River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

The river of Dawkins' title is a river of DNA, flowing through time from the beginning of life on earth to the present - and onwards. Dawkins explains that DNA must be thought of as the most sophisticated information system imaginable: 'Life is just bytes and bytes of information,' he writes. Using this perspective, he describes the mechanisms by which evolution has taken place, gradually but inexorably, over a period of three thousand million years. It is the story of how evolution happens, rather than a narrative of what has actually happened in evolution. He discusses current views on the process of human evolution, including the idea that we all trace back to a comparatively recent African 'Eve', and speculates that the 'information explosion' that was unleashed on Earth when DNA came into being has almost certainly happened in other places in the universe.


River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life is a 1995 popular science book by Richard Dawkins. The book is about Darwinian evolution and includes summaries of the topics covered in his earlier books, The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype and The Blind Watchmaker. It is part of the Science Masters series and is Dawkins' shortest book. It also includes illustrations by Lalla Ward, Dawkins' wife. The book's name is derived from passage 2:10 of Genesis relating to the Garden of Eden. The King James Version reads "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads."

River Out of Eden comprises five chapters. The first chapter lays down the framework on which the rest of the book is built, that life is a river of genes flowing through geological time where organisms are mere temporary bodies. The second chapter shows how human ancestry can be traced via many gene pathways to different most recent common ancestors, with special emphasis on the African Eve. The third chapter describes how gradual enhancement via natural selection is the only mechanism which can create the complexity we observe all around us in nature. The fourth chapter expounds on the utter indifference of genes towards organisms they build and discard, in their relentless drive to maximise their own utility functions. The last chapter summarises milestones during the evolution of life on Earth and speculates on how similar processes may work in alien planetary systems. - Wikipedia


Other Books By Richard Dawkins