach-of-the-gene idea and argue that the phenotypical effects are not limited to one organism. With a multitude of examples Dawkins demonstrates that ther ...more
Jan 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Very detailed, and perhaps most of all scientific, analysis of how the little things in life... literally, are the ones that drive change--at least biologically. Things can get pretty technical and minute, and perhaps overly defensive with all the rebuttals of other authors that sure makes it tempting to just skip a few paragraphs or even pages just to get to the summary of the idea he's trying to get across... the ideas are grand but the delivery a bit too verbose-- ...more
Jim Talbott
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Not as approachable as "The Selfish Gene," but it's a very strong follow-up for people who want more and who are willing to do a little work... Because of the rigor and the slightly different tilt of the book, there are many broader implications revealed through this treatment that weren't evident to me from "The Selfish Gene." As a non-biologist, the discussions frequently pushed me to their implications in the non-genetic meme-scape. ...more
Becky Black
Apr 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I was pretty proud of myself for getting through this one. Not because it's boring - Dawkins is never boring! - but I'm definitely a layperson and this one is far more technical than the others I'd read. But I'm glad I stuck with it, because it gives more depth and perspective on the ideas in the more populist books. ...more
Genetic Cuckoo
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A wonderufl book for anyone interested in biology or genetics. It talks about how natural selection can be altered and produce very shocking results. It explains how the peacock got it's tail and the interesting train of between being desirable as a mate and being able to survive. It's a facinating book. ...more
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Convincingly argued thesis for the genocentric viewpoint of Darwinism. EP is aimed at professional biologists, but is readily accessible to a lay reader (like me), who combines some background knowledge with patient attentiveness.
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