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The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene PDF, ePub eBook People commonly view evolution as a process of competition between individuals—known as “survival of the fittest”—with the individual representing the “unit of selection.” Richard Dawkins offers a controversial reinterpretation of that idea in The Extended Phenotype, now being reissued to coincide with the publication of the second edition of his highly-acclaimed The Selfi People commonly view evolution as a process of competition between individuals—known as “survival of the fittest”—with the individual representing the “unit of selection.” Richard Dawkins offers a controversial reinterpretation of that idea in The Extended Phenotype, now being reissued to coincide with the publication of the second edition of his highly-acclaimed The Selfish Gene. He proposes that we look at evolution as a battle between genes instead of between whole organisms. We can then view changes in phenotypes—the end products of genes, like eye color or leaf shape, which are usually considered to increase the fitness of an individual—as serving the evolutionary interests of genes. Dawkins makes a convincing case that considering one’s body, personality, and environment as a field of combat in a kind of “arms race” between genes fighting to express themselves on a strand of DNA can clarify and extend the idea of survival of the fittest. This influential and controversial book illuminates the complex world of genetics in an engaging, lively manner.

30 review for The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene

  1. 5 out of 5

    Krishan

    The book is a logical continuation of his devastating book The Selfish Gene. Here Dawkins turns his critical eye and razor sharp words to evolutionary views that take the individual organism as the definitive playing field for natural selection to operate. Using the gene's eye view of life that he developed so well in The Selfish Gene, he shows that animal artifacts are better understood as objects engineered by natural selection, rather than as by products of the behavior of organisms. He als The book is a logical continuation of his devastating book The Selfish Gene. Here Dawkins turns his critical eye and razor sharp words to evolutionary views that take the individual organism as the definitive playing field for natural selection to operate. Using the gene's eye view of life that he developed so well in The Selfish Gene, he shows that animal artifacts are better understood as objects engineered by natural selection, rather than as by products of the behavior of organisms. He also makes the case that many phenomena incidental to parasitism and symbiosis are better understood if the organism level view of biological agents is abandoned. Dawkins' explores these and similar topics with his characteristic clarity, and the reader is exposed to the full power of evolutionary thinking. A quote often seen on the cover of Dawkins' books is "Richard Dawkins climbs mental Everests". This book illustrates the point and then some. Dawkins concise language is without peer in the biological sciences. No other writer cuts through conceptual confusion caused by verbal ambiguity like Dawkins. 5/5

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Korbakov

    Great but fatiguing Contrary to Dawkin's most famous "Selfish Gene" this book is much more difficult to read for a non-biologist person. Some parts required me to google terms definitions and problem backgrounds each paragraph, if not line. Despite of this the whole reading experience is very satisfying. Lot of new concepts that bring up interesting ideas, numerous facts and remarkably great language - all of this teams up to build the great book. It's great reading for everyone ready to grind thr Great but fatiguing Contrary to Dawkin's most famous "Selfish Gene" this book is much more difficult to read for a non-biologist person. Some parts required me to google terms definitions and problem backgrounds each paragraph, if not line. Despite of this the whole reading experience is very satisfying. Lot of new concepts that bring up interesting ideas, numerous facts and remarkably great language - all of this teams up to build the great book. It's great reading for everyone ready to grind through complexities of material.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    The essentials of life's story: Biodiversity is more than a buzzword for ecologists. Variation gives life its grandeur, and Richard Dawkins gives us a description of the workings of variation. Fortunately, with a sharp mind and sharper wit, he has the ability to deliver this portrayal so that nearly everyone can understand it. That's not to say this book is an easy read. Although he delivers his narration as if sitting with you in a quiet study, you may still need to review his words more than o The essentials of life's story: Biodiversity is more than a buzzword for ecologists. Variation gives life its grandeur, and Richard Dawkins gives us a description of the workings of variation. Fortunately, with a sharp mind and sharper wit, he has the ability to deliver this portrayal so that nearly everyone can understand it. That's not to say this book is an easy read. Although he delivers his narration as if sitting with you in a quiet study, you may still need to review his words more than once. That's not a challenge or a chore, it's a pleasure.Dawkins, unlike other science writers, is forthright in declaring his advocacy in writing this book. It's a refreshing start to his most serious effort. After publication of The Selfish Gene led to a storm of fatuous criticism, Extended Phenotype comes in response with more detail of how the gene manifests itself in the organism and its environment. It's clear that Dawkins' critics, who label him an "Ultra-Darwinist" [whatever that is] haven't read this book. His critics frequently argue that The Selfish Gene doesn't operate in a vacuum, but must deal within some kind of environment, from an individual cell to global scenarios. Dawkins deftly responds to critics in describing how genes rely on their environment for successful replication. If the replication doesn't survive in the environment it finds itself, then it, and perhaps its species, will die out.The child's favourite question, "why" is difficult enough for parents and teachers to answer. Yet, as thinking humans we've become trained to deal with that question nearly every context. So well drilled that we consider something for which that question has no answer to be suspicious if not insidious. Part of Dawkins presentation here reiterates that there is no "why" to either the process of evolution nor its results. It isn't predictable, inevitable or reasonable. It's a tough situation to cope with, but Dawkins describes the mechanism with such precision and clarity, we readily understand "how" if not "why" evolution works. We comprehend because Dawkins does such an outstanding job in presenting its mechanics.This edition carries three fine finales: Dawkins well thought out bibliography, a glossary, and most prized, indeed, an Afterword by Daniel C. Dennett. If any defense of this book is needed, Dennett is a peerless champion for the task. Dennett's capabilities in logical argument are superbly expressed here. As he's done elsewhere {Darwin's Dangerous Idea], Dennett mourns the lack of orginality and logic among Dawkins' critics. Excepting the more obstinate ones, these seem to be falling by the wayside. It's almost worthwhile reading Dennett's brief essay before starting Dawkins. It would be a gift to readers beyond measure if these two ever collaborated on a book. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

  4. 4 out of 5

    Svetlana

    The language of the book cannot be called simple and it takes some efforts to follow the authors reasoning, but these efforts will reap big reward. In process of reading you will experience the happiness of discovers time and again, have finished the book you will get another angle of view of the phenomenon of life. Don't panic, extend your mind.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Pink

    I'm sure this is great, but I'm not a scientist and as one of Dawkins least accessible books, this one was overkill. It's an expansion of topics covered in The Selfish Gene, which I'd previously enjoyed, but there was too much detail for me to take in. I'll skip back to some of his later books.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sheng Peng

    2015: Built upon and more advanced than The Selfish Gene. Readers beware! 2017: Re-read this after re-reading The Selfish Gene. It definitely makes more sense to me this time around.

  7. 5 out of 5

    People say my name should be Jeff

    I'd give it 5 stars if I knew enough biology to be able to confirm it (or 1 if I could refute it).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    First half 3*, Second 5* This is a good book. Off the back of reading The Selfish Gene, and reading that The Extended Phenotype is Dawkin's favourite of his products, I was expecting big things. From the get-go, the style of the book is a lot more science-heavy—more jargon, more in depth scientific ideas and reasoning, which (as a scientist myself) I enjoyed: Dawkins is terrific at scientific reasoning, and this was a good outing from him, even by his standards. The problem with the first half (m First half 3*, Second 5* This is a good book. Off the back of reading The Selfish Gene, and reading that The Extended Phenotype is Dawkin's favourite of his products, I was expecting big things. From the get-go, the style of the book is a lot more science-heavy—more jargon, more in depth scientific ideas and reasoning, which (as a scientist myself) I enjoyed: Dawkins is terrific at scientific reasoning, and this was a good outing from him, even by his standards. The problem with the first half (maybe even more) of the book, is the content. Dawkins spends a very long time addressing criticism from The Selfish Gene, as well as some criticism with his extended phenotype theorem. Genetic determinism, group selection, green beards (etc. etc.) are all delved into in detail. Whilst this is very well done, it shows the age of the book. Almost all of these criticisms are no longer pertinent (which shows how correct Dawkins was at the time, might I add), so some arguments seem a little trivial. What the first half lacks, Dawkins makes up for in the second half. The theorem of the extended phenotype is a fantastic way of viewing the impact replicators have on the world, and is almost flawless (plus, Dawkins addresses the few issues that arise with the theorem). He even ends with an optimistic view of life, presumably addressing the sadness (?) that this way of thinking brought at the time. Overall, a very good book, but unless you wish to get into the knitty-gritty of many different theories (some very pertinent and some a bit less), you might be best off reading the last few chapters. Alternatively, the summary of the extended phenotype theorem that Dawkins provides in the recent editions of The Selfish Gene might be a good option.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tien Manh

    Richard Dawkins asks us (again) to try to think of evolution in terms of selfish *genes*. The book promotes concepts called replicators (genes, DNA) and vehicles (organisms, groups, species...). Examples are given of how this replicator/gene-centric view of evolution tries to make sense of evolutionary phenomena that otherwise we would have a hard time explaining if we stuck to the traditional, organism-centric view. I got to about mid-way through the book, then Dawkins went on a "Lamarckism bash" Richard Dawkins asks us (again) to try to think of evolution in terms of selfish *genes*. The book promotes concepts called replicators (genes, DNA) and vehicles (organisms, groups, species...). Examples are given of how this replicator/gene-centric view of evolution tries to make sense of evolutionary phenomena that otherwise we would have a hard time explaining if we stuck to the traditional, organism-centric view. I got to about mid-way through the book, then Dawkins went on a "Lamarckism bash", and some other academic debates regarding (neo?)Darwinism. Not being a scientist myself and having little formal context in evolutionary biology, I got a bit lost. Will retry the latter half of the book in the future!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Harry H.

    Dawkins is a contemporary genius with fresh perspectives in several fields. Good read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sam Nigro

    Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry Review of Two Books: The Selfish Gene... and... The Extended Phenotype both by Richard Dawkins New York, Oxford University Press, 1976, 352 pages New York, Oxford University Press, 1982, 313 pages By Samuel A. Nigro Submit Manuscript | http://medcraveonline.com a scientifically uncritical unreflective manner, Dawkins buys into natural selection totally as neo-Darwinism (Darwin with genes) and he believes in “speciesism” meaning that no species has any pri Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry Review of Two Books: The Selfish Gene... and... The Extended Phenotype both by Richard Dawkins New York, Oxford University Press, 1976, 352 pages New York, Oxford University Press, 1982, 313 pages By Samuel A. Nigro Submit Manuscript | http://medcraveonline.com a scientifically uncritical unreflective manner, Dawkins buys into natural selection totally as neo-Darwinism (Darwin with genes) and he believes in “speciesism” meaning that no species has any priority over another. Nothing intimidates like the pomposity of a scientist afflicted by logorrhea on a subject outside his field unless it is a human PETA animal worshiper. Chapter after chapter cuts the same pile of ordure in different ways resulting in a perseveration of “genemanship” (Chapter 6). What is the selfish gene? It is not just one single physical bit of DNA. Just as in the primeval soup, it is all replicas of a particular bit of DNA distributed throughout the world. 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 respectable terms if we wanted to, we can ask the question, what is a single selfish gene trying to do? It is trying to get more numerous in the gene pool. Basically it does this by helping to program the bodies in which it finds itself to survive and to reproduce (Pg. 88). (Could this guy write for Disney or what?) This and most of the rest of the book is like playing with one of those hand held computer games which dull our childrens’ minds. “The license” this guy takes about genes having “conscious aims” is a mere herald of a cornucopia of license to come. Another big theme is “ESS - Evolutionarily Stabilizing Strategies”. And, man, this guy has got the microbehavioral answer for everything. His is the anthropomorphization of the universe and all complicated “creatures” in it. A thousand years ago, this author would be worshiping trees. Of course, all his “creatures” are machines -- and without a doubt, history testifies that man choosing to be a machine is a monster using “Ancient Stabilizing Strategies” (that is ASS not ESS) which apply well to Dawkins. One of his chapters is entitled “You Scratch My Back, I’ll Ride on Yours”... and I know what he means from reading the book. He makes you want to whiney and stomp your feet. I was pleased to finally find the originator of the “mene” concept: what he calls in Chapter 11 (“Menes, The New Replicators.”). To enhance suggestibility, Dawkins admits seeking a “monosyllable” that sounds a little bit like “gene” (He doesn’t know it, but that is propaganda). So, in his inflated conceited arrogance, Dawkins throws out genes as a sole basis for evolution and promotes his own metaphor of “menes” as cultural-behavioral phenomena which impact on evolution. God exists, if only in the form of a meme of high survival value, or infective power, in the environment provided by human culture (Pg. 193). We are built as gene machines and cultured as mene machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of selfish replicators (Pg. 201). Now wait a minute ... we are robotile machines conditioned by genes and menes but all of a sudden there is an element of free will and independent freedom? This is a guy who refuses to see God in nature and never heard of Thomas Carlisle’s unselfish perception: “Nature, which is the time vesture of God and reveals Him to the wise, hides Him from the foolish.” No gene there; no mene either; Volume 6 Issue 6 - 2017 Dr. Samuel A Nigro M.D* Retired, Assistant Clinical Professor Psychiatry, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, USA *Corresponding author: Dr. Samuel A Nigro M.D, Retired, Assistant Clinical Professor Psychiatry, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, 2517 Guilford Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118, USA, Tel: 216 932-0575; Email: Received: June 20, 2016 | Published: February 06, 2017 Opinion Prompted to review The Selfish Gene by an article in Our Sunday Visitor, May 28, 2006, I found a pseudo-scientific fantasyland by an ethologist pretending to be psychologist, geneticist, theologian, philosopher, statistician, and know-it-all host as if for CBS News. The library loaned me a 1989 edition of The Selfish Gene which has two new chapters (12 and 13) that add little but more pretend proof of microscopic behavioral super constriction into analytic fantasies that are intriguing interesting fairy tales totally unverifiable. Like so many Galileo wannabe scientists drowning in their own grandiose unverified claims, Dawkins is in denial of the universe and mankind but not himself. We are survival machines -- robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes (Opening paragraph to the Preface to the 1976 first edition). (I ask: Really? How does he know that? And, has he ever heard about homosexuals?) Totally overwhelmed with evolutionary theories accepted in J Psychol Clin Psychiatry 2017, 6(6): 00401 Review of Two Books: The Selfish Gene... and... The Extended Phenotype 2/2 Copyright: ©2017 Nigro Citation: Nigro SA (2017) Review of Two Books: The Selfish Gene... and... The Extended Phenotype. J Psychol Clin Psychiatry 6(6): 00401. DOI: 10.15406/jpcpy.2017.06.00401 just unselfish respect for God versus Dawkins’ selfish neurotic theophobia. His new Chapter 12 is basically an obsessional entrapment in game strategies, especially the classical “Prisoners Dilemma” game, replicating himself with the intensive obsessive style of scientists in spite of themselves. His Chapter 13 is entitled “The Long Reach of the Gene” and it obviously reaches as far as the end of his arm, and almost to the end of his nose. That there is a “selfish gene” would seem to be totally proven by looking at Richard Dawkins himself. He is a selfish phenotype but he generalizes so that everyone else is too. And he has a reaction formation to virtues as well as an allergy to the Roman Catholic Church. No doubt, he is an ILL (Incorrigible Liberal Loon -- another gene group yet to be discovered). To believe in genes, menes, strings and not angels is laughable. In this 1989 publication of his first book, Dawkins professes his book the extended phenotype is the best thing he’s ever written or read. So naturally I went and got a copy of it. He announces that this book is “unabashed advocacy” in his first line on page 1. In other words, while his first book is fantasy land, this one is pure propaganda. That he uses the female pronoun “her” instead of the correct gender neutral “him” throughout the book, reveals Dawkins to be incorrigibly iconoclastic of not only tradition but the Oxford English Dictionary. In the extended phenotype, Dawkins states: “For me, writing is almost a social activity...” and that certainly rings true because the book is most assuredly not scientific activity. These books remind that Galileo’s proof of the earth revolving around the sun was based on totally wrong calculations of the ocean’s tides so that, although he happened to be right, Galileo never proved what he claimed so he never had the right to make grandiose claims in his day because he did not prove it. It remains to be seen if Dawkins’ claims in these books, as based on tedious anthrophmorphising from ants to wasps, will be anything more than ethological fairytales, much like Galileo claiming his calculations demonstrated heliocentrism when they did not (Are scientists human or not?). Dawkins’ metaphor madness and obsessive/compulsiveness could be called witchcraft. He perseverates with everything, special pleads on every page and provides good demonstrations of non-being research (that is a joke!) He reminds me of Freud’s psychobabble and intense fabrication without proof. The metaphor holds that Dawkins is to biology what psychoanalysis claims (erroneously) it is to mental functioning. From his references it is obvious that most likely all ethologists are desperately attempting to explain the world by mathematical game theory theophobia with a touch of astrology thrown in. Dawkins admitted central thesis of the extended phenotype is: “An animal’s behavior tends to maximize the survival of the gene ‘for’ that behavior, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal performing it” (Pg. 233). He proves that by the study of beavers and lakes instead of ocean tides. To understand more about Richard Dawkins, one must quote Tom Bethell’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science (Pg. 210): This notion that there is somewhere a computer model of the evolutionary development of the eye is an urban myth. Such a model does not exist. There is no model anywhere in any laboratory. No one has the faintest idea how to make one. The whole story was fabricated out of thin air by Richard Dawkins. The senior author of the study on which Dawkins based his claim -- Dan E. Nilsson -- has explicitly rejected the idea that his laboratory has ever produced a computer simulation of the eye’s development. Dawkins suffers from manic grandiose over thinking with metastatic fantasizing totally irrelevant to anything except fellow ethologists and anyone dumb enough to think there is some reality there. It is hyperlogic and the best that could be said about it is that it is “cute.” Ethologists like Dawkins know that frogs and loons do not really understand or believe in man similar to the fact that some men do not believe in God. But frogs and loons to not have Dawkins’ books which are themselves proof of Original Sin along with his denial of all man’s charity and virtuous history. The things people imagine to deny God, and some people are so selfish, they sell selfishness. Like this author. Others like him will suck it up.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    In this book, Dawkins picks up his selfish gene theme and extends its influence to organs and systems within the body and then to the external environment. In doing so, Dawkins never strays from his central themes: Genes are in charge, pursuing their self-interest; the body and its behavior is their vehicle; and the germ-line replicator is the unit of selection. Dawkins argues* that the gene replicators first begin to transcend their gene-only behavior within the body when they cooperate with ot In this book, Dawkins picks up his selfish gene theme and extends its influence to organs and systems within the body and then to the external environment. In doing so, Dawkins never strays from his central themes: Genes are in charge, pursuing their self-interest; the body and its behavior is their vehicle; and the germ-line replicator is the unit of selection. Dawkins argues* that the gene replicators first begin to transcend their gene-only behavior within the body when they cooperate with other genes for mutual benefit (forming organs and bodily systems) and those genes that work well with other genes are selected through “within body selection”. This is where the selfish gene becomes in effect a cooperative gene, although the gene’s self-interest remains always as the driving force (Dawkins also allows for “outlaw” genes that seek advantage at the expense of other genes). Dawkins writes that through behavior, the phenotypic effects of genes “feed back on those genes’ chances of surviving, and as a result gene frequencies change in succeeding generations in adaptive directions.” As I understand it, mutation and alternate forms for each gene (alleles) create a range of variation that natural selection then works on, tossing out options that don’t work and keeping those that do. This argument on the surface appears similar to what Jean Piaget puts forward in his book, Behavior and Evolution. And, in the glossary, Dawkins adds this supporting sentence about evolution’s role in selecting behavior that works: “From the point of view of this book, the significant feature of the Lamarckian theory is the idea that new genetic variation tends to be adaptively directed, rather than ‘random’ (i.e., non-directed) as in the Darwinian theory.” This same process extends to phenotype behavior in the environment. Beaver bodies, as collections of selfish genes, build ponds and habitats because they are conducive to gene-level survival within all beavers. This same extension of gene-level behavior applies to bees and termites as well. (Dawkins writes in such a way that bees and termites seem to be specialized cells that operate outside of the body.) Dawkins also adds that this sort of extended behavior within one species is applied toward other species through parasitic, manipulative behavior. In short, Dawkins writes, “We must think of each replicator as the centre of a field of influence on the world at large.” After defending his gene replicator as the unit of selection for evolutionary purposes, Dawkins’ last chapter is titled, “Rediscovering the Organism.” This chapter comes across as flat. I can understand Dawkins’ reluctance to support in any shape or form the individual as the unit of selection for evolution. Dawkins states that genes only care about copies of themselves, not about the welfare of the body-vehicle for all the genes. Yet, if the gene’s success depends on the body vehicle’s success as an extended phenotype, then the body vehicles take on a near equal importance. As in any part-whole relationship, there’s a mutual dependence and one is not more important than the other. If the body as the gene’s vehicle is not viable prior to reproduction, then all the genes, so to say, go down with the ship. Interestingly, as a side note to his main theme, Dawkins allows for two different strategies for sexual behavior. Both the “faithful” and “philander” models (and a continuum that lies in between?), are variable strategies to move genes into the next generation. If this is true for sex, might this equally apply to genetic-based character types where both self-oriented (manipulative) and other –oriented (cooperative) types are equally valid survival types? Elsewhere (“Twelve Misunderstandings of Kin Selection") he writes, “To stick my neck out a little, it seems to me that, far from genes for altruistic behavior being implausible, it may even be that a majority of behavioural mutations will turn out to be properly describable as either altruistic or selfish.” Recognizing the speculation here, could this be the ground for what seems to be a fairly basic character division between two poles of human nature? This is an excellent book. It is strong and stimulating. It would be improved if Dawkins were less preoccupied with defending himself against his detractors, if he better separated his broad points from his technical detail, and if he made clearer distinctions between his criticisms of others and his own positions. Dawkins endlessly cites his previous works, which seems a bit biased when the reader is looking for additional and independent support for what Dawkins is putting forward. *Dawkins is writing for the more technically oriented reader. Lay readers do the best they can.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bob Anderson

    Richard Dawkins here explains his view that the largest unit on which natural selection can reasonably be said to operate is the gene rather than the organism, and explores this idea’s consequences for the standard conceptions of organisms, groups, and selection. The motif he introduces to show this best is a Necker Cube, which is a simple line drawing of all the edges of a cube: when looked at for the first time, it seems to be an overhead view of the cube. But with some visual effort, you can Richard Dawkins here explains his view that the largest unit on which natural selection can reasonably be said to operate is the gene rather than the organism, and explores this idea’s consequences for the standard conceptions of organisms, groups, and selection. The motif he introduces to show this best is a Necker Cube, which is a simple line drawing of all the edges of a cube: when looked at for the first time, it seems to be an overhead view of the cube. But with some visual effort, you can make your brain interpret the exact same stimulus as a view from below. Your two perspectives can be shifted between without many problems at all. This an slightly off analogy, because the two views of the cube have no reason to prefer one over the other, whereas Dawkins clearly believes that his focus on the gene is more proper than some biologists’ focus on the organism. Another analogy: we often hear from nature documentaries and wide-eyed wonderers how harmonious the biological systems of Earth are: how fortunate that some things breathe carbon dioxide and some breathe oxygen, that both cheetah and gazelle are lithe and fast in their dance of predation, that symbiotic pairs of species fill each other’s needs so well. But this is an illusion: the different organisms of the planet do not evolve their interplay from any interest in harmony on the part of nature. Rather, given that every other organism already exists, a certain organism will have its various genotypes selected for or against depending on how their expressed phenotypes allow them to be ruthless exploiters and reproducers. Similarly, the genes that make up a genotype are not selected for their harmonious interaction. Instead, at each locus, the alleles that are best able to propagate themselves via their modifications of the expressed phenotype, given their fellow genes, will be selected for. The key difference is that the balance is not driven by a push towards harmony but the ruthless interactions and pushes for self-replication between a myriad of different genes. Dawkins pushes this concept far in this book: he explores parasitism, evolutionary arms races, sex ratios, and embryology with an expert’s touch. But by far the most gripping part comes from his title: the extended phenotype is what happens when a gene’s reach extends beyond the physical boundaries of its host organism. A gene can influence the structure of the containing organism, and this surely is a phenotype, but Dawkins gradually pushes this further: a baby bird’s gene influences its parent to feed it, a beaver’s gene pushes it to build a larger dam, and a songbird’s gene summons another bird to come and mate, transferring the risk of travel to that other creature. The most difficult to grasp concept in this book, but in my mind the most fruitful, is the idea that an organism’s behavior tends to increase the success of the gene responsible for that behavior, no matter whether that gene resides in that organism (or indeed even in the same species) or not. While this is a book starting its fourth decade, it still feels very fresh and eye-opening. A word of warning: the book is more technical than various popular books from Dawkins; if you feel like you could tackle a college-level evolutionary biology class you can handle this, though.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. An animal's behavior tends to maximize the survival of the genes 'for' that behavior, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal performing it. Well written. Directed at actual biologists. Sometimes hard to understand. I needed more basic biology background. The idea is that the phenotypic effects of genes have no reason to stop at the boundaries of the specific individual. Quotes: "There is a wanton eagerness to misunderstand." "When a geneticist speaks of a gene 'f An animal's behavior tends to maximize the survival of the genes 'for' that behavior, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal performing it. Well written. Directed at actual biologists. Sometimes hard to understand. I needed more basic biology background. The idea is that the phenotypic effects of genes have no reason to stop at the boundaries of the specific individual. Quotes: "There is a wanton eagerness to misunderstand." "When a geneticist speaks of a gene 'for' red eyes in Drosophila, he is not speaking of the cistron which acts as template for the synthesis of the red pigment molecule. He is implicitly saying: there is variation in eye color in the population; other things being equal, a fly with this gene is more likely to have red eyes than a fly without the gene. That is all that we ever mean by a gene 'for' red eyes." Evolutionary boundaries on perfection pg. 35 "Time lags, Historical constraints, Available genetic variation, Constraints of costs and materials, Imperfections on one level due to selection on another, Mistakes due to environmental unpredictability or 'malevolence'" "Life/dinner principle...The rabbit runs faster than the fox, because the rabbit is running for his life while the fox is only running for his dinner. The general point here is that for an animal on one side of the arms race the penalty of failure is more severe than for an animal on the other side of the arms race." "If the individual manipulator has more to lose by failing to manipulate than the individual victim has to lose by failing to resist manipulation, we should expect to see successful manipulation in nature." "What is the optimon?" "Workers care for their reproductive siblings who carry germ-line copies of the caring genes." "The unit of selection is a function in part of the intensity of selection: the more intense the selection, the more the whole genome tends to hold together as a unit." "An active replicator is a chunk of genome that, when compared to its alleles, exerts phenotypic power over its world, sch that its frequency increases or decreases relative to that of its alleles." "A vehicle is any unit, discrete enough to seem worth naming, which houses a collection of replicators and which works as a unit for the preservation and propagation of those replicators." "The inclusive fitness of an organism is not a property of himself, but a property of his actions or effects. Inclusive fitness is calculated from an individual's own reproductive success plus his effects on the reproductive success of his relatives, each one weighed by the appropriate coefficient of relatedness." "The living world can be seen as a network of interlocking fields of replicator power." "The significance of the difference between growth and reproduction is that reproduction permits a new beginning, a new developmental cycle and a new organism which may be an improvement, in terms of the fundamental organization of complex structure, over its predecessor."

  15. 4 out of 5

    JJVid

    "[The] 'central theorem' of the extended phenotype: An animal's behaviour tends to maximize the survival of the genes 'for' that behaviour, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal performing it." p233 Dawkin's theory of the extended phenotype is given full expression in this his self-proclaimed favorite work. It is only now that I realize the publication of The Extended Phenotype (TEP) was in 1982, a mere three years after my favorite work of his The Selfish Ge "[The] 'central theorem' of the extended phenotype: An animal's behaviour tends to maximize the survival of the genes 'for' that behaviour, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal performing it." p233 Dawkin's theory of the extended phenotype is given full expression in this his self-proclaimed favorite work. It is only now that I realize the publication of The Extended Phenotype (TEP) was in 1982, a mere three years after my favorite work of his The Selfish Gene (TSG). This close publication date explains why these two books are so similar, and why I felt like TEP was dragging its heels for the first ~200 pages. It was not until chapter 11 that Dawkins began explicating his theory, the pages spent before this point were designed to undercut the reader's focus on the individual organism as the unit of adaptive benefit and instead place his/her faith in the gene. Chapters on Arms Races and Manipulation, Active Germ-line Replicators, and Selfish DNA were slightly modified extractions from TSG and although very relevant to TEP these chapters will be redundant to anyone who is familiar with TSG. It is because of this redundancy that I can say I really liked this book, but wouldn't consider it "amazing". Apart from redundancy, TEP is a fairly accessible concept especially for anyone who's familiar with Dawkin's previous work. Genes exert a phenotypic effect, but this isn't limited to the physical body of the organism; genes also affects behavior. A beaver's dam-building behavior is equally the result of its genes as a thick coat of fur, and so it is equally valid to claim a gene 'for' fur as one 'for' dam building. There are also genes 'for' the behavior of other organisms; parasites burrow into ants (their temporary host) and modify their behavior to cause the ant to climb blades of grass and therefore becomes more susceptible to being eaten by grazing sheep (the parasite's permanent host). Here we have genes in one animal for the control of another animal. The "Bruce Effect" where male mice exude a pheromone which causes a recently inseminated female mouse to block her pregnancy shows phenotypic action at a distance. A male mouse has in his DNA a gene 'for' phenotypic effect within the DNA of a female mouse. The logical progression of this theory is awesome, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in evolution and genetics. For those who aren't familiar with evolutionary theory there's a glossary in the back to aid reading, but even with a good foundation in evolutionary theory it was a difficult read. Like all Dawkin's books on evolution I highly recommend this.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Psykeactiv1

    This was a very informative but mentally exhausting book. The technical aspect of the distinction between the organism(s) and the components to which are said to benefit from 'phenotypic effects' was cause for re-reading many paragraphs. Often more than once. It's not new for me to sit with a dictionary/the Internet to research what Dawkins is saying just to get a context, but this felt like a full-blown revisit to Biology. Thankfully because he summarizes his points at the end of each paragraph This was a very informative but mentally exhausting book. The technical aspect of the distinction between the organism(s) and the components to which are said to benefit from 'phenotypic effects' was cause for re-reading many paragraphs. Often more than once. It's not new for me to sit with a dictionary/the Internet to research what Dawkins is saying just to get a context, but this felt like a full-blown revisit to Biology. Thankfully because he summarizes his points at the end of each paragraph, even if one is clueless to the specifics of what he's staying, it's still possible to walk away with a confident grasp on how Natural Selection and Adaptive Fitness works. The main premise of this book is that: just as the title to his previous book 'the Selfish Gene' is misleading, the term 'survival of the fittest' is also misleading in that the layman tends to conflate the fitness and selfishness of genes with that of the organism it tends to inhabit. What he and countless other evolutionary biologists observed is that, a phenotype (the visible traits of an organism) exists solely to benefit the gene responsible for such trait or behavior, and to be quite specific, the active germ-line replicator (the potential ancestor of an indefinitely long line of descendents whose nature influences it's chance of being copied). The fitness of an "individual" then, would be defined as the reproductive success of an organisms active germ-line replicators. Thus in context, adaptiveness is determined by the genes ability to out-compete alleles within the organism as well as its environment. The reason I put quotations on the word 'individual' is because, as Dawkins makes abundantly clear: a gene is not a unitary entity, nor are the bodies* that genes may inhabit as vehicles from one life cycle to the next. This is important knowledge because if one comes from a theistic mindset, it totally annihilates the idea that evolution could be guided to some ideal state, or serve to benefit one species/person rather than another. In fact, it opens the door to see how even within oneself/an organism may have genes at odds with its own survival. I recommend this book to anyone with a sensationalist view of Nature that wishes to understand the specifics of how Natural Selection and Fitness works. I look forward to reading both 'the Selfish Gene' and 'Climbing Mount Improbable' next.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Charbel

    In The Extended Phenotype, Richard Dawkins proposes that the expression of a gene is not limited simply to the organism's physical appearance or phenotype, that is the direct synthesis of proteins, or to the organism's behaviour, but also includes the impact of the phenotype and the behaviour on the organism's environment. This hypothesis is not experimental in the traditional sense; rather it's a new way to think about the impact of the gene. Of course, this new approach revolves around the ide In The Extended Phenotype, Richard Dawkins proposes that the expression of a gene is not limited simply to the organism's physical appearance or phenotype, that is the direct synthesis of proteins, or to the organism's behaviour, but also includes the impact of the phenotype and the behaviour on the organism's environment. This hypothesis is not experimental in the traditional sense; rather it's a new way to think about the impact of the gene. Of course, this new approach revolves around the idea that the gene is the fundamental unit of life in the organism, and that natural selection does not operate on the organism, or the population, or even the species, but on the gene itself; a concept introduced in The Selfish Gene. Hence, if we follow Dawkins' process of thought, all behaviours and beneficial mutations have the future survival of the gene as the ultimate purpose. This idea appeals to me for several reasons: 1) because it reminds me of the ecosystem approach, where in this case the ecosystem extends from the DNA molecule to the large natural environment, 2) because it raises interesting questions about individual survival and what it truly means to be "well adapted to one's environment", and 3) because it incorporates different biological fields ranging from biochemistry to ecology, with all of them orbiting principles of evolutionary biology. This has to be the most objective work by Dawkins that I've read so far. It reads like a laid back thesis, but is substantiated by multiple references and delivered with the refined technique of the experienced professor.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laleh

    I have always had a passion for biology, and there's just something about Dawkins prose that makes it incredibly appealing. He offers a looking glass that enables me to make sense (or at least convince myself that I am making sense) of many of the things that I can see going on in the world around me. And that, in a situation where it is increasingly hard to make sense of anything, comes as a welcome relief.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katja

    An extra read for those who liked "The Selfish Gene". This one was written for biologists but the glossary in the end of the book and Dawkins' illuminating prose make it easy to follow. The first chapters are aimed at precluding any possible misunderstandings of what Dawkins meant in "The Selfish Gene". The last four chapters explain the long-reach-of-the-gene idea and argue that the phenotypical effects are not limited to one organism. With a multitude of examples Dawkins demonstrates that ther An extra read for those who liked "The Selfish Gene". This one was written for biologists but the glossary in the end of the book and Dawkins' illuminating prose make it easy to follow. The first chapters are aimed at precluding any possible misunderstandings of what Dawkins meant in "The Selfish Gene". The last four chapters explain the long-reach-of-the-gene idea and argue that the phenotypical effects are not limited to one organism. With a multitude of examples Dawkins demonstrates that there is no real reason to believe in "gene A of X accounts for X's skin color" and at the same time deny anything like "gene A of X account's for change in Y's behavior". Meanwhile the book is 30 y.o. and I would love to read about how Dawkins' idea was further developed in biology and what is now the state of the art.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    Difficult but eminently worthwhile This is a long and difficult book, although not as long and difficult as it might be if it had been written by somebody without Richard Dawkins' gift for clarity of thought and expression. The crux of Dawkins' thesis is expressed early on and much of what follows is a very detailed supporting argument. What he wants us to see is that the "selfish gene" has a reach that extends beyond the confines of the individual organism that houses the gene. The phenotype of o Difficult but eminently worthwhile This is a long and difficult book, although not as long and difficult as it might be if it had been written by somebody without Richard Dawkins' gift for clarity of thought and expression. The crux of Dawkins' thesis is expressed early on and much of what follows is a very detailed supporting argument. What he wants us to see is that the "selfish gene" has a reach that extends beyond the confines of the individual organism that houses the gene. The phenotype of our genes is the human organism in all its glory; however the extended phenotype of our genes is not only the human organism but part of the environment in which the organism finds itself. In other words, the gene has the power to influence not only our behavior but the behavior and structure of elements in the world in which we live. This thesis is not as striking to me as it has been to many others mainly because I have studied Eastern religious views, and it is a tenant of such views that the distinction between ourselves (the "selfish organism," in Dawkins' terminology) and the environment is an artificial one, an illusion actually. We are part and parcel of all that is around us and within us, and the boundary of our skin is merely functional. We cannot be understood by looking at only our bodies. Dawkins makes the point that looking at a beaver and microscopically examining it and its genes is not sufficient to an understanding of what a beaver is. We have to also consider the dams that the beaver builds, the trees that it gnaws down and even the streams that it dams and turns into lakes. Presenting a point of view somewhat at odds with that of Dawkins (and one that I think that Dawkins does not sufficiently appreciate) is Franklin M. Harold in his book, The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms and the Order of Life (2001). He writes, "Organisms process matter and energy as well as information; each represents a dynamic node in a whirlpool of several currents, and self-reproduction is a property of the collective, not of genes.... DNA is a peculiar sort of software, that can only be correctly interpreted by its own unique hardware.... [S]ending aliens the genome of a cat is no substitute for sending the cat itself--complete with mice." (p. 221) Dawkins tries to discount the view of those he calls "group selectionists" who see life from a "group benefit" viewpoint. Dawkins has, since writing this book, stepped back from this position to allow that some group selection may take place. I believe some day he may see the world not from a "selfish gene" point of view, and not from a "selfish organism" point of view, but from a "selfish ecosystem" perspective--well, more likely his successors will see this, since the work of a lifetime is not easily amended in one's later years. Dawkins gives what he calls "our own 'central theorem' of the extended phenotype" on page 233: "An animal's behaviour tends to maximize the survival of the genes 'for' that behaviour, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal performing it." This is a mouthful. Clearly we can say that the genes of the reed warbler code for behavior that benefits the genes of the cuckoo who has laid its egg in the warbler's nest. This is what Dawkins has in mind. But then arises the question, "how far afield can the phenotype extend?" Here Dawkins gets cautious and writes, "The farthest action at a distance I can think of is a matter of several miles." (p. 233) Note the chosen terminology, "action at a distance." This is from physics of course causing Dawkins to ask if there is "a sharp cut-off" of the genes' reach or "an inverse square law" at work? It is here that I believe Dawkins has come so, so close to that which he will not see (or couldn't see then), namely that everything works toward an ecology and that the idea of selfish genes and selfish organisms is a limited view. In truth the reach of the genes should be governed by something like an inverse square law since humans are now reaching beyond the solar system. When we look at such great distances we might want to credit the dreaded and verboten "group selection" that Dawkins is at pains to reject. Just as some see our earth as "Gaia," an organism itself, so too might we see those organisms that have the means to survive the destruction of the home planet by migrating to other planets as being selected by group as opposed to other groups who have no such ability. Planet A produces beings that extend beyond their solar system; planet B produces beings that do not. Both planets blow up. Who is "selected" by the (extended) environment and who is not? Dawkins is one of the geniuses of science, and I don't mean to argue with the great insights he has brought to biology, but my point is that it is always something of an artificiality to speak of living systems as confined to one level of existence or expression. We may think of earth creatures as being completely separate from the rest of the universe, yet without the sun, 93 million miles away, we would not exist; and come a supernova even many light years away, we will be affected. So all is one and one is all in some extended sense. And using the word "selfish" (as Dawkins knows) at any level of life is merely to be anthropomorphic. Daniel Dennett, in a new afterword written in 1999, asks if this book is science or philosophy, and he answers both. I agree, and it is science and philosophy of the highest order, aimed equally at the professional and at the educated layperson. --Dennis Littrell, author of “Understanding Evolution and Ourselves”

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ming

    Very detailed, and perhaps most of all scientific, analysis of how the little things in life... literally, are the ones that drive change--at least biologically. Things can get pretty technical and minute, and perhaps overly defensive with all the rebuttals of other authors that sure makes it tempting to just skip a few paragraphs or even pages just to get to the summary of the idea he's trying to get across... the ideas are grand but the delivery a bit too verbose--

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jim Talbott

    Not as approachable as "The Selfish Gene," but it's a very strong follow-up for people who want more and who are willing to do a little work... Because of the rigor and the slightly different tilt of the book, there are many broader implications revealed through this treatment that weren't evident to me from "The Selfish Gene." As a non-biologist, the discussions frequently pushed me to their implications in the non-genetic meme-scape.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Becky Black

    I was pretty proud of myself for getting through this one. Not because it's boring - Dawkins is never boring! - but I'm definitely a layperson and this one is far more technical than the others I'd read. But I'm glad I stuck with it, because it gives more depth and perspective on the ideas in the more populist books.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Genetic Cuckoo

    A wonderufl book for anyone interested in biology or genetics. It talks about how natural selection can be altered and produce very shocking results. It explains how the peacock got it's tail and the interesting train of between being desirable as a mate and being able to survive. It's a facinating book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    Convincingly argued thesis for the genocentric viewpoint of Darwinism. EP is aimed at professional biologists, but is readily accessible to a lay reader (like me), who combines some background knowledge with patient attentiveness.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Molly Brodak

    This is the one to read. Anyone who wants to say anything about Dawkins should read this first.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    It's taken me long enough to get through this, but what a stupendous book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Not a book for everyone. Technically challanging for non-biologists.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    This is Dawkins' most explicitly scientific book, the only one that is written primarily with fellow biologists in mind. Reading it now, it's a reminder of how wonderful Dawkins' books were before he embarked on his evangelical atheist polemics. It's really a joy to read, written in his well-known fluent style, and showing his great ability to reason using the principles of evolution, specifically from the 'gene's eye point of view'. It's only in the last chapters that he talks about the extended This is Dawkins' most explicitly scientific book, the only one that is written primarily with fellow biologists in mind. Reading it now, it's a reminder of how wonderful Dawkins' books were before he embarked on his evangelical atheist polemics. It's really a joy to read, written in his well-known fluent style, and showing his great ability to reason using the principles of evolution, specifically from the 'gene's eye point of view'. It's only in the last chapters that he talks about the extended phenotype. The book deals with a broader range of issues, like what it means for the gene to be a replicator and, in competing with its alleles, is the unit of evolution, and organisms to be just vehicles or survival machines for its genes. Also with evolutionary arms races and manipulation by organisms of other organism's nervous systems. But all these issues are a way for Dawkins to lead us gradually to the idea of the extended phenotype. Just as genes have effects outside the cell in the multicellular organism, often in a very complex and devious way, they also have effects outside the organism in its behaviour. So everything the organism does that varies genetically and is effected by natural selection is an extended result of its genotype, including artefacts that some organisms make. This idea can be further extended to include artefacts that many organisms make together, such as the beehives and termite mounds of the social insects, but also to beaver dams made by cooperating individual mammals. The variation in beaver dams can be studied as expressing mutations in the genes of the beavers, increasing or decreasing their chances of survival. The fact that this expression takes a very long and complex genetic, biochemical and physcial route does not matter. Extended phenotypes even extend beyond species, in the case of symbiosis and the nasty case of parasitism, where the parasite changes the physical appearance or behaviour of its host, not just as an uninteresting symptom of parasitical disease, but because it confers some advantage to the parasite, or rather, to the parasite's genes. From the genes' eye point of view it doesn't even matter in which particular vehicle they are. They just have different strategies to perpetuate their existence by levering themselves into the next generation of organisms. And we have to remember that genes are not certain molecules but information. A code. A code that includes the instructions to make copies of itself and to create encasings or vehicles or tools for themselves made at first of carbon-based molecules but eventually of other materials too, such as the ones in snail houses or beaver dams, to enhance its chances of survival. In the last chapters Dawkins returns to arms races and manipulation. He says that the chapters on these subjects could be entirely rewritten using the idea of the extended phenotype. Genes in one organism have an effect on the phsyiology or behavior of another organism. 'Action at a distance' Dawkins calls it, using Einstein's term for quantum entanglement. When exactly should we use the extended phenotype idea? Dawkins takes a pragmatic view of this: whenever it is convenient in understanding a particular evolutionary phonemenon. The point is always that 'an animal's behaviour tends to maximize the survival of the genes "for" that behaviour, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal performing it'. Could we extend this principle indefinitely, in the sense that genes can be said to have an effect via food chains and all interactions within the whole ecosystem? No, that's not useful. The gene's effects must result in feedback in the form of natural selection on the genes themselves. Otherwise we just have chains of causes and effects. Dawkins takes the opportunity to take a swipe at James Lovelock's Gaia theory, in which the whole ecosphere is said to be an organism, regulating itself to continue its existence. In principle a phenotype's extension in space is unlimited, but in practice the furthest reach of the gene is probably the size of the lakes that result from beaver dams. Still I wonder to what extent human civilizations in history can be said to be extended phenotypes of human genes, as a kind of very complicated, intricate termite mounds, using not only genetical and biochemical but also memetical pathways of cultural evolution. Surely not in their details, but at a sufficiently low resolution. Their general characteristics like efficiency in organization, information processing and knowledge creation must have determined their relative success, and thereby the survival or extinction of the genes of their members. This competition between human civilisations in history leads us to group selection theory. A heresy to the puritanical Dawkins, but recently much advanced by other evolutionairy biologists such as E.O.Wilson (see for instance The Social Conquest of Earth) and David Sloan Wilson (Evolution for Everyone, and his new book This View of Life, which is on my reading list.)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Clyde Macalister

    Dawkins beyond succeeds in pursuing the task implied by the title of the book and the topic of his first best seller: beginning with the gene-centered view of evolution as his main, first principle, he infers the "extended" phenotypic effects of genes outside the strict confines of particular vehicles (cells, organisms, groups, etc.) -- the cliché example being dams constructed by beavers. Reading some of the other reviews of the book, it seems to strike many readers as difficult reading. I don't Dawkins beyond succeeds in pursuing the task implied by the title of the book and the topic of his first best seller: beginning with the gene-centered view of evolution as his main, first principle, he infers the "extended" phenotypic effects of genes outside the strict confines of particular vehicles (cells, organisms, groups, etc.) -- the cliché example being dams constructed by beavers. Reading some of the other reviews of the book, it seems to strike many readers as difficult reading. I don't, on the whole, accept this claim. To be sure, the primary audience was intended to be professional biologists, but general audiences were not excluded as a possible readership as well. Most of the explanation is pretty intuitive, and even the comparatively more esoteric, specialized language can be easily deciphered by any non-biologist with the glossary provided in the back. I don't claim expertise on biology and especially genetics, but Dawkins does not fail to reach out to people like me. If I can do it so can you. Dawkins's theoretical paradigm in this work, much like in The Selfish Gene, integrates heavily the thought and contributions of all the most important scientists of the modern synthesis, including William Hamilton, E.O. Wilson, George Williams, Robert Trivers, Ronald Fisher, and others. Moreover, he addresses the few, minor details where these men have erred. He also confronts assailants of gene-centered theory, especially Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, and performs particularly well in his rebuttal of the strawman claim that proponents of the theory posit genetic determinism. One has no shortage of empirical evidence Dawkins cites for his theoretical claims to admire, either, including the examples snails, shrimps, various parasites, cuckoos, the prokaryotic origins of eukaryotic life, and many others. I can identify no noteworthy defects in this book whatsoever, empirically or theoretically.

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