Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Selfless Gene - Charles Foster

I really, fiercely hate the title of this book. While it is about religion and evolution, the book has nothing to do with the idea that there is a gene in our DNA that causes selflessness, which is what the title implies. However, The Selfless Gene is a good book despite its poorly-chosen title, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in science, religion, or both.

The Selfless Gene discusses the relationship between evolution and religion, and whether either is actually true. It's divided into ten chapters and examines religious and scientific points of view both separately and in relation to one another. On the book's Amazon page, the description reads, "In THE SELFLESS GENE, Charles Foster assesses the claims of Neo-Darwinists and Young Earth Creationists, demonstrating that orthodox Christianity is not incompatible with what evolutionary biology says about our world. The real issue, he argues, centres around the ethical implications of natural selection, and what such a system – based on selfishness, waste and death – might say about the loving creator God of the Christian faith. Intelligent, provocative and accessible, THE SELFLESS GENE offers the prospect of a reasoned dialogue between faith and scientific study, and a reconciliation of what are popularly seen as two opposing worldviews." While I apologize for quoting at such length, I couldn't think of any better way to summarize what the book is all about, and I quite agree that The Selfless Gene is "intelligent, provocative and accessible." One of the great things about The Selfless Gene (at least as far as I'm concerned) is that Charles Foster is neither a scientist nor a theologian, a fact he clearly acknowledges early in the book. This enables him to write clearly and in a manner that everyone, not just those most well-versed in scientific or religious study, can appreciate and understand.

On the front cover, a Cambridge professor is quoted as saying that The Selfless Gene is "difficult to put down." While I enjoy reading both fiction and nonfiction, I didn't really expect to get hooked on this book to the same extent that I would get hooked on a novel. Surprisingly, however, I could hardly put the book down. I've been carrying it in my purse and reading it whenever I have at least five free minutes, and while I've done this more often than not with fiction, I very rarely have the same experience with nonfiction--I typically enjoy such books at a slower pace. I could really not be more glad that I requested The Selfless Gene.*

*I got this book through BookSneeze, a program where publishers give books away in exchange for reviews. When I signed up for BookSneeze, The Selfless Gene was the most appealing book being offered, so I requested it. In hindsight, a very good choice.


  1. Zara, do you know how often BookSneeze has books available for review? I just signed up but they said they didn't have any right now, do you know approximately how long I will have to wait?

  2. I have no idea...I got one a week ago, and when I went back on the site the day after I got the book, they said they no longer had any books available. It shouldn't be too long, though; they usually have books available.

  3. I think the title is a play on Richard Dawkins' book "The Selfish Gene". Good review! Thanks.