Putting aside Richard Dawkins as a person, and especially as a public figure, this book is a really great example of a few different impulses in writing, argument, and scholarship. The basic idea here as an argument is that when thinking about evolution and “survival of the fittest,” that it’s not the individual organism that we’re focused on, but the specific gene as the most basic unit. “Selfishness” as we’re thinking about it here is the drive to spread that gene and to act in a way that keeps that gene in circulation. Because we’re not as focused on individual organisms, and because all organisms have a multitude of genes at play, we can avoid trying to find individual examples of actions that go against this idea. In addition, we have to recognize that not every behavior has to fit a specific understanding or definition.
Read the book itself for your sense of what level of agreement or disagreement you have with his argument here. That said, I do think a things that are happening in this book are really admirable. For one, the revised edition here provides a wide array of endnotes and footnotes where Richard Dawkins addresses critics, updates his information as evidence opened up, and even fixing his past mistakes in the original draft. In addition to all this revision, this book is absolute model for how to try to be as precise with language (he’s very very focused on his definitions and analogies) and trying to discuss the limits and allowances of his analogies.