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The Selfish Gene

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"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 confirmed its significance. Intellectually rigorous, yet written in non-technical language, "The Selfish Gene" is widely regarded as a masterpiece of science writing, and its insights remain as relevant today as on the day it was published.

388 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 1976

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Richard Dawkins

150 books19.7k followers

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80,023 (46%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,710 reviews
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
June 24, 2023
- 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. But what you do during that short time is very important. If you live well, the immortal part of you will become absorbed in something much bigger than you are. It will grow and change and achieve things that you can't even dream of. Start thinking of life in these terms, and you will have a completely new perspective on it.

- Hey, I didn't know you believed in—

- In genes? Well of course I do. What did you think I was talking about?
Profile Image for Nathan.
233 reviews199 followers
October 3, 2007
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, and faith is an abstract experience with implications that are fundamentally unresponsive to study. As such, pursuits like Dawkins' often boil down to one type of faith (in "reason") vs. another type of faith (in a "God"). Many people love Dawkins. He is certainly intelligent, and writes as such, but he lacks wisdom and imagination. To me, that's the flaw in all of his work, from The Selfish Gene to The God Delusion. The idea that one human being can know enough about the nature of the universe to make the sweeping declarations Dawkins' makes is preposterous to me, and no more credible than the sweeping declarations of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson.

Profile Image for Petra on hiatus, really unwell.
2,457 reviews34.4k followers
December 24, 2022
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 sort of people who pay astrologers money to cast their charts because of course your fate is determined by the stars at the moment of your birth? Jesus wept. Or he would have. I'm reading Josephus at the moment, it seems that the only mention of Jesus at the time he was living was in Josephus but that it might have been added later... That's a whole other story, and one which Dawkins might have liked, but these one-star creationists certainly won't.
Profile Image for هدى يحيى.
Author 9 books16.3k followers
February 22, 2019

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 بأنك لا تريد انجاب أطفال
فكر في تعبير الصدمة على وجوههم وأنت تقول أنك لا تريد لجيناتك البقاء
وستفهم مقصدي

مؤلم أن نفكر أن من يعمل لصالح نفسه منا -ولو على حساب غيره- هو من يعمر هذا الكوكب
تأملوا البشر من حولكم وفكروا
على أي شاكلة يكون الخالدين
من خاضوا الحروب وكذبوا وخانوا وقتلوا وزوروا
هم الأكثر احتمالية في البقاء
وتوريث جيناتهم تلك لذرياتهم التي سرعان ما تحذو حذوهم
إنهم الأكثرية للأسف
وهذه هي الحقيقة العارية....

ولكن ما فائدة إخبارنا بهذه الحقيقة في كتاب علمي؟
أهناك غرض آخر لهذا الذي قرأنا؟
هذا الكتاب بجانب معلوماته المذهلة يذكرنا كم نحن محظوظين ومميزين
نحن نحظى بالقدرة على أن نرفض ما نحن -أو بالأحرى جيناتنا- مبرمجون عليه
نحن نبغض واقعنا هذا ونغيره
نحن نثور ضده رغم الصعاب الكثيرة التي تواجهنا أحيانا

ومنذ بدء الخليقة وجد المصلحون والطيبون وخادمو الإنسانية
من قدموا لنا خلاصة الأخلاق وأمتعونا بالفن والأدب
وتعمقوا في بحور العلم
ليخبرونا بحقيقة أنفسنا والكون من حولنا

هذا التنوع منعنا من الانقراض
نحن محظوظون فعلا بالانتقاء الطبيعي برغم قسوته
لأننا لم نستسلم كلية له
وهذا ما يصنع كل الفارق
Profile Image for Brian Hodges.
212 reviews54 followers
June 3, 2015
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 scary scary math and numbers to prove some of his points and set up for even more mindblowing stuff in future chapters. But most of the time, this book is chock full of insanely interesting examples and user-friendly analogies. Dawkins sure knows his way around language too. One of my favorite lines is: "Sex: that bizarre perversion of straightforward replication."

On the science of it all, as I said, I'm a creationist, but I like to read up on the other side and at least understand, if not appreciate, what their take on the matter is. And to read Dawkins is to realize, yes, this does sound like a very solid theory. My one stumbling block to getting onto the evolution train one hundred percent is time. Perhaps my comprehension of just how long hundred million years is is faulty, but I just can't wrap my mind around how all of these ACCIDENTAL mutations, with no conscious will on the part of the group, individual or gene itself, could possibly result in the complexity of life as we see it now. There is an adage that if you gave an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time, they would eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. To believe evolution is to believe that you now have a FINITE amount of monkeys and a FINITE amount of time and yet they STILL manage to produce the complete works of Shakespeare... and they do it OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. Just doesn't seem plausible. But perhaps further reading will sway me at a later date.

EDIT 6/3/15
I can't believe this review is still getting attention after all this time! And I love the thread that has developed in the comments. I should let you all know though that as of 2008 I have been living on the side of reason and rationality. I became an atheist after a LOT of reading and contemplating of the Bible (the link to my "de-conversion" story is down in the comments as well). I try these days to, as much as possible, follow the evidence wherever it leads. Additionally Dawkins' "The Ancestor's Tale" was one of THE most beautiful books I've ever read. Check out my review if you're interested.
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
816 reviews2,586 followers
June 19, 2014
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 genes, not the individual or "the species".

Although the book is 30 years old, it has stood the test of time. There are a few passages--primarily about computers--that are 30 years out of date. But the vast majority of the book seems to have held up quite well.

Dawkins' prose is very approachable by the layman. There is a bare minimum of technical jargon--quite different from most other books about genetics that I've been reading in recent years. Dawkins takes the time to explain things, often with appropriate metaphors. There are very few diagrams in the book--additional figures could help clarify some points, in my opinion.

Much of the book is really about the role of game theory, in understanding genetics. Dawkins devotes several chapters to describe how various traits controlled by genes are held in an ESS-- "Evolutionarily Stable Strategy"--a term that Dawkins uses quite often, that I think is a synonym for the game theory term "stable equilibrium". Dawkins shows how an ESS is approached over the course of "iterations" of a game, that is to same, over many generations. These chapters were especially interesting to me, as I recently took an online course on the subject of game theory.

It is in this book that Dawkins coined the now-famous term "meme". The meme is a cultural analog of the biological gene. A meme seeks to self-perpetuate, and mutates if that aids its self-preservation. Dawkins devotes an entire fascinating chapter to his concept of the meme.

Throughout the book, Dawkins deals with the dichotomy between the "selfishness" required for survival, and the "altruism" of human behavior. How do we explain altruism? Dawkins explores this dilemma over and over again, showing in virtually every case how the selfishness of genes can help to explain apparent altruistic behavior of the individual.

This is an absolutely fascinating book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in genetics, evolution, or sociology.

Profile Image for BookHunter محمد.
1,433 reviews3,352 followers
October 15, 2022

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?

لماذا عاش العالم ثلاثة بلايين سنة لا يعنيه شيئا من أمر العمل الجينى الجماعى و كانت السيادة فقط للبكتريا
ان كنا قد عشنا في هذه الصورة البسيطة فلما بدأت الكائنات الأكبر في التكون بعد ذلك
ان كان هذا قد حدث لضرورة فلم بقيت البكتريا حتى الأن و لم تتطور لكائنات أرقى و أكبر
ما االغرض أصلا من تعدد الكائنات و ما هو هدفها في ا��حياة

فكرة الكتاب هي أنه في الأصل كانت الجينات
فما هي الجينات
الجينات هي عبارة عن شفرة لصنع نوع أو أكثر من البروتين و من ثم يقوم هذا البروتين ببناء شيء معين أو تحفيز أشياء أخرى لتفاعل ما يخدم مصلحة الجين الذى أطلقه

هل يوجد هذا الجين منفردا؟ لا بل هو جزء من الحمض النووي الريبوزى ناقص الأكسجين المعروف بالدى ان ايه
هل له إدراك أو إرادة و وعى؟ مجازا يبدو ذلك و لكن حقيقة لا أحد يعلم حتى الأن

يعتد دواكنز نظرية أن الحمض النووي مكون في الأساس من مجموعة من الجينات التي اتحدت معا بطريقة ما لتكوين الحمض النووي نفسه لأنها تقوم بعمل جماعى يخدم مجموعة الجينات معا

الخطوة التالية كانت تكوين غشاء الخلية الواحدة لحماية وجود هذا الحمض النووي و من ثم عملية انقسامه و تضاعفه مع ما يشمله ذلك من تغذيته
تعقدت العملية بعد ذلك لتصبح للخلية نواة ثم نشأت الكائنات عديدة الخلايا و باقى النظرية الداروينية المعروفة

الجديد هو أنه بدلا من نفى الوعى عن البكتريا و الكائنات التي لا تمتلك جهاز عصبى متطور أرجع هذا الوعى للجينات نفسها و منحها شرف القيادة و لم يعتبرها مجرد شفرة لإرادة عليا أخرى تستغلها و رغم ذلك لم ينف الوعى عن المخ في الكائنات الأرقى أو الجهاز العصبى ككل. و لذلك حكاية أظنها طريفة:

في مكان بعيد في فضاء الكون كانت مجرة أندروميدا التي تبعد عن الأرض مائتان سنة ضوئية و كان بها حضارة متطورة جدا أرادت السيطرة على العالم و لكن بعد المسافة بينها و بين الكواكب الأخرى حال دون ذلك إذ يحتاج غزو الأرض مثلا لمئات السنين للسيطرة عليها و هذا يتعدى عمر أي فرد على الكوكب فما العمل.

تفتق ذهنهم الذكى على بث شفرة في أرجاء الكون بحيث تكون سهلة لأى كائن ذكى فيستطيع حلها و تضمنت هذه الشفرة رسالة للتواصل مع حضارتهم مع وعود بالرخاء و التنمية و تضمنت أيضا طريقة صنع كمبيوتر ضخم و متطور لإتمام هذا الإتصال

بعد مائتى سنة وصلت الرسالة للأرض و عمت الأفراح و الليالى الملاح أرجاء المعمورة و من ثم بدأت وكالات العلوم تصنيع هذا الكمبيوتر الضخم و ما ان اتموه حتى فقدو السيطرة عليه و أصبح هو من يتحكم في كل شيء و يوجهه لمصلحته و مصلحة صانعيه الأصليين في أندروميدا
السؤال الأن .. هل عرف سكان أندروميدا بما حدث؟ بالطبع لا فالمعلومة ستصلهم بعد مائتى سنة أخرى. هل يسيطرون على الكمبيوتر؟ لا أيضا و إنما هو يسيطر على نفسه بالبرنامج الذى وضعوه له و راعوا فيه أن يصلح لأى بيئة و يتعامل مع أي حدث بتعليمات عامة و ذكية مع إمكانية تطوير نفسه و تعلمه من الأحداث بشرط الإلتزام بالعمل لصالحهم.

هذا ما يخصنا من الحكاية و لكن وجب أن أقول لكم كيف انتهت أحداث القصة بأن استطاع الأرضيون تحطيم الكمبيوتر و استعادة سيطرتهم على الكوكب الأزرق الضائع في الفضاء

و لكن حكايتنا نحن لم تنته بعد
الجينات هي السيد الأول و هي لا تستطيع التواصل مع العالم الخارجي
هي فقط جمعية من الأصدقاء الأنانيين اللذين لا يهمهم الا التضاعف و التكاثر و الخلود

في البداية تجمعوا معا ثم اتخذو الغشاء الخلوى و من ثم تحصنوا بالنواة و بدأوا في تكوين آلات ضخمة للبقاء على هيئة نباتات و حيوانات وصولا للإنسان و لا فرق لديهم بين هذا و ذاك و لكن العبرة بتمرير تلك الجينات من جيل إلى جيل بهدف البقاء و الخلود فقط

كما قال كفار قريش من قبل: إن هي إلا أرحام تدفع و أرض تبلع

من موقعها المحصن تصنع الجينات البروتين الذى يحافظ على وجود الجسم و من ضمنه الجهاز العصبى و المخ الذى يتواصل مع العالم الخارجي

هل تسيطر الجينات على المخ؟ لا
هل يسيطر المخ على الجينات؟ لا
إنها كقصة أنروميدا

الجينات هي السيد الفضائى و المخ هو الكمبيوتر العملاق و أرض المعركة هي الجسم أو آلة البقاء كما يقول داوكنز

قدر الإمكان اختصرت و حاولت توضيح الفكرة غلا أن الكتاب مرهق و به أجزاء شيقة جدا و ممتعة و تفتح المجال للخيال الخصب و أجزاء أخرى مملة و ثقيلة تجلب النوم في ثوان معدودة

بعد أن أنهيت الكتاب فتحت التلفاز لأجد فتاة تتلوى و تغنى هذه الأغنية و كأن جيناتها هي من تتحكم فيها و تبث لنا رسالة
روح ع الأشرافية ولأصحابك أشكي
قول أني نكدية وشو ما بدك أحكي
قول عني أنانية قول مش رومانسية
    فش كل خلقك فيي
أنا بعرف إنك مقهور وقلبك راح يفقع .!!
شوف حالك عليي تكبر لا تشبع
أزرع كل حقدك فيا فل وما ترجع
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,494 followers
May 2, 2022
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, 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, no, no difference, carry on. It makes a difference to scientists, because when you look at it this way all kinds of behaviors make more sense, or make sense in a different way. Dawkins' particular focus is on behaviors we call "altruistic", like when an antelope warns his herd about an approaching lion. Dawkins would like to go through every altruistic behavior he can think of, which is a lot, and show you why it's actually not at all altruistic.

(The antelope is an easy one: he warns the herd by jumping up and down, which doubles as a sign to the lion that he is super bouncy and the lion should go chase someone less bouncy.)

So, no big surprise to those of us who know Dawkins in his latest incarnation as The World's Dickishest Atheist:* Dawkins does a lot of party pooping in this book. Did you think you were a nice guy? You are not. Your genes command you to behave nicely on occasion because in the end it will benefit you. (See: the Prisoner's Dilemma; also game theory. Or read this book, which will explain both to you.)

* which is more annoying to religious people, but also annoying to those of us who are atheists but don't feel the need to yell about it all the time

But Dawkins is a tremendously engaging writer. He's good at explaining technical concepts clearly. And he's funny! This book is fun to read. And it's full of the kind of fascinating tidbits that make you turn to your spouse and say "Holy moley, did you know saddleback birds on an island in New Zealand make up new songs that then spread through the population like a Pharrell Williams single until everyone's singing them?" And she's like "Sounds boring! I'm reading Jezebel, did you know Justin Bieber was racist when he was fourteen?" and then the two of you look at each other like who even are you? And your genes are like who cares, you two should make out.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,105 followers
April 2, 2017
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 in order to find the best possible outcome for continued replication. Hence: the selfish gene.

Enormous simple computers running through the prisoner's dilemma with each other, rival genes, and especially within whole organisms which could just be seen as gigantic living spacecraft giving the genes an evolutionary advantage of finding new and more prosperous adaptations.

Yup! That's us!

I honestly don't see the problem. I love the idea that we are just galaxies of little robots running complicated Game Theories that eventually turn into a great cooperative machine where everyone (mostly) benefits, with plenty of complicated moves going way beyond hawks and doves and straight into the horribly complicated multi-defectors, forgivers, and other evolutionary styles that depend on the events that have gone before and the pre-knowledge (or lack of) a set end-date for the entire experiment... in other words, our deaths, whether pre-planned or simply the entire mass of genes just coming to realize that it's no longer in their best interest to keep pushing this jalopy around any longer if they're not getting anything out of it... like further replication. :)

Even when it's not precisely sex, it's still all about sex. :)

Of course, what I've just mentioned isn't the entire book, because, as a matter of fact, the book walks us through so many stages of thought, previous research, developments, mistakes, and upgraded theories and surprising conclusions based on soooooo much observable data that any of us might be rightfully confounded with the weight of it unless we were in the heart of the research, ourselves.

It's science, baby.

Make sure you don't make the data conform to your theory. Build your theory from observable data. Improve upon it as the building blocks are proved or disproved, keep going until it is so damn robust until nothing but a true miracle could topple it, and then keep asking new questions.

The fact is, this theory has nothing (or everything) to do with our lives. We play Game Theory, too, in exactly the same way every gene everywhere does, but we just happen to be able to make models on top of the situations and we're able to choose whether to see through the lies, the hawk strategies, or when to stop cooperating if the advantages work out much better for us if we did. We, like our genes, can choose long-term cooperative strategies or play everything like a Bear market. :)

Even this book says that it's very likely that Nice Guys can win, but just like our lives, the gene lives keep discovering ever more complicated strategies and all eventual strategies become more and more situational.

Isn't that us, to a tea? I wonder if most complaints about this book stem from complaints about Game Theory rather than the perceived conclusion (much better spelled out, not in this book, but in later books)... that atheism rules the day. It really isn't evident here. Instead, we have a macrocosm mimicking the microcosm and no one wants to challenge their comfortable world view.

Things aren't simple. All choices to betray or cooperate are then met with situation and memory and ever complex meta-contexts, the difference between us and genes being that we're self-aware and the genes are not.

Yes, yes, I see where the arguments can start coming out of the closet about self-determination and such, but that's not really the point of this book at all. The point is that it's a successful model that accurately describes reality. It has nothing at all to do with the macro-world except obliquely, and makes no value judgments on our art, our beliefs, or how we think about ourselves except in our uniquely stubborn and self-delusional ways that love to take things out of context and apply misunderstood concepts to our general lives and wonder why everything gets so screwed up. :)

But then, maybe I'm just applying my own incomplete models to yet another and we lousy humans still lack WAY TOO MUCH data to build a really impressively improved model. :)

Come on, Deep Thought. Where are you? :)
Profile Image for Peiman E iran.
1,432 reviews691 followers
May 25, 2017
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 تعدادِ خود را در خزانۀ ژنی افزایش دهد و این کار را با برنامه ریزی برایِ بقا و تولیدِ مثلِ بدن هایی که در آن است، انجام میدهد
همۀ ما موجودات، ماشینِ بقا هستیم، برایِ یک نوع همتاساز که آن را «دی اِن اِی» مینامیم... این همتاسازها برایِ بقایِ خود ماشینهایِ مختلفی را ساخته اند... به عنوانِ مثال، میمون ماشینی است که ژن ها را در بالایِ درخت حفظ میکند.. ماهی ماشینی است که ژن را در آب نگه میدارد... و کرم دستگاهی است که ژن را در زیرِ خاک با ... نگه میدارد... پس دوستانِ من، دی اِن اِی عملکردِ اسرارآمیزی دارد
بدنِ ما انسانها و موجوداتِ دیگر، ماشینی است که برایِ ژنهایش از هیچ کوششی فروگذار نمیکند.. ژن در هر بدن برایِ بقا از بهترین فرصت ها استفاده میکند، این فرصت ها بسته به آنکه بدن نر باشد یا ماده، با هم فرق دارند
خوب دوستانِ خوبم، برای اینکه این ریویو خسته کننده و تخصصی نباشد.. سعی میکنم مثال هایِ جالب و نکته هایِ مهم در این کتاب و همۀ فصل هایش، در موردِ ژن را برایِ شما دوست دارانِ دانش و خرد، در زیر بنویسم
عزیزان، ژن هایِ خودخواه، گاهی با روشِ ایثارگری در ب��ن همنوعان، سعی به بقایِ خود میکنند: مثلاً برخی از بابون ها ژنی وجود دارد، به نامِ « اگر یک نرِ بالغ هستی، از گروه در مقابلِ پلنگ دفاع کن» ... به این ترتیب بابونِ بالغ جانِ خود را برایِ دفاع از سایرین به خطر می اندازد
گاهی اوقات در طبیعت، بر خلافِ خواستۀ ژنِ خودخواه، عمل میشود
مثلاً دیده شده که یک میمونِ مادر که داغ دار است و بچۀ خود را از دست داده، به جایِ تولیدِ مثل و تلاش برایِ بقایِ ژن هایِ خود، بچۀ میمونِ دیگری را از او میدزد و بزرگ میکند... با اینکار نه تنها به بقایِ ژنِ خود کمکی نکرده، بلکه این شانس را به رقیبِ ژنیِ خود داده تا تولیدِ مثلِ دوباره داشته باشد
یا اینکه برخی از ماده ها وجود دارند که بچۀ یتیمی را بزرگ میکنند... در صورتیکه طبقِ قواعدِ ژنِ خودخواه، باید بچۀ یتیم از گرسنگی بمیرد
گاهی اوقات ژنِ خودخواه با تقلب به بقایِ خود کمک میکند
به عنوانِ مثال، فاخته ها سعی میکنند تخم هایِ خود را به لانه هایِ پرندگانِ دیگر برده، تا آنها رویِ تخم بنشینند... حال اگر پرندۀ دیگر از تخمهایش شناخت داشته باشد، با پا تخمِ اضافه را به پایین می اندازد... اما برخی از پرندگان مانندِ کاکایی ها، به تخمی که رویِ آن نشسته اند، توجه نکرده، و فریب میخورند
حال در گروه هایِ گوناگون ژنِ راستگو و ژنِ ایثارگر، متفاوت است
ایثارگران، وقتی متوجه میشوند یکی از تخم ها مالِ خودشان نیست، بازهم آن را بزرگ میکنند، با اینکار باعث میشوند تا ژنِ تقلب در گروه پخش شود.. زیرا آن پرندۀ متقلب تند تند تخم گذاری میکند و اینکار را انجام میدهد
گاهی اوقات ژنِ خودخواه برایِ بقا به خیانت رو می آورد
مثلاً وقتی ماده ای میبیند که جفتش در نبرد با نرِ دیگر مغلوب شده، سریع به سمتِ نرِ پیروز رفته و با او جفت گیری میکند تا ژنِ برتر حاصل شود
گاهی اوقات ژنِ خودخواه با دروغ به بقایِ خود کمک میکند
در پرندگان، وقتی مادر برایِ بچه ها کرم یا حشره می آورد، بچه ها دهانِ خود را باز میکنند و مادر به میزانِ صدا دقت کرده و به آنها خوراک میدهد، هر کدام گرسنه تر باشد بیشتر صدا میزند.... حال ممکن است ژنِ خودخواه در یکی از جوجه ها بیشتر باشد، در نتیجه جوجه تقلب کرده و وقتی سیر شده دوباره صدایِ بلند میدهد، هم مادر را گول میزند و هم به خواهر و برادرانش خیانت میکند و خواهر و برادرانش از گشنگی میمیرنند
گاهی اوقات ژنِ خودخواه برایِ بقا به تهدید رو می آورد
مثلاً در پرندگان دو حالت دارد، یکی از جوجه ها که بزرگتر و قوی تر است، با صدایِ جیک جیکِ زیاد توجه شکارچیان را به آنها جلب میکند و میگوید: روباه، روباه بیا ما را بخور... لذا مادرش مجبور است دهانش را ببند و او راضی نگه دارد
اما زمانی میرسد که جوجۀ ضعیفتر، ژنِ هوشمندی دارد، وقتی میبیند به او خوراک نمیرسد، شکارچی را صدا میکند، تا مادر فرار کرده، روباه بیاید و آن جوجۀ بزرگتر و زورگو را بخورد
گاهی اوقات ژنِ خودخواه برایِ بقا به دستور رو می آورد
مثلاً اگر توله ای یا جوجه ای به دنیا بیاید و از خواهران و برادرانِ دیگرش کوچکتر و ضعیف تر و نحیف تر باشد، ژنی به او دستور میدهد که: « بدن، اگر از آنهایی که باهم زاده شده اید، خیلی کوچکتر هستی، تقلا نکن و بمیر»... و حتی بهتر است خوراکِ توله هایِ دیگر شود...به این ترتیب بیشترین سود را نصیبِ ژن هایش میکند
گاهی اوقات ژنِ خودخواه برایِ بقا به کشتن و قتل رو می آورد
مثلاً پرندۀ «راهنمایِ کندویِ عسل»، مثلِ فاخته ها متقلب است و تخمِ خود را در لانۀ پرندگانِ دیگر میگذارد... این نوع پرنده، نوکِ تیز و خمیده ای دارد... وقتی از تخم بیرون می آید.. سریع جوجه هایِ دیگر را سوراخ سوراخ کرده و میکشد، تا برایِ گرفتنِ خوراک از دهانِ مادرِ ناتنیِ خود، با او رقابت نکنند
یا نوعی پرستو، تخمِ خود را در لانۀ زاغ میگذارد... جوجه زودتر سر از تخم درآورده. و تخمِ زاغ را میانِ برجستگی هایِ بالش گذاشته و آن را به پایین پرت میکند
گاهی اوقات ژنِ خودخواه برایِ بقا به انتخاب رو می آورد
مثلاً اگر ببیند تعداد نرها زیاد شده اند... نمیگذارد تخمدان ها اسپرمِ نرساز را دریافت کنند... در حالتِ عادی، ژنِ خودخواه ترجیه میدهد،والد، ماده به دنیا بیاورد
گاهی اوقات ژنِ خودخواه برایِ بقا به برده داری رو می آورد
مثلاً گونه ای از مورچه ها هستند که به مورچه هایِ دیگر حمله کرده و سربازان را میکشند، و تخمهایِ ملکه را دزدیده و به لانۀ خود می آورند... وقتی بچه ها به دنیا می آیند، از آنها به عنوانِ برده استفاده میکنند
گاهی اوقات ژنِ خودخواه برایِ بقا به همزیستی رو می آورد
مثلاً گونه ای از مورچه ها وجود دارند که از شته ها به عنوانِ حیوانِ خانگی استفاده میکنند، یعنی شته ها شیرۀ گیاهان را میمکند، سپس مورچه ها شته ها را میدوشند و این شیره را از پشتشان در می آورند... در ازایِ آن مورچه ها از خانۀ شته ها همچون سربازان محافظت میکنند
ما انسان ها، در سلول هایمان چیزهایِ ریزی وجود دارد به نامِ «میتوکندری»... «میتوکندری» کارخانه هایِ شیمیاییِ کوچکی هس��ند که وظیفۀ تولیدِ انرژی را دارند... «میتوکندری» ها در اصل باکتری هایِ همزیستی هستند که از ابتدایِ تکامل با سلول هایِ ما پیوند یافته اند و داد و ستد میکنند
گاهی اوقات یک ژن بی جهت ژن هایِ دیگر را از بین میبرد... این ژنها دستگاه را بهم میریزند... مانندِ «ژنِ تی»... مثلاً در موش ها اگر موشی در کودکی دو ژنِ تی داشته باشد، در کودکی میمیرد
دوستانِ عزیزم، تنها چیزی که ژن ها به طورِ مستقیم میتوانند آن را تحتِ تأثیر قرار دهند، ترکیبِ پروتئین است

امیدوارم این مطالب برایِ شما دوستدارانِ دانش، مفید بوده باشه
«پیروز باشید و ایرانی»
Profile Image for Orhan Pelinkovic.
91 reviews166 followers
September 22, 2020
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, and humans selfish gene and their evolution by means of natural selection. There is no moral of the story as morals are not considered in the natural selection process.

What roll did natural selection have on primordial Earth? It selected to retain the stable forms of molecules and throw out the unstable forms. During the same period, simple replicating molecules were present with a capability to replicate themselves. Today we have a far more sophisticated self-replicating molecule, containing a complex recipe, called the DNA. Such stable molecules started to compete with one another in a struggle for existence. In order to increase their chances of survival and reproduction, these stable replicating molecules built machines for survival in which they would be accommodated. Those stable molecules today are our genes, and the machines for their survival, our bodies.

What is a selfish gene? The selfish gene is a short or rather small piece of a chromosome that lasts for many generations and has an extremely low probability to split up. It collaborates well with other genes and does not allow anything to penetrate it. The long lasting life of the selfish gene makes it an important unit of evolution by means of natural selection, and the replicating molecule (gene) a fundamental unit of natural selection.

The selfish gene created us to be self-centered and not altruistic. Our genes created us for their well-being and to fight for their survival and reproduce them through procreation. The selfish gene in living organisms is concerned for itself and individual in which they are housed. Therefore, our genes have a more egocentric approach for self-survival rather than an altruistic one that would benefit the group. Altruism is not the most stable evolutionary strategy for the genes and individuals, unless reciprocal altruism is at hand that would benefit each variety (of course there are exceptions). Parental altruism towards children can be viewed as genes investing in themselves as their genes are now found in their offspring. That is why it is important to teach altruism to our children, as it doesn't necessarily come naturally.

But our brain has developed up to a point that we are in a position to reject or rebel against our own selfish gene. Many people choose not to have children or use contraceptives and this way disobey the selfish gene. Others sacrifice themselves for the benefit of a group, for an ideal or a cause. In one chapter we see how a "meme" (idea or behavior), a unit of culture, acts as a replicator that is transmitted from individual to individual.

Since humans are conscious beings and aware that a future exists, it gives us the power to simulate and plan ahead. Also, we have written accounts of the past events - history. I would certainly hope that with our increasing knowledge about our genes, our finer capability of forecasting, and written history from different points of view, can act as tools to help us find a better balance between the common good of a society and the individuals interest i.e. balancing altruism and selfishness.
Profile Image for Guille.
785 reviews1,749 followers
March 17, 2022

“Una gallina es solo la forma en que un huevo hace otro huevo“ (Samuel Butler 1835-1902)
La evolución es un hecho que solo un fanático religioso puede negar: antes había animales que ahora no existen y ahora existen animales que antes no. Aunque esto era conocido ya antes de Darwin, él tuvo la genialidad de idear un mecanismo que explicara cómo se producía esa evolución: la selección natural. Su explicación ha sido modificada con posterioridad de forma sustancial en base a los nuevos conocimientos sobre genética, mecanismos de la herencia, registros fósiles, etc. hasta dejar de ser una teoría, una hipótesis, para convertirse en una ley científica al mismo nivel de credibilidad que cualquier otra ley establecida por la ciencia.

La interesante y fructífera tesis que plantea Dawkins en este libro es establecer como unidad de este mecanismo de selección, no a la especie ni al grupo ni al individuo, sino al gen.
“Un cuerpo es el medio empleado por los genes para preservar los genes inalterados.”
Tomar al gen como unidad de selección explicaría, por ejemplo, el altruismo, esto es, cómo es posible que un individuo quiera aumentar el bienestar de otro ser semejante a expensas de su propio bienestar. La respuesta es que los genes “pueden alcanzar mejor sus objetivos egoístas fomentando una forma limitad del altruismo a nivel de los animales individuales.” El libro expone muchos ejemplos en el que comportamientos que en principio pueden parecernos altruistas pueden ser interpretados como una forma de egoísmo tanto a nivel del individuo como a un nivel más profundo y realmente inquietante, el del gen.

Otra aportación interesantísima de Dawkins en este libro es la idea de meme, la unidad mínima de información que se puede transmitir, que actuaría como un replicador a nivel cerebral de forma semejante a un gen. Ejemplos de memes que da el propio autor son: “tonadas o sones, ideas, consignas, modas en cuanto a vestimenta, formas de fabricar vasijas o de construir arcos”.
“Los memes se propagan en el acervo de memes al saltar de un cerebro a otro mediante un proceso que… puede llamarse imitación... Si los memes de los cerebros son análogos a los genes, deben ser estructuras cerebrales autorreplicadoras, patrones reales de conexión neuronal que se reconstruyen a sí mismos en un cerebro después de otro.”
Así, también los memes están expuestos a un mecanismo de selección, de tal forma que serán favorecidos aquellos que “explotan su medio cultural para su propia ventaja”, siendo su medio cultural el acervo de memes existentes en cada momento.

Un libro sugerente y explicado de esa forma tan didáctica que siempre exhibe Dawkins.
Profile Image for Infinite Jen.
87 reviews430 followers
March 26, 2023
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 seconds later, by silence and darkness. A stranger, perhaps sensing the melancholy which had gripped me by the haunches, innocently inquired, “Is something bothering you, sweetie?” To which I hissed, “I sometimes fantasize about blasting a champagne cork into someone’s mouth, mid sentence, then impaling them with the bill of sword fish.” I then turned back to the show, shaking my head, “You didn’t deserve that. I’m just thinking about the relationship between senescence and antagonistic pleiotropy and how you can’t make sense of certain biological realities unless your conceptual efforts proceed from the optimal level of granularity. For instance, when I, as a little girl, had the distinct terror of being chased by a Somali ostrich, and was subsequently trampled by said flightless bird, with my large strawberry milkshake pinned beneath me and exploding all over my white dress like a bazooka bubblegum claymore, (which appeared to onlookers as my ever loving guts being mashed out of my tiny body), it did not behoove me to attempt to understand its behavior at the level of quantum physics. I’m sure the whole dreary affair transgressed no physical laws, up to and including my mother screaming; “Saints be with us! The little idiot has finally done herself in!” I’m not saying that. But it was a far better use of attentional resources to focus on my behavior prior to the incident, wherein I was strangely compelled to harangue the temperamental bird about the dimorphic condition of its tiny head relative to its large body.” Laughing and turning to ask the man for a light, I realized that he had fled silently back into the crowd.

Not to be thwarted in mid rant, I singled out an attractive woman and stormed towards her, gesturing wildly as if the Cesar of my ego was experiencing bloody death curtesy of white hot senatorial stabbings administered by psychedelics. Shouting, “In precisely this way, it is difficult to make much sense of our ephemeral existence without the concept of antagonistic pleiotropy.” Drawing painfully close and smelling her hair. “Are you single? Don’t answer that! First, observe, at the proper level of magnification, the center of evolution’s dramas, not the individual, but the gene. Now, if we are going to attempt to understand death, this inability of ours to achieve the escape velocity of our mortality, like those mortars which currently spunk the night sky with their rainbow smithereens. To understand this spectral Bukkake, we must cudgel the knees of our tired frameworks and streak madly into the arms of lusty new paradigms. Observe! If we were going to ask the obvious question; why do we perish amongst abundance? Why must we bust a fat, prismatic nut, and never be heard again? If we have food sufficient to meet our caloric needs, should we not be able to repair the damage we incur indefinitely? I say unto you; Let us suppose that there was a gene, in our ancestral past, which controlled for more than one phenotypic trait (i.e the protein expression of the genotype under influence of environment factors). One of these traits was quite beneficial early in life and ensured that the humans who possessed it were more likely to take it to pound town, but the same gene was also responsible for one or more defects which would manifest outside of prime reproductive years. You would end up with a proliferation of these genes irregardless of their ultimate cost, (i.e the eventual demise of the screaming mortar as it goes ungently into that good night) because reproduction is key. The mystery of senescence now seems tractable, doesn’t it?”

Silently she takes my hand and leads me away from the crowd. Once we’ve made it to the top of a small hill overlooking the celebration, she turns to me and says;

"Sì, abbiamo un'anima. Ma è fatta di tanti piccoli robot.”

This book is an account of one of the most successful science metaphors ever created, of how immortal genes are winnowed through the game theoretic calculus of natural selection into evolutionary stable states. About how the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators can produce all the various strategies which enable the carriers of this encoded information to survive and send it into the future. The Selfish Gene is one of the best books on evolution ever written. It profoundly communicates just what evolution is all about: the replication of genetic units of information, by whatever means possible. Viruses, retroviruses, parasitic insects, gut bacteria, mitochondria, the grotesque nuptial gifts of scorpion flies, and motorcycle accidents caused by toxoplasmosis - they are all successful cases of genes replicating in varied "survival machines," giving zero shits about how quaint their respective venues appear. It's an amazing, well-proved idea, wonderfully communicated by a passionate writer. It requires no advanced training or technical background to understand, and will reward your attention by permanently enriching your understanding of the natural world.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,255 reviews2,300 followers
September 11, 2018
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 existence became a cacophony of chance events rather than a carefully co-ordinated orchestra. Naturally, the religious establishment rebelled. But like all ideas whose time had come, evolution hung on with great tenacity to become the widely accepted idea it is today.

I have been fascinated with the idea ever since I was introduced to it in high school. As far as I am concerned, the very argument that theists put forward against evolution is its greatest strength; viz. the complexity of the natural world. According to the believer, such a complex and “perfect” (whatever that means!) system has to have an architect behind it. But the fact is that it is not “perfect” – nature is dynamic. What we perceive as stability is homeostasis, a seething mass of life, eating one another and being eaten; and as nature shifts her stance, so does life, whole species dying out (like the dinosaurs) to make way for others.

But wait! Humans are different, aren’t we? We compete, true: but we also show altruism. People lay down their life to protect their progeny, their brothers and sisters, their countrymen… if we were selfish survival machines, why would we do this? It means we have the spark of divinity within us, doesn’t it?

Well… not exactly, according to Richard Dawkins. It only means we have the “Selfish Gene” within us.

The Selfish Gene needs no introduction. This is one of those iconic “pop” science books which everyone seems to have read, like The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris. I was a bit late (well, about 37 years!) in getting to it. However, the book has lost none of the charm, and the idea any of its power, due to the ravages of time: if at all, it has become stronger.

What is a gene?

Dawkins confesses that there is no universally agreed definition of ‘gene’. We now know that the blueprint for building of each human being is coded in 23 pairs of chromosomes, one of every pair being inherited from each parent. The code inside the chromosome is written in DNA molecules, the famous ‘Double Helix’ that Dawkins terms the ‘Immortal Coils’.

The DNA molecules are replicators. They replicate themselves; they also manufacture proteins, the basic building block of life as we know it. These DNA molecules (some version of them) were the original “life” in the “primeval soup”: they reproduced themselves and competed with one another to survive. Natural selection defined which lasted and which died away.

Dawkins defines a gene (a definition borrowed from G. C. Williams) as “any part of chromosomal material that potentially lasts for enough generations to serve as a unit of natural selection”. In other words, a gene is a copier with high “copying-fidelity”: that is, it ensures that it copies itself without mistakes so that longevity in the form of copies is ensured.

So in the primeval soup, these genes went on happily competing with each other, evolving newer and newer ways of surviving in an environment which got increasingly complex. As part of survival technology, the genes built a lot of machines, bunching together to form gene complexes in the context. The machines got more and more complex, from the single-cell amoeba to the human being.

Dawkins starts the book with the question “Why are people?” This is his answer – so that the gene can survive and replicate. We are nothing but vehicles for the genes, who exist to ensure their survival.

Pretty disillusioning, isn’t it? But Dawkins is far from done. After pulling down humanity from its pedestal as the “pinnacle of creation”, he proceeds to explain all the lofty sentiments such as love, altruism, sacrifice etc. as the result of strategies for gene survival – extremely selfish strategies at that. It is very difficult to stomach for a generation which has been trained to behold human beings as somehow special, and the above sentiments as the proof of their exclusivity which separate them from the “lower” animals. As one disgusted poster said in one of the fora where this book was discussed: “So altruism is like going to the potty? Oh dear!”

But even though disheartening at first, as Dawkins begins to back up his arguments with solid scientific reasoning, it is difficult to dispute him, and difficult not to get excited when he presents his theory with mathematical precision.

Aggression and Stability

One of the most common arguments put forward against evolution is that an uncontrolled state of aggression will lead to a free-for-all and the “stable” environment we see cannot exist. Dawkins explains this with the concept of an ESS (Evolutionary Stable Strategy), which leads to a dynamic equilibrium or homeostasis: he posits a theoretical society populated by pure aggressors (“hawks”) and pure pacifists (“doves”), and proves logically that over a period of time, the number of hawks and doves will stabilise in roughly equal proportion. This is because it is not the survival machines which are having the final say on who will win: it is the genes. This concept is further expanded with fine variations on the behavior – ultimately, every time, a dynamically stable configuration results.

In Chapter 12, ‘Nice Guys Finish First’ (added as part of the second edition), Dawkins takes this theory further and presents a varying set of evolutionary strategies, modelled on Game Theory. It describes in detail various evolutionary stratagems he tried out on his computer (with contributions from a lot of scientists) and the outcomes. This is a fascinating analysis and in my opinion, the most interesting part of the book – but that may just be the engineer in me, who loves anything mathematical!


Oh yes. The old stumbling block. The favourite saw of the creationists. If we are all selfish, how does altruism come into the picture? Why do parents sacrifice themselves for their children, why do siblings do the same for each other, why do we co-operate at all? Should we not be at each other’s throats, all the time?

No, according to Dawkins. If we look at it from the gene’s point of view, it all makes perfect sense.

When we are talking of genes, we are talking of gene pools here: a group of genes working together so that the survival of each is maximised. Dawkins makes a brilliant analogy to a rowing team. If a coach is choosing a team, he would over a period end up with a group who can pull in such a way that the winning chance is maximised – an individual rower, however brilliant he is, would find no place in the team if he did not contribute to the group effort. In the case of genes, natural selection plays the role of the coach. Those genes which could not co-operate simply get discarded in the evolutionary race over a period of time.

Also, one should bear in mind that a gene is not a single physical bit of DNA; it is all replicas of a particular bit of DNA, distributed throughout the world. A gene might be able to assist replicas of itself that are sitting in other bodies. If so, this could be the origin of altruism. Dawkins calls it ‘genesmanship’. He spends four chapters explaining how it applies to siblings, offspring, lovers and apparent strangers. In the last chapter (‘The Long Reach of the Gene’), Dawkins extrapolates the above argument to how the gene in one species can extend its reach to another species, possibly to the detriment of the latter, to explain parasitism.

One may take it or leave it, but the arguments are well thought-out and presented with great clarity; with cold, scientific logic. There are no opinions here. It makes fascinating reading, even though the mathematical analysis may put some off!


The concept of the ‘meme’ is possibly the most revolutionary one expressed in this book. Dawkins defines a meme as a unit of cultural transmission, a basic idea which gets replicated in human brains, in the ‘primeval soup’ of human culture; which, according to him, is in the same state as the biological ‘soup’ was at the dawn of life on earth. To quote the author himself:

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.

According Dawkins, all prevalent ideas (including the idea of God!) is a meme: the meme survives because it has a survival value in the meme pool. If we subscribe to this idea, the whole intellectual arena is nothing but a group of memes grappling for survival – not a very edifying thought. It seems Dawkins appreciates this, because he ends the chapter on memes with the speculation that man has the capacity for genuine, disinterested, true altruism. He says “We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”

I, as a fan of the Jungian idea of the Collective Unconscious, could not help speculating on whether the meme could be embedded way down in the gene itself? Maybe the Collective Unconscious is nothing but little bits of consciousness, embedded inside the DNA, which guided the process of survival? If so, it could be case for Intelligent Design – or rather, Intelligent Evolution.

This is one of those ‘pop-science’ books which are enlightening and enjoyable at the same time. A must-read.

Read the review also on my BLOG .
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews37 followers
October 4, 2021
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 (unconsciously) so that its genes go on.

Genes that cause birds and bees to breed survive at the expense of other genes.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز سوم ماه اکتبر سال 2011میلادی

عنوان: ژن خودخواه؛ نویسنده: ریچارد داوکینز؛ مترجم نرگس رستمی‌گوران؛ تهران، نشر چشمه، 1389؛ در 481ص؛ شابک9789643629946؛ موضوع تکامل و زیست شناسی از نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 20م

عنوان: ژن خودخواه؛ نویسنده: ریچارد داکینز؛ مترجم جلال سلطانی؛ تهران، مازیار، 1396؛ در 432ص؛ شابک9786006043760؛ چاپ سوم سال1397؛ چاپ پنجم و ششم 1399؛

عنوان: ژن خودخواه؛ نویسنده: ریچارد داکینز؛ مترجم شهلا باقری؛ تهران، پژواک، 1399؛ در 581ص؛ شابک9789649309064؛

ریچارد داوکینز زیست‌شناس تکامل‌گرا، کتاب «ژن خودخواه» را در سال 1976میلادی منتشر کردند؛ بنیان بحث «داوکینز» در این کتاب در حوزه ی تکامل طبیعی، و علم ژنتیک است، ایشان ژنتیک را مبتنی بر نگرشی ژن‌محور شرح می‌دهند، و همچنین، رویکرد ایشان در زیست‌شناسی، متکی بر نظریه‌ ی «داروین» است؛ ایشان بر پایه نظریه ی «داروین» می‌پذیرند که تکامل طبیعی، از راه گزینش طبیعی کار می‌کند، و گزینش طبیعی به‌ معنی بقای شایسته‌ترین‌ها است؛ «داوکینز» نگرش ژن‌ مرکزی خود را در علم ژنتیک، با نظریه ی تکاملی «داروین» پیوند می‌زنند، و به این نتیجه ی پایه‌ ای می‌رسند که: «ژن»، عنصر اصلی گزینش طبیعی است؛ از نظر ایشان، هر چند رقابت مبتنی بر خودخواهی عنصر اصلی ژن برای بقاست، اما خودخواهی، صرفاً رفتار فردی ژن است؛ در عین حال، اولاً برآوردن خودخواهی ژن‌ها از اساس متکی بر همتاسازی، یا تکثیر شوندگی است، و ثانیاً این رفتار فردی در اوضاع و احوال ویژه ای روی می‌دهد، که امکان رویدادن اهداف خودخواهانه ژن را، به‌ منظور پایداری آن فراهم می‌آورد؛ در این اوضاع و احوال است که ژن خودخواه با دیگر ژن‌ها، که آنها نیز خودخواه‌ هستند، روبرو می‌شود و می‌خواهد رقابتی را با آنها پیش ببرد، که هدف آن نگهداری و بقای زندگی ارگانیسم، در کل، است؛ از دیدگاه «داوکینز» ارگانیسم موجود زنده، محیطی است، که رقابت خودخواهانه ژن را بر زمینه ی رقابت دیگرخواهانه‌ ای قرار می‌دهد، که بقای خود ارگانیسم زنده را می‌پذیرد؛ پس چشم همچشمی خودخواهانه ژن‌های خودخواه، در ارگانیسم به تعادل ژنتیکی، و بنابراین به بقای ارگانیسم می‌انجامد؛ «داوکینز» انتخاب یا همان گزینش طبیعی را، بازی بزرگ رقابت می‌داند، که در آن بازیگران یا رقابت‌ کنندگان اصلی، ژن‌های خودخواه‌ هستند؛ اما از آنجا که رقابت برای بقای ارگانیسم زنده انجام می‌شود، پس این رقابتی نه برای نابودی، که برای بقا یعنی تداوم زندگی است؛ از این رو «داوکینز» می‌کوشد در کتاب خود، تاریخ طبیعی را از دیدگاه علم تبیین کند؛ نخستین انتقاد مهم بر کتاب ژن خودخواه به همین نگرش به تاریخ طبیعی از منظر علم ــ علم ژنتیک ــ تا آن جایگاه است که می‌توان آن را با علم‌گرایی نویسنده توضیح داد؛ زیرا سنجش این موضوع یعنی حیات و تحول آن، موضوعی نیست که صرفاً از منظر علمی، و نظریه ژنتیک، به آن پرداخته شده باشد، بلکه باید از منظرهای دیگری نیز، به این نگره پرداخت، که نویسنده دیدگاههای دیگر را فراموش کرده است؛ مشخص است که از آن جمله هستند نگرش‌های دینی ــ در کنار نگرش علمی ــ برای این موضوع پاسخ‌های با قدمت بسیار وجود دارند که هنوز هم از سوی مردمان بسیاری در سراسر جهان پذیرفتی هستند و از این رو نباید چنین پاسخ‌هایی را نادیده گرفت؛ اما نکته‌ ی بسیار مهم این است که کتاب «ژن خودخواه» صرفاً درباره‌ ی علم ژنتیک، و ارائه‌ ی تبیین نوینی از نظریه‌ ی تکامل «داروین» نیست؛ اگر ژنتیک، در مجموع، به علم زیست‌شناسی مربوط می‌شود، اما «ریچارد داوکینز» فراتر از علم ژنتیک، به اتکای همان نگرش ژن‌محورانه، به دیگر قلمروهای زندگی اجتماعی انسان ــ مثلاً فرهنگ و تحولات فرهنگی ــ می‌پردازند؛ ایشان می‌کوشند قانون تکامل را در حوزه تحولات فرهنگی نیز تبیین کنند، و به اتکای آن، بقا یا زوال فرهنگ‌ها را به خوانشگر بنمایانند؛ «داوکینز» با تأکید بر تشابه تکامل فرهنگی با تکامل ژنتیکی، عامل تکامل فرهنگی را مِم ــ شبیه ژن ــ معرفی می‌کنند؛ ایشان با جعل مفاهیم «مم» و «ممتیک» می‌کوشند تکامل فرهنگی را در تشابه با تکامل ژنتیکی از طریق ژن و ژنتیک توضیح دهند؛ از نظر او «مم‌ها» ــ همچون آهنگ‌ها، ایده‌ها و شعارها و لباس، مد و...؛ ــ از راه تقلید، همتا سازی و تکثیر می‌شوند، و تحول و تکامل فرهنگی را ممکن می‌کنند؛ اگر در نظر او «ژن» واحد زیستی است، «مم» واحد اطلاعاتی است؛ در واقع «مم» آن هستیِ ذهنی است که «داوکینز» با جعل آن از حوزه ژنتیک (حوزه عمل خودخواهانه ژن) به حوزه فرهنگ عبور می‌کنند، و می‌کوشند تکامل و تحول فرهنگ را به خوانشگران بنمایانند؛ در عین حال، ایشان از همان مفاهیم رقابت، همتاسازی، خودخواهی و دیگرخواهی، در حوزه تحرک «مم‌ها» و انتقال و همتاسازی یا تکثیر آنها استفاده می‌کنند؛ دومین انتقاد مهم از «داوکینز» ناشی از همین تلاش ایشان برای یکسان‌سازی تحول ژنتیکی و تحول فرهنگی است؛ ایشان در این یکسان‌سازی تا آنجا پیش می‌روند که دین ــ وجهی از فرهنگ ــ را با همین الگوی نظری‌ خویش توضیح می‌دهند؛ برای نمونه، ایشان «ایمان» را، یک «مم» در حوزه‌ ی دین می‌شناسند که از راه تقلید، همتاسازی و تکثیر می‌شود؛ از اینجا می‌توان دریافت که در آرای «داوکینز» پیوند تکامل ژنتیکی، با تحول فرهنگی بسیار خیال‌پردازانه باز نموده می‌شود؛ این پاسخی نادرست نسبت به باورهای مذهبی است و به همین دلیل نمی‌تواند توضیح قانع‌ کننده‌ای از تداوم اندیشه‌های دینی در جهان ارائه کند؛ «داوکینز» می‌کوشند تحول فرهنگ را با نگرشی صرفاً علمی توضیح دهند؛ همین مسئله است که با انتقادات بسیاری مواجه شده است؛ «داوکینز» با یکسان دانستن تحول طبیعی و تحول فرهنگی، به تقابل علم و دین می‌رسند؛ در حالی که این دو شیوه‌ ی تبیین جهان، در همزیستی با هم قرار دارند و یکدیگر را نفی نمی‌کنند؛ «ریچارد داوکینز» از سال 1995میلادی تا سال2008میلادی استاد کرسی «چارلز سیمونی» برای ترویج علم، در «دانشگاه آکسفورد» بودند؛ ایشان از پدر و مادر بریتانیایی در «نایروبی» به دنیا آمده اند، در «آکسفورد» درس خوانده، و رساله ی دکتری خود را زیر نظر «نیکو تیبرگن» رفتارشناس برنده جایزه «نوبل» به سرانجام رسانده اند؛ ایشان از سال1967میلادی تا 1969میلادی در «دانشگاه کالیفرنیا» در «برکلی» استادیار بودند؛ سپس به‌ عنوان دانشیار و بعد استاد به بخش جانورشناسی «نیوکالج در آکسفورد» بازگشتند تا آنکه در سال 1995میلادی، به‌ عنوان نخستین استاد کرسی «سیمونی» منصوب شد؛ ایشان اکنون عضو ممتاز «نیوکالج» هستند؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 11/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jono Davis.
2 reviews9 followers
April 21, 2008
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 this,

"If we allow ourselves the license of talking about genes as if they had conscious aims, always reassuring ourselves that we could translate our sloppy language back into repectable terms if we wanted to, we can ask the question, what is a single selfish gene trying to do?"

All things being even, genes that are long-lasting or that replicate quickly, and genes that can replicate with high fidelity are going to outnumber those that are slow or erroneous in replication. Dawkins calls this the “selfish” nature of genetic replication. He chooses his words carefully though, and applies metaphors of self-interest only to genes that are, or are not, selected for by indifferent and unthinking mechanisms.

Where this metaphor breaks down, as Dawkins admits, is when the idea of “selfishness” is brought up from genetics to the level of individuals within a group, or groups within a species. He criticizes such concepts in sociobiology, where claims are made that an individual’s actions are inherently selfish in order to serve their genes in themselves, or in other related individuals.

While genes may be “selfish” in order to be selected, this doesn’t necessitate that individuals (“survival machines” as he so affectionately calls us) must as well act only in self-interest. In this video introduction to the book, Dawkins suggests that,

"…if you have “selfish” genes, which only means that natural selection works at the level of the gene, if you have “selfish” genes, then, you may have altruistic individuals."
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,041 followers
August 27, 2023
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 by turning the point of view that preceded it on its collective head (group selection) & influenced many other fields.

So, it has become clear to me that this one is even more influential than I knew at the time. I keep finding references (usually for, but occasionally against) the idea of the selfish gene. I'm interested in reading more by Edward O. Wilson who is one of those who disagrees with the idea. Wilson was also eminent in the field & the finer points of their arguments are beyond me. This article takes a middling ground.

I've also just read a discussion of memes by Daniel C. Dennett in From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds. It's not an area I'm terribly interested in, but I'd like to read Dawkins' take on it again. I think Dennett also codified his ideas of competence without comprehension, at least in part, from this work.

Highly recommended to all. While I found the audiobook delightful, it's nice to have a text copy available to better grasp some of the more subtle points.

April 2018 Review This is the thirty year anniversary edition of the book (2006 rather than 1976) so it contains a lot of clarifications where he found there were misunderstandings. It also contains some corrections where he decided that he was either wrong or off target. He also mentions areas where other discoveries & papers took his work even further. I think I found these the most enjoyable. It's great to see science in progress. He also added a few extra chapters that were fantastic.

Of course, the main reason to read this book is to read the origin of the word "Meme" which Dawkins created & loosed on the world in this book. I love origin stories.

This is the third book that I've read written & narrated by Dawkins. I liked it better than his autobiography, but not quite as much as The God Delusion. I'm not an evolutionary biologist, so some of it went into more depth than I appreciated. It was always interesting & easy to understand, though. That he could make such complex topics so easily digested by a layman says a lot about both his ability as a writer & his knowledge of the subject.

His primary point is that evolution is about gene survival. We & other living beings are just the vehicles that the genes build to perpetuate themselves. He makes it very clear throughout the book that when he ascribes words such as 'selfish' to behavior that he is putting the behavior in human terms for ease of communication. When he didn't, he used math to show his point, but he didn't do a lot of that & it was always easy to follow even when the points were counter-intuitive. There were a fair few of those.

One example is the Prisoner's Dilemma problem & how it relates to selfishness. He spent quite a bit of time on this & even provided the results of several computer simulations done later by colleagues that prove out & explain the differences in iterated games versus single games. Wow. It really explains a lot about symbiosis, herd/group, & even cuckoos' behavior.

I'm just plain impressed by this man & his thought processes, but I'm not sure if I'll read any more of his books. He mentions where he goes into more detail in other books & papers throughout this edition of this book, but he covers enough of The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene for me here, I think. Maybe not. It's an intriguing subject. Perhaps if I come across the audio version I'll succumb to temptation. He & Lalla Ward do a great job of narrating & the ideas are fascinating.

It's amazing just how complex processes can arise out of such simple objects working in groups. Of course, there's been a LOT of time & trial & error. Statistically it makes sense. Dawkins has seen to that. Using his thoughts as a baseline for alien life is even more fascinating. I hope I live to see if his theories are born out.

Of course, I recommend this highly. Definitely get this edition, if you can. If you've only read the first edition, get & read this one. It's worth it.
Profile Image for Farhana.
307 reviews178 followers
April 17, 2021
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 are well aware of some technical biological jargons.

So, when Mr. Dawkins finally meets you through his legendary The Selfish Gene, you eagerly wait to hear a few more intricate complex terms - similar to the stature of the book and the writer. The chapters in the beginning (2 & 3) bore a little bit with their roundabout words. But if you can keep a little bit patience up to Chapter 5, then as the chapters go on you begin to realize why this book is a Classic after all!

I must agree that it's one of the finest books I have read. Chapter 1 is adorable with its nice philosophical leaps. The best chapters are Battle of the Generations and Battle of the Sexes. The chapter on memes sounds like the movie Inception. Overall the book is the best reward for its readers.
Profile Image for Priscila Jordão.
40 reviews33 followers
December 8, 2014
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 instance, that an animal has 1/8 of chance of saving one of his cousins from drowning because there is a chance of 1 in 8 that he and his cousin have genes in common. Or that a mother cares about her babies just because their body is transporting half of her genes.

I’m not questioning it because I found the theory insensitive or cruel (especially when it comes to human beings). We all know very well how important are genes determining behavior. But today we also know how deeply are another factors involved in this process. They are certainly relevant in different measures between animals and humans, but I’m inclined to believe that even in animals they do not exert this kind of dictatorship. And even if they did, it would be almost impossible to use mathematics to calculate things like the probability of an animal saving his cousin's life.

In chapter 11 Dawkins introduces the notion of “memes” and makes an exception to the sovereignty of genes: he mentions briefly that culture may change what was genetically “predetermined” to happen and, surprisingly, that it can be considered another type of evolution. However, most of the book doesn’t take this possibility into account, which is one of the reasons why I find it out of date.

Conversely, Dawkins brings up some really interesting ideas that had never come to my mind in other ways. One of them is mentioned in the second chapter, in which he explains the origins of replicant molecules (DNAs) and is confronted with the inevitable and very contemporary question: when does life begins? He solves the problem masterfully in my opinion: “Should we then call the original replicators ‘living’? Who cares? (…) Human suffering has been caused because too many of us cannot grasp that words are only tools for our use. The mere presence in the dictionary of a word like ‘living’ does not mean it necessarily has to refer to something definite in the real world”.

Another of my favorite parts is the one where the talks about the evolution of the capability of simulation in animals. His theory is that conscience emerged because the simulation that brains do to calculate probabilities and risks associated to everyday tasks became so complex at one point of the evolution that it was inevitable to start including the “self” in it.

I was also positively impressed by how Dawkins describes adaptation as the predominance of evolutionary stable strategies in opposition to unstable ones. It is an interesting approach to Darwin’s theory that he would probably have agreed with. The descriptions of various behaviors to exemplify his theory are also very engaging.

Finally, the already mentioned chapter about memes is a good surprise at the end of the book, and reveals some of Dawkins’ skills as philosopher (as someone mentioned in a review below).

For all these reasons, and although I was bored at many moments because of its reductionism, I found “The Selfish Gene” worth of reading. It certainly deserves its fame as a classic.
Profile Image for rachelm.
105 reviews2 followers
October 2, 2007
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 become a good mechanism for the reproduction of the self-replicating entities I call my genes? Why did biological matter floating around in the primordial stew originally clump together into larger organisms?"

Dawkins answers these questions and more in an engaging fashion, applying the theory of the selfish gene to aggression, altruism, sexual and familial relationships, and to the transmission of ideas in human societies.

And he makes a point of leaving us with the optimistic thought that we as humans should be informed by our biological history, but need not be bound by it.
Profile Image for Ali.
36 reviews18 followers
June 9, 2012
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, quite frankly. Dawkins is an intelligent evolutionary biologist and he has contributed a lot to the field over the past three or four decades. He is very passionate about Darwinian Evolution that I'm surprised that he's not been referred to as "Darwin's pitbull" as much as Sir Huxley was known as "Darwin's Bulldog"!

The book is an attempt by Dawkins to offer a meticulous explanation of organisms' behavior, especially animals. Animal behavior is such an intriguing subject, indeed!. Dawkins tries to explore this phenomenal world through the lens of what he calls, "The Selfish Gene Theory".

The Selfish Gene Theory establishes that organisms evolve by Natural Selection, but the unit of selection is, surprisingly and against all common knowledge and conventions, the gene. It's not the species, as I used to firmly hold, not even the individual, but the gene, the selfish gene. Genes were here first long before us the multi-cellular organisms. In addition, they are "the replicators" who will live on, unlike us the mortals. They are the immortal units of selection, and we merely are "survival machines" as Dawkins affirms throughout the whole book. This, to me, has a very profound implication. It seems to me to negate the "hypothesis" of morality being also a product of our evolution because if the Selfish Gene Theory is true, then I don't see how the "survival of the species" would have mattered from the first place. However, Dawkins makes the case that selfish genes might "program" survival machines to adopt some forms of "altruistic" behaviors to meet their "selfish" ends.

Dawkins' language is that of a "reductionist" which doesn't surprise me as a student of biology familiar with the scientific doctrine of "Occam's Razor". However, I understand how his language might disturb some readers. Dawkins reduces all forms of relationships and attributes them to "genetic" factors including those among family members. Altruistic behavior vs. selfish behavior can all be calculated mathematically. Your mother cares about you because you contain half of her genes! Forget love, affection, and all of that emotional talk. We're merely survival machines designed by our selfish genes to propagate them. Pretty disturbing, huh?

Yet, this also has a crucial implication. Dawkins affirms in the beginning of the book that it's one of "biology", not "ethics". He states that we are "selfish by nature", but we can teach our children to be altruistic. To me, this raises a very important question: doesn't that assert that we, indeed, possess free will? This is a profound implication that I believe Dawkins was not aware of when first writing this book. He attempts to briefly discuss this matter in the endnotes by rejecting it, but I think he didn't succeed.There's some form of dualism that the theory suggests in our case: the conscious Homo sapiens.It's very evident and prevalent.

One chapter of the book is devoted to what Dawkins call, "memes". It's such a great idea and it shows Dawkins' skill as a "philosopher". Simply, a meme is a "replicating idea" as Daniel Dennett defines it. It makes so much sense to me that memes are replicators just like genes floating from one mind to another and manipulating subjects to insure their survival. It seems to me that religion is an example of a meme that replicates itself (from followers to followers) and struggle for survival through consistent "adaptation" (modification)! Dawkins' animosity towards religion is probably as old as this book is, but he offers a very mild criticism of it which makes sense given that it's not really the center focus of this book.

The Selfish Gene Theory is a revolutionary idea. However, even more revolutionary is the concept of "The Extended Phenotype" which illustrates the "long reach of the gene". Dawkins dedicates a whole book to this idea, and devotes the last chapter to it. The notion simply suggests that selfish genes influence very "indirect" behaviors such as, building nests in birds. I must read his book "The Extended Phenotype" since Dawkins explores the idea much more deeply and thoroughly.

To conclude, the Selfish Gene Theory (or should I say hypothesis?) is indeed a profound seductive idea as an explanation of organisms' innate behavior. I don't know, though, how much of it is predicated upon scientific evidence and how much is mere speculation, but I do know that the book is a must-read for anyone interested in animal behavior. The book brilliantly offers answers to puzzling phenomenons, but it also raises a lot of profound questions.

"The only kind of entity that has to exists in order for life to arise, anywhere in the universe, is the immortal replicator." - R. Dawkins
Profile Image for Sidharth Vardhan.
Author 23 books699 followers
September 3, 2016
“ 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 stupid as Smith didn’t invented that ‘selfishness’ he merely showed us how our economy was already based on selfishness of individuals.

It is same here. In fact, in this case ‘selfishness’ is apparent selfish behaviour of genes (‘apparent’ because genes do not make conscious choices, selfless-by-default ones just won’t survive) and any effects on the individuals are unconscious. Dawkins shows how selfishness of genes can actually bring out what, at first, may look like altruistic behaviour among animals.

Also, we need not be slave to our genes. In fact, we do resist behaviour imposed on us by genes. The best examples are people who remain without children all their life, contraceptives, welfare state etc.

“Contraception is sometimes attacked as 'unnatural'. So it is, very unnatural. The trouble is, so is the welfare state. I think that most of us believe the welfare state is highly desirable. But you cannot have an unnatural welfare state, unless you also have unnatural birth- control, otherwise the end result will be misery even greater than that which obtains in nature.”

There are theories in here describing how first life must have started on planet. There is also a theory (theory, not law) that tries to explain why should people die of old age. Any explanations are better than 'God did it'. One of my favorite parts were those discussing Game theory involved in biology.

Above all, there are all those fascinating aspects how some animals behave. There are some insects who can be like Chinese-boxes:

Female greenflies can bear live, fatherless, female offspring, each one containing all the genes of its mother. (Incidentally, an embryo in her mother's 'womb' may have an even smaller embryo inside her own womb. So a greenfly female may give birth to a daughter and a grand- daughter simultaneously, both of them being equivalent to her own identical twins.)

And...do you remember that romantic dialogue, 'I'll die for you'? Ladies among matinses take it too literally:

“Mantises … When they mate, the male cautiously creeps up on the female, mounts her, and copulates. If the female gets th e chance, she will eat him, beginning by biting his head off, either as the male is approaching, or immediately after he mounts, or after they separate.”

Isn’t that lovely?

Than there are the friendly fights (mostly to get girls):

"the notable thing about animal fights is that they are formal tournaments, played according to rules like those of boxing or fencing. Animals fight with gloved fists and blunted foils. Threat and bluff take the place of deadly earnest. Gestures of surrender are recognized by victors, who then refrain from dealing the killing blow or bite that our naive theory might predict.”

Dawkins also points out how most of Darwin’s oringal theory was wrong. Yet, you won’t find any Darwin-fundamentalists fighting against evolutionists. Several of Dawkins' own postulates must have been already proved wrong - it was written 40 years ago, that is like stone age to scientists. I don't think he would mind either.

Creationists, well, they are a different breed. I guess given the condition the world is in, with all those stupid wars and ozone holes; any ideas of intelligent design can be easily trashed. And have you ever heard of that *stops to search for a word*thing called 'Donald Trump' - what is so intelligent about his existence? If I had my way, I would also have humanity consider whether we aren’t too liberal with the word when we call ourselves an 'intelligent' race. And even assuming there was a creator -than what about his/her aesthetic sense? Why should he give us bad body order? What is so intelligent about that?

Coming back to creationists, well, I think Christian church was a little stupid (no offence) when it picked a head-on fight against evolutionists. All they needed to do was to manipulate the meaning of phrases in Bible and tell the world that evolution was embodied in Bible, it was just that they weren't interpreting it right. Hinduism and Islam are far cleverer in this regard.

For example, as India’s respected prime minister will tell you Hindu gods had already invented plastic surgeries long before lesser mortals discovered Iron. Atom bombs, flying vehicles etc – you name it, we already had them ages ago. Read this review for more details. Whatever you may do, we did it in ancient times and were clever enough to forget about it.

Also, one of most popular (pseudo) scholars on religion, Dr. Zakir Naik, tells us that truths like Big bang, evolution, Copernican solar system, existence of plasma state of matter, the growth of embryo etc. were all already explained by none other than God himself in Quran. There are many other scientific truths to be found in Quran that he has found using his far-fetched sophisticated reasoning, you can listen to him here
Profile Image for Valliya Rennell.
377 reviews234 followers
December 2, 2020
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 in school, though separately, here I was able to draw connections with Mr. Dawkins' guidance that really enriched my prior knowledge. That being said, Dawkins writes in a simple writing style that may sometimes sound contemptuous of the reader, but I don't think that was the intent: he obviously knows much more about the topic, why would he talk to us as an equal in the field? I also found some of his remarks quite funny or satirical and found they helped lift the mood from just the nitty-gritty science facts.

There are a few 1 star reviews that tie a lot to religion and how Dawkins is overly dismissive of this. In my opinion, I don't exactly understand why this forced people to rate the book so low, since religion is mentioned maybe 2 or 3 times in the book, and in passing. Is Dawkins a bit dismissive of it? Well yes, but he isn't rude about it, he just states that some aspects of religions don't line up with what can be deduced through science... then again maybe I'm not the best person to speak on this, as I too am atheist. I don't know. I sure have read a lot of books that presented religion in a ruder manner, so I thought that Dawkins went about this in a respectful way.

Overall, I thought this book was really insightful, and will definitely be picking up more titles from this author.
Profile Image for Alexander McNabb.
Author 10 books49 followers
January 4, 2012
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 seriously fun.

Honestly. It's highly readable, thought-provoking and never less than entertaining. Imagine reading a TV series like Coast or a Robert Winston documentary - the mixture of powerful images, connections to the everyday and down to earth presentation actually make the subject matter of the book relevant, alive and, well, splendid.

Richipoos takes the odd diversion to indulge in some academic spattery, (one reason, perhaps, this was dubbed a 'young book' - it was written 30 and more years ago) but generally is on the side of the reader, which is why his ideas come across so clearly. The book explores the role of the 'eternal gene', the miraculous and self-replicating bunch of amino-acids that is US and how we are effectively a co-operative of chemical conveniences. Starting with the primeval soup and ending with why mums and dads do what they do, it's a roller-coaster ride. I'm serious - like I said, this would normally tick all my ohnoimnotreadingthatshit buttons. I was grinning through most of it and rare was the day when I didn't share a thought or insight the book had triggered or opened up with my long-suffering wife Sarah.

I had the time of my life reading this. I wish I could say the same about my my current struggle with Umberto Eco's somewhat turgid latest, but that - as they say - is another story...
Profile Image for Ms.pegasus.
722 reviews140 followers
April 4, 2020
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 purposes: “A gene is defined as any portion of chromosomal material that potentially lasts for enough generations to serve as a unit of natural selection....[A] gene is a replicator with high copying fidelity.” (p. 35) In one analogy he compares a gene to a cooperative team of rowers. The individual is merely a vehicle for the focused efforts of this team. Instead of quibbling about the physical entity of the gene, Dawkins focuses his attention on salient properties: copying errors, fecundity (the rate of replication), chromosomal rearrangement, and chemical “rivalry.” These in turn govern observable properties of the organism: viscosity ( “...any tendency for individuals to continue living to the place where they were born.”) and memory (p.282)

His arena is a multi-generational dynamic of ephemeral winners and losers, quantitative dominance in the gene pool. He proposes various strategies for achieving that dominance, and asserts that the results are mathematically predictable through game theory. A step-wise picture of evolution emerges: “Progressive evolution may be not so much a steady upward climb as a series of discrete steps from stable plateau to stable plateau.” (p.113) Each plateau signals the achievement of an Evolutionary Stable Strategy (ESS).

This revolutionary book was published in 1976. Dawkins cites two important influences. William Donald Hamilton (1936-2000) developed the idea of “kin selection” – the basis for the principle that “...a gene might be able to assist replicas of itself that are sitting in other bodies....” (p.114) In a chapter titled “Genesmanship", Dawkins provides a simplified version of a formula for calculating the odds that two individuals share a particular gene.

George C. Williams (1926-2010) contributed the idea of pleioptropy – multiple effects of a single gene. An example is the activation of a gene when the chemical properties of aging accumulate. I mention these antecedents because I often felt I had fallen into a time warp. Dawkins' ideas are a far cry from the Mendelian genetics I learned in school. Readers familiar with these earlier evolutionary pioneers will have a much easier time navigating this book than I had.

I read the 40th anniversary edition, published in 2016. Extensive explanatory footnotes, often running on for pages, have been added and need to be read in conjunction with the text. This is expedited by the formatting of the Kindle edition.

Fortunately, this book is leavened with surprising behavioral examples. We learn that a whale song can continue for eight minutes without repetition. (p.68) We learn that a strain of worker bee has the “hygenic” behavior of detecting and culling grubs infected by a particular disease. The culling requires two steps: uncapping the wax cell of the larva and evicting the larva from the hive. (p.78) A strain of mice exhibit the “Bruce effect.” The male mouse exudes a chemical that causes a female impregnated by a different male to abort. (p.191) Vampire bats will regurgitate and share excess blood harvested during the night with unsuccessful bats. (p.298) Dawkins examines and explains these behaviors through the lens of his “selfish gene.”
Profile Image for M D.
86 reviews7 followers
October 2, 2007
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 Juliet (who was ten at the time) explaining how you must always look for evidence. That, I believe, is one of the most important things to learn in life and the way he presents it to a child is impressive.

(The book, incidentally, is called How Things Work. I must see if I can add it)

However, despite being in awe of Professor Dawkins, I find him a little cruel in the way he removes the potential for all the nice things in life. If he is correct, we may as well all be selfish and thoughtless at all times because to do otherwise is simply irrational. I like to retain a little naivete in my convictions, it makes life more palatable.

Apparently "The Blind Watchmaker" is his best book, but I have completely read very few of his books and prefer to listen to him talk.
Profile Image for Abubakar Mehdi.
158 reviews222 followers
November 29, 2015
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 absolutely; I would want my friends to read just that chapter even if they don’t read the whole book. His ideas are fascinating and logical, but his way of expressing and putting them in words is even better. What a shame that he got into the new atheist movement and all the bad publicity that came with it. As a scientist, I found him at the top of his game.

This is a very readable, entertaining and beautifully written book that I would recommend to any one who, like me, bunked their biology lectures back in school. There is a lot to learn from this book. The 30th anniversary edition is annotated and made up to date with additional chapters, so the older edition should be avoided.
Read it, let is rinse your brain, and repeat.
Profile Image for Melki.
6,044 reviews2,390 followers
February 22, 2013
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..
Profile Image for Poria Da.
115 reviews14 followers
March 10, 2019
قسمت‌هایی از این کتاب این پتانسیل را دارد تا در مدارس در کنار ریاضی و دیگر علوم تدریس شود!
دید انسان قرن 21 به تکامل داروینی و نقش ژن بسیار محدود است و تلاش‌هایی ازجمله این کتاب و چند کتاب دیگر از داوکینز مثل ساعت‌ساز نابینا در این راستا ستودنی است.
اما کتاب ژن خودخواه، یک جنبه ترسناک نیز دارد، کتاب نشان می‌دهد که ما (و تمام موجودات زنده) ماشین‌هایی هستیم برای ژن‌ها و وظیفه‌مان انتقال این ژن‌ها به نسل‌های بعدی است، خودخواهی‌های ما، دروغ‌گویی‌های ما و... همه نتیجه تکامل و نیاز به بقا برای این ماشین بقا است، اما در کنار آنها، نیاز ما به یک دیگر، همکاری‌های اجتماعی و روابط خانوادگی هم نتیجه همین نیاز به بقاست، و یک نتیجه‌گیری جالب نیز داوکینز از این قسمت کتاب دارد: ایثارگری را باید به بچه آموزش داد زیرا این‌طور نیست که جزئی از سرشت ذاتی باشد.
در کنار بحث تکامل ژن، در این کتاب به‌صورت خلاصه با مفهوم "میم" و تکامل فرهنگی نیز آشنا می‌شویم، بخش خاصی از تکامل که فقط شامل انسان‌ها است.
و در پایان هم به‌صورت خلاصه با مفهوم فنوتیپ (رخنمون) گسترش‌یافته و اثری که تمام موجودات زنده بر زندگی یک دیگر دارند آشنا می‌شویم.
مفاهیمی که بسیار عجیب است که با این حجم پیشرفت تکنولوژی، باید در یک کتاب بخوانیم به‌جای اینکه در تمامی مجاری آموزشی با آنها آشنا شویم.
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