31 May 2008

The Selfish Gene (30th Anniversary Ed) - Richard Dawkins

Review by Christine Tong
The Selfish Gene
presents a brilliant collage of ideas pertaining to biological evolution. Dawkins argues that evolution occurs for the good of the gene (and indirectly the carrier) and not for the good of the species--an idea still contradictory to many social biologists. Specifically, he argues that "the predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness". Much discussion is devoted to unraveling apparent acts of social altruism as fundamental genetic selfishness.

The beauty of this book lies in its simplicity and clarity. Dawkins writes in a non-technical, jargon-free language anyone can understand. The emergence of DNA and genes is explained clearly in terms of probability in molecular survival. His writing style is comprehensible yet gripping. He portrays nature as a savage battleground where genes stop at nothing to survive. Animals, plants, and even ourselves, are merely their disposable "survival machines". Vivid examples of exploitation and violence make natural selection come alive. Think of this book as a hybrid between science fiction and thriller. It is suitable for any student from grade nine and up. Used as a supplementary text or for leisure reading, The Selfish Gene raises some controversial ideas about humanity and our place in the universe. (click for full review)

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