The Selfish Gene

Richard Dawkins

Prefaces and introduction by the author

Richard Dawkins’s startling theory propelled The Selfish Gene to international acclaim and it remains the de facto text on social development. This first illustrated edition includes 51 incredible colour photographs.


Richard Dawkins took up the story of evolution essentially where Darwin had left off. Since its first publication in 1976, The Selfish Gene has been translated into 25 languages, and is considered one of the most important scientific works of the late 20th century. Dawkins’s story takes in a vast array of creatures from polar bears to black-headed gulls and vampire bats, and behaviour from cannibalism and deception to aggression and mating.

Updated to include Dawkins’s own 40th Anniversary Epilogue, this Folio edition is the first to add illustrations to the illustrious work: 51 incredible photographs from nature and laboratory that add weight to the text and further explain the ground-breaking concepts.


Bound in blocked cloth

Set in Sabon with Optima display

416 pages

Plain slipcase

51 colour illustrations

9½˝ x 6¼˝

Altruism for the good of the species

Dawkins’s key theory is that, in evolutionary terms, the good of the individual far outweighs the good of the species. If a ground-nesting bird sacrifices herself to a fox to protect her offspring, this is not done out of an altruistic desire to preserve the species, but to perpetuate the genes she carries – called, for this reason, ‘selfish’. Genes are of course not selfish in themselves and Dawkins doesn’t ascribe motivations to them; instead he uses the term to explain the behaviour of the ‘survival machines’ – or animals and humans – that carry them.

A social and behavioural study of animals and humans

Dawkins explains why members of a species, though they compete, do not try to eradicate each other – one answer being that this would leave them vulnerable to even more dangerous predators. His arguments find many parallels in human social behaviour – such as ‘the prisoner’s dilemma’ of defection or cooperation, and why we actively choose healthy and unrelated mates. However, his overall aim is to study the effect of behaviour and not its moral worth. Removing value judgements from the study of evolutionary biology, Dawkins opens our eyes to evolution as a fascinating and never-ending struggle for survival.


Richard Dawkins was born in 1941 in Nairobi. He studied at the University of Oxford, where he gained a degree in Zoology, an MA and a PhD. From 1967 to 1969 he lived in America and became an assistant professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. On his return to the UK he went back to the University of Oxford, this time as a lecturer. Dawkins is best known for his book The Selfish Gene (1976) but has published numerous other books, including The Blind Watchmaker (1986), Climbing Mount Improbable (1996) and The God Delusion (2006). 


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