Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Selfish Gene / Edition 2

Selfish Gene / Edition 2

4.3 48
by Richard Dawkins

See All Formats & Editions

ISBN-10: 0192860925

ISBN-13: 2900192860926

Pub. Date: 09/01/1990

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA

Richard Dawkins' brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands of readers to rethink their beliefs about life.


Richard Dawkins' brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands of readers to rethink their beliefs about life.

In his internationally bestselling, now classic volume, The Selfish Gene, Dawkins explains how the selfish gene can also be a subtle gene. The world of the selfish gene revolves around savage competition, ruthless exploitation, and deceit, and yet, Dawkins argues, acts of apparent altruism do exist in nature. Bees, for example, will commit suicide when they sting to protect the hive, and birds will risk their lives to warn the flock of an approaching hawk.

This revised edition of Dawkins' fascinating book contains two new chapters. One, entitled "Nice Guys Finish First," demonstrates how cooperation can evolve even in a basically selfish world. The other new chapter, entitled "The Long Reach of the Gene," which reflects the arguments presented in Dawkins' The Extended Phenotype, clarifies the startling view that genes may reach outside the bodies in which they dwell and manipulate other individuals and even the world at large. Containing a wealth of remarkable new insights into the biological world, the second edition once again drives home the fact that truth is stranger than fiction.

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
Popular Science Series
Edition description:
New Edition

Table of Contents

1. Why are people? . . . . . 1
2. The replicators . . . . . 12
3. Immortal coils . . . . . 21
4. The gene machine . . . . . 46
5. Aggression: stability and the selfish machine . . . . . 66
6. Genesmanship . . . . . 88
7. Family planning . . . . . 109
8. Battle of the generations . . . . . 123
9. Battle of the sexes . . . . . 140
10. You scratch my back, I'll ride on yours . . . . . 166
11. Memes: the new replicators . . . . . 189
12. Nice guys finish first . . . . . 202
13. The long reach of the gene . . . . . 234

Endnotes . . . . . 267

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Selfish Gene 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just got finished reading this book, and I must say that it is absolutely amazing! It took me a while to get through all the details, but it was well worth the effort! Dawkins' use of stories and examples throughout The Selfish Gene really drove his theory home for me. It also made the book an enjoyable read. The insight and research that went into The Selfish Gene is really astounding. I think the quote on the cover from the New York Times says it best: ¿the sort of popular science writing that makes the reader feel like a genius.¿ Dawkins is an amazing author and scientist who has been able to condense a lifetime of work into a relatively short book that any layperson can understand. If you are undecided about evolution, there are plenty of books out there, like Dawkins¿ latest work, that address this issue. The Selfish Gene was written for readers who have already decided that evolution is a well founded and scientifically supported theory. If you don¿t fit that description, then you probably won¿t get much out of this book But for those readers not hindered by a bias against evolution and any book that mentions it, this book is outstanding. The Selfish Gene is about evolution, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. This book shows how we, as humans, interact with one another and what drives us in our day-to-day lives. The scope of The Selfish Gene really is incredible. Dawkins has been able to take a basic idea and apply it to every aspect of our existence and the existence of every living thing on earth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am never a huge fan of scientific writing, but reading this book is just like reading Vonnegut. Dawkin is witty, funny and easy to relate to. Would be even more of a good read if you have some background in philosophy and the natural sciences, in fact - if you just have some common sense, it would be a good book to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dawkins writes this book specifically for the individual with an interest in evolution but not too much of a background. The book is well-constructed and flows smoothly from the beginning of self-replicators, or genes, how they came to power, and what directions they may take us in the future. I drew a tremendous amount of knowledge from this book, and I highly recommend it to any and all who have ever questioned, held an interest in or think they know all there is to know about evolution, genes and why we humans are who we are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an awesome book! I was required to read this book for one of my biology classes in college, and it was by far the most entertaining, interesting, and still thought-provoking non-fiction book I've ever read. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in evolution, even if you have no background in biology. He is a great writer and makes it all very understandable.
RonHelpmanLCSW More than 1 year ago
In this classic sociobiology text, Dawkins shows how mathematical analyses can help us understand the evolution of social behaviors in humans and other animals. Dawkins uses game theory to show how differing strategies can come to coexist in populations. He does this with strategies of physical aggression, mating and infant-care strategies. He writes about the evolution of altruistic behaviors—i.e., behaviors that promote the survival of others while reducing the chances of survival of the altruistic individual. Here the analysis is based on the understanding that natural selection operates at the level of genes rather than organisms. In the process of natural selection, random mutations create alleles (versions) of genes that create different varieties of a feature (e.g. different eye colors, or different levels of aggression). The alleles that endow the organism with characteristics that best serve to reproduce that allele become increasingly common in the population. By reducing the likelihood of survival, altruism reduces the likelihood of reproduction of individual organisms. However, an allele that creates an altruistic behavior could become common if that behavior benefited enough other individuals who also carried that allele. Altruistic acts toward closer relatives are more likely to be of benefit to an allele because closer relatives are more likely to also have that allele. All of this makes for fascinating reading. However, Dawkins takes three shortcuts that can lead the reader to misunderstand the process of natural selection. He refers to gene alleles as “genes.” Secondly, for much of the book he writes at the level of the individual organism rather than the allele. Finally, in order to make it easier to evaluate how specific strategies impact the allele’s frequency, he writes as if genes—and animals—are beings that consciously strategize with self-reproducing goals in mind. These shortcuts don't compromise his analyses of specific strategies. However, he almost never restates his arguments in scientifically objective, allele-centered terms. As a result, the reader may create an incorrect mental model of natural selection in which human-like genes—and the individuals they control—are locked in a dog eat dog competition for dominance. Dawkins himself seems to have succumbed to this misconception. On page 2 he writes: “I shall argue that the predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness. This gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfish behavior.” Gene alleles don’t have attitudes to other alleles of the same gene, they simply code for characteristics—only a fraction of which have anything to do with social behavior. Is an allele for light hair in Northern Europe “selfish”? The alleles that become frequent in a population are the ones that code for characteristics that enhance their reproduction. Most mutations produce alleles that reduce the viability of the organism and hence of the allele. If one wanted to attribute a quality to alleles that become prevalent it would be “lucky,” or “effective,” not “selfish.” That said, reading “The Selfish Gene” was a pleasurable, at times even enlightening, experience for this reviewer. I strongly recommend this book, especially if you don’t already have a background in game theory or in the theory of kin selection. Just be careful to step around the pitfalls that Dawkins falls into.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A quarter of a century old it may be, but 'The Selfish Gene' is still the best book to read if you want to learn about what genetics and evolution are really about. Dawkins' style is accessible for those (such as myself) with practically no experience in biology, and the subject matter is applicable to all. What is the selfish gene? Traditionally, people tend to look at evolution at the level of the organism. They think of different alleles aiding or harming the 'fitness' of an organism. Or, worse, they could take the group-selectionist view and talk about how a gene or an organism helps the 'survival of the species.' But Dawkins makes a convincing case that it is best to look at natural selection at the level of the gene. Each gene 'wants' to secure its survival and maximize its proliferation in the future. (A suggested title for the book was 'Immortal Coils,' referring to the lifespan of the gene and the double-helical structure of the DNA in which it is embedded. This ended up as the title for chapter 3.) By this, it is meant that genes that are more successful at proliferation and self-replication are more likely to survive. Thus, the genes are not instruments of the organism, but rather the reverse. The organism is a robot 'designed' by genes to maximize their survival and proliferation. Dawkins' name for these robots - including us - is 'survival machines.' This is not a disparaging term, of course, and some of the most enjoyable portions of the book are brought about by Dawkins' instillation of hope in the reader - hope that humans, alone among Earth's survival machines, have the ability to transcend the limitations that genetics and culture would impose on them and strive for something higher. My purpose here has been to give you a taste of the content of the book. This book will change the way you think of evolution - and the way you think of our species - for the better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a student with little background and even more skepticism in evolutionary psychology, this book answered every single one of my, 'yeah but why...' questions. If you think you understand evolution, and don't agree with it, I dare you to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Charles Darwin's insight into evolution, Natural Selecton, cast a brilliant light on the field of natural history that caused a revolution in scientific thinking. Brilliant ideas bring scientific truths into sharper focus. Natural selection was such an idea. 'The Selfish Gene' is, in it's way, as revolutionary. Many apparent problems in evoluton, are brilliantly clarified by viewing life from the gene point of view. Richard Dawkins' excellent exposition on this perspective is must reading. Dawkins' brilliance is not only his knowledge and insight, but his clarity and lucid writing style. It has been said that a really effective writer makes the reader feel brilliant, as though he's discovered the insights himself. This accolade describes Dawkins to a tee. This is the core book on evolution. Everyone should read it. If you never read another book on science read this one. If you want to start learning about science and evolution, start here. If you care about the truth and 'honesty in reporting' read this and the other Dawkins books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An excelent point of view for a problem that expects a scientific explanation. No vitalism is involved and certainly is not for vitalists. This book has been a powerfull support for the development of new theories about how constructivism is displaced as the only way to get complex things.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the take on genetics and our genes that you would never even think it could be. but after reading dawkin's words the apparent truth is revealed. is it us being us or just the selfish little gene at play?