Dawkins on The Selfish Gene

“The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival starts on Friday, March 24. Previewing events at the festival, Richard Dawkins looks back at the extraordinary 30-year history of his first book, The Selfish Gene.”

From the London Times:

It is sobering to realise that I have lived nearly half my life with The Selfish Gene — for better, for worse. Over the years, as each subsequent book has appeared, publishers have sent me on tour to promote it. Audiences respond to the new book with gratifying enthusiasm, applaud politely and ask intelligent questions. Then they line up to buy, and have me sign . . . The Selfish Gene. That is a bit of an exaggeration. Some do buy the new book and, for the rest, my wife consoles me by arguing that people who newly discover an author will naturally tend to go back to his first book: having read The Selfish Gene, surely they’ll work their way through to the latest and (to its fond parent) favourite baby?

I would mind more if I could claim that The Selfish Gene had become severely outmoded and superseded. Unfortunately (from one point of view) I cannot. Details have changed and factual examples burgeoned mightily. But there is little in it that I would rush to unwrite now, or apologise for. Arthur Cain, late professor of zoology at Liverpool and one of my inspiring tutors at Oxford in the 1960s, described The Selfish Gene in 1976 as a “young man’s book”. He was deliberately quoting a commentator on AJ Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic. I was flattered by the comparison, although I knew that Ayer had recanted much of his first book and I could hardly miss Cain’s pointed implication that I should, in the fullness of time, do the same.

More here.