The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection

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Sometimes what were widely considered to be separate species produced fertile hybrid offspring freely, and in other cases what were considered to be mere varieties of the same species could only be crossed with difficulty. In the sixth edition Darwin inserted a new chapter VII renumbering the subsequent chapters to respond to criticisms of earlier editions, including the objection that many features of organisms were not adaptive and could not have been produced by natural selection. He said some such features could have been by-products of adaptive changes to other features, and that often features seemed non-adaptive because their function was unknown, as shown by his book on Fertilisation of Orchids that explained how their elaborate structures facilitated pollination by insects.

Much of the chapter responds to George Jackson Mivart 's criticisms, including his claim that features such as baleen filters in whales, flatfish with both eyes on one side and the camouflage of stick insects could not have evolved through natural selection because intermediate stages would not have been adaptive. Darwin proposed scenarios for the incremental evolution of each feature. Chapter IX deals with the fact that the geological record appears to show forms of life suddenly arising, without the innumerable transitional fossils expected from gradual changes.

Darwin borrowed Charles Lyell 's argument in Principles of Geology that the record is extremely imperfect as fossilisation is a very rare occurrence, spread over vast periods of time; since few areas had been geologically explored, there could only be fragmentary knowledge of geological formations , and fossil collections were very poor. Evolved local varieties which migrated into a wider area would seem to be the sudden appearance of a new species.

Darwin did not expect to be able to reconstruct evolutionary history, but continuing discoveries gave him well founded hope that new finds would occasionally reveal transitional forms. Combining this with an estimate of recent rates of sedimentation and erosion, Darwin calculated that erosion of The Weald had taken around million years. Darwin had no doubt that earlier seas had swarmed with living creatures, but stated that he had no satisfactory explanation for the lack of fossils.

Chapter X examines whether patterns in the fossil record are better explained by common descent and branching evolution through natural selection, than by the individual creation of fixed species. Darwin expected species to change slowly, but not at the same rate — some organisms such as Lingula were unchanged since the earliest fossils. The pace of natural selection would depend on variability and change in the environment. Recently extinct species were more similar to living species than those from earlier eras, and as he had seen in South America, and William Clift had shown in Australia, fossils from recent geological periods resembled species still living in the same area.

Chapter XI deals with evidence from biogeography , starting with the observation that differences in flora and fauna from separate regions cannot be explained by environmental differences alone; South America, Africa, and Australia all have regions with similar climates at similar latitudes, but those regions have very different plants and animals. The species found in one area of a continent are more closely allied with species found in other regions of that same continent than to species found on other continents.

Darwin noted that barriers to migration played an important role in the differences between the species of different regions. The coastal sea life of the Atlantic and Pacific sides of Central America had almost no species in common even though the Isthmus of Panama was only a few miles wide. His explanation was a combination of migration and descent with modification.

He went on to say: These species would become modified over time, but would still be related to species found on the continent, and Darwin observed that this was a common pattern. Darwin discussed ways that species could be dispersed across oceans to colonise islands, many of which he had investigated experimentally. Chapter XII continues the discussion of biogeography. After a brief discussion of freshwater species, it returns to oceanic islands and their peculiarities; for example on some islands roles played by mammals on continents were played by other animals such as flightless birds or reptiles.

The summary of both chapters says:. I think all the grand leading facts of geographical distribution are explicable on the theory of migration generally of the more dominant forms of life , together with subsequent modification and the multiplication of new forms. We can thus understand the high importance of barriers, whether of land or water, which separate our several zoological and botanical provinces. We can thus understand the localisation of sub-genera, genera, and families; and how it is that under different latitudes, for instance in South America, the inhabitants of the plains and mountains, of the forests, marshes, and deserts, are in so mysterious a manner linked together by affinity, and are likewise linked to the extinct beings which formerly inhabited the same continent On these same principles, we can understand, as I have endeavoured to show, why oceanic islands should have few inhabitants, but of these a great number should be endemic or peculiar; Chapter XIII starts by observing that classification depends on species being grouped together in a Taxonomy , a multilevel system of groups and sub groups based on varying degrees of resemblance.

After discussing classification issues, Darwin concludes:. All the foregoing rules and aids and difficulties in classification are explained, if I do not greatly deceive myself, on the view that the natural system is founded on descent with modification; that the characters which naturalists consider as showing true affinity between any two or more species, are those which have been inherited from a common parent, and, in so far, all true classification is genealogical; that community of descent is the hidden bond which naturalists have been unconsciously seeking, Darwin discusses morphology , including the importance of homologous structures.

He says, "What can be more curious than that the hand of a man, formed for grasping, that of a mole for digging, the leg of the horse, the paddle of the porpoise, and the wing of the bat, should all be constructed on the same pattern, and should include the same bones, in the same relative positions? Darwin discusses rudimentary organs, such as the wings of flightless birds and the rudiments of pelvis and leg bones found in some snakes.

He remarks that some rudimentary organs, such as teeth in baleen whales , are found only in embryonic stages. The final chapter "Recapitulation and Conclusion" reviews points from earlier chapters, and Darwin concludes by hoping that his theory might produce revolutionary changes in many fields of natural history. It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. As discussed under religious attitudes , Darwin added the phrase "by the Creator" from the second edition onwards, so that the ultimate sentence began "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one".

Darwin's aims were twofold: Later chapters provide evidence that evolution has occurred, supporting the idea of branching, adaptive evolution without directly proving that selection is the mechanism. Darwin presents supporting facts drawn from many disciplines, showing that his theory could explain a myriad of observations from many fields of natural history that were inexplicable under the alternate concept that species had been individually created. The Examiner review of 3 December commented, "Much of Mr.

Darwin's volume is what ordinary readers would call 'tough reading;' that is, writing which to comprehend requires concentrated attention and some preparation for the task. All, however, is by no means of this description, and many parts of the book abound in information, easy to comprehend and both instructive and entertaining.

While the book was readable enough to sell, its dryness ensured that it was seen as aimed at specialist scientists and could not be dismissed as mere journalism or imaginative fiction. Unlike the still-popular Vestiges , it avoided the narrative style of the historical novel and cosmological speculation, though the closing sentence clearly hinted at cosmic progression. Darwin had long been immersed in the literary forms and practices of specialist science, and made effective use of his skills in structuring arguments. Quammen advised that later editions were weakened by Darwin making concessions and adding details to address his critics, and recommended the first edition.

Costa said that because the book was an abstract produced in haste in response to Wallace's essay, it was more approachable than the big book on natural selection Darwin had been working on, which would have been encumbered by scholarly footnotes and much more technical detail. He added that some parts of Origin are dense, but other parts are almost lyrical, and the case studies and observations are presented in a narrative style unusual in serious scientific books, which broadened its audience. From his early transmutation notebooks in the late s onwards, Darwin considered human evolution as part of the natural processes he was investigating, [] and rejected divine intervention.

In the final chapter of On the Origin of Species , " Recapitulation and Conclusion ", Darwin briefly highlights the human implications of his theory:. In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history. Discussing this in January , Darwin assured Lyell that "by the sentence [Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history] I show that I believe man is in same predicament with other animals.

Some other statements in the book are quietly effective at pointing out the implication that humans are simply another species, evolving through the same processes and principles affecting other organisms. For example, [] in Chapter III: Darwin's early notebooks discussed how non-adaptive characteristics could be selected when animals or humans chose mates, [] with races of humans differing over ideas of beauty.

A Fragment , he called this effect sexual selection. When Darwin published The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex twelve years later, he said that he had not gone into detail on human evolution in the Origin as he thought that would "only add to the prejudices against my views". He had not completely avoided the topic: It seemed to me sufficient to indicate, in the first edition of my 'Origin of Species,' that by this work 'light would be thrown on the origin of man and his history;' and this implies that man must be included with other organic beings in any general conclusion respecting his manner of appearance on this earth.

He also said that he had "merely alluded" in that book to sexual selection differentiating human races. The book aroused international interest [] and a widespread debate, with no sharp line between scientific issues and ideological, social and religious implications. There was much less controversy than had greeted the publication Vestiges of Creation , which had been rejected by scientists, [] but had influenced a wide public readership into believing that nature and human society were governed by natural laws.

Its proponents made full use of a surge in the publication of review journals, and it was given more popular attention than almost any other scientific work, though it failed to match the continuing sales of Vestiges. By the mids, evolutionism was triumphant. While Darwin had been somewhat coy about human origins, not identifying any explicit conclusion on the matter in his book, he had dropped enough hints about human's animal ancestry for the inference to be made, [] [] and the first review claimed it made a creed of the "men from monkeys" idea from Vestiges.

Darwin did not publish his own views on this until The naturalism of natural selection conflicted with presumptions of purpose in nature and while this could be reconciled by theistic evolution , other mechanisms implying more progress or purpose were more acceptable. Herbert Spencer had already incorporated Lamarckism into his popular philosophy of progressive free market human society. He popularised the terms evolution and survival of the fittest , and many thought Spencer was central to evolutionary thinking.

Scientific readers were already aware of arguments that species changed through processes that were subject to laws of nature , but the transmutational ideas of Lamarck and the vague "law of development" of Vestiges had not found scientific favour. Darwin presented natural selection as a scientifically testable mechanism while accepting that other mechanisms such as inheritance of acquired characters were possible. His strategy established that evolution through natural laws was worthy of scientific study, and by , most scientists accepted that evolution occurred but few thought natural selection was significant.

Darwin's scientific method was also disputed, with his proponents favouring the empiricism of John Stuart Mill 's A System of Logic , while opponents held to the idealist school of William Whewell 's Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences , in which investigation could begin with the intuitive truth that species were fixed objects created by design. Henry Walter Bates presented research in that explained insect mimicry using natural selection. Alfred Russel Wallace discussed evidence from his Malay archipelago research, including an paper with an evolutionary explanation for the Wallace line.

Evolution had less obvious applications to anatomy and morphology , and at first had little impact on the research of the anatomist Thomas Henry Huxley. Huxley wanted science to be secular, without religious interference, and his article in the April Westminster Review promoted scientific naturalism over natural theology, [] [] praising Darwin for "extending the domination of Science over regions of thought into which she has, as yet, hardly penetrated" and coining the term " Darwinism " as part of his efforts to secularise and professionalise science.

Later, the German morphologist Ernst Haeckel would convince Huxley that comparative anatomy and palaeontology could be used to reconstruct evolutionary genealogies. The leading naturalist in Britain was the anatomist Richard Owen , an idealist who had shifted to the view in the s that the history of life was the gradual unfolding of a divine plan. Others that rejected natural selection, but supported "creation by birth", included the Duke of Argyll who explained beauty in plumage by design. Their disagreement over human origins came to the fore at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting featuring the legendary Oxford evolution debate.

Darwin published his own explanation in the Descent of Man Evolutionary ideas, although not natural selection, were accepted by German biologists accustomed to ideas of homology in morphology from Goethe 's Metamorphosis of Plants and from their long tradition of comparative anatomy. Bronn 's alterations in his German translation added to the misgivings of conservatives, but enthused political radicals.

Ernst Haeckel was particularly ardent, aiming to synthesise Darwin's ideas with those of Lamarck and Goethe while still reflecting the spirit of Naturphilosophie. Haeckel used embryology extensively in his recapitulation theory , which embodied a progressive, almost linear model of evolution. Darwin was cautious about such histories, and had already noted that von Baer's laws of embryology supported his idea of complex branching.

Asa Gray promoted and defended Origin against those American naturalists with an idealist approach, notably Louis Agassiz who viewed every species as a distinct fixed unit in the mind of the Creator, classifying as species what others considered merely varieties. The political economy of struggle was criticised as a British stereotype by Karl Marx and by Leo Tolstoy , who had the character Levin in his novel Anna Karenina voice sharp criticism of the morality of Darwin's views.

Darwin conceded that these could be linked to adaptive characteristics. His estimate that the age of the Earth allowed gradual evolution was disputed by William Thomson later awarded the title Lord Kelvin , who calculated that it had cooled in less than million years. Darwin accepted blending inheritance , but Fleeming Jenkin calculated that as it mixed traits, natural selection could not accumulate useful traits.

Darwin tried to meet these objections in the 5th edition. Mivart supported directed evolution, and compiled scientific and religious objections to natural selection. In response, Darwin made considerable changes to the sixth edition. The problems of the age of the Earth and heredity were only resolved in the 20th century.

By the mids, most scientists accepted evolution, but relegated natural selection to a minor role as they believed evolution was purposeful and progressive. The range of evolutionary theories during " the eclipse of Darwinism " included forms of " saltationism " in which new species were thought to arise through "jumps" rather than gradual adaptation, forms of orthogenesis claiming that species had an inherent tendency to change in a particular direction, and forms of neo-Lamarckism in which inheritance of acquired characteristics led to progress.

The minority view of August Weismann , that natural selection was the only mechanism, was called neo-Darwinism.

It was thought that the rediscovery of Mendelian inheritance invalidated Darwin's views. While some, like Spencer, used analogy from natural selection as an argument against government intervention in the economy to benefit the poor, others, including Alfred Russel Wallace , argued that action was needed to correct social and economic inequities to level the playing field before natural selection could improve humanity further. Some political commentaries, including Walter Bagehot 's Physics and Politics , attempted to extend the idea of natural selection to competition between nations and between human races.

Such ideas were incorporated into what was already an ongoing effort by some working in anthropology to provide scientific evidence for the superiority of Caucasians over non white races and justify European imperialism. Historians write that most such political and economic commentators had only a superficial understanding of Darwin's scientific theory, and were as strongly influenced by other concepts about social progress and evolution, such as the Lamarckian ideas of Spencer and Haeckel, as they were by Darwin's work. Darwin objected to his ideas being used to justify military aggression and unethical business practices as he believed morality was part of fitness in humans, and he opposed polygenism , the idea that human races were fundamentally distinct and did not share a recent common ancestry.

The book produced a wide range of religious responses at a time of changing ideas and increasing secularisation.

The Making of a Theory: Darwin, Wallace, and Natural Selection — HHMI BioInteractive Video

The issues raised were complex and there was a large middle ground. Developments in geology meant that there was little opposition based on a literal reading of Genesis , [] but defence of the argument from design and natural theology was central to debates over the book in the English-speaking world. Natural theology was not a unified doctrine, and while some such as Louis Agassiz were strongly opposed to the ideas in the book, others sought a reconciliation in which evolution was seen as purposeful.

Baden Powell praised "Mr Darwin's masterly volume [supporting] the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of nature". George Jackson Mivart was among those accepting evolution but attacking Darwin's naturalistic mechanism. Eventually it was realised that supernatural intervention could not be a scientific explanation, and naturalistic mechanisms such as neo-Lamarckism were favoured over natural selection as being more compatible with purpose. Even though the book did not explicitly spell out Darwin's beliefs about human origins , it had dropped a number of hints about human's animal ancestry [] and quickly became central to the debate, as mental and moral qualities were seen as spiritual aspects of the immaterial soul , and it was believed that animals did not have spiritual qualities.

This conflict could be reconciled by supposing there was some supernatural intervention on the path leading to humans, or viewing evolution as a purposeful and progressive ascent to mankind's position at the head of nature. Some conservative Roman Catholic writers and influential Jesuits opposed evolution in the late 19th and early 20th century, but other Catholic writers, starting with Mivart, pointed out that early Church Fathers had not interpreted Genesis literally in this area.

Various alternative evolutionary mechanisms favoured during " the eclipse of Darwinism " became untenable as more was learned about inheritance and mutation. The full significance of natural selection was at last accepted in the s and s as part of the modern evolutionary synthesis.

During that synthesis biologists and statisticians, including R. Fisher , Sewall Wright and J. Haldane , merged Darwinian selection with a statistical understanding of Mendelian genetics. Modern evolutionary theory continues to develop. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, with its tree-like model of branching common descent , has become the unifying theory of the life sciences. I mean if you think about it logically, no other book has had such a powerful impact on the way humanity views the earth; yes, we have countless religious doctrine, but never before had there been a book that so drastically alternated our perceptions of the mechanisms that are behind our existence.

It is, generally speaking, a culturally accepted idea. The fact that we still refer to something most accept to be fact as a theory is a phenomenon. Contrary to popular belief, Darwin did not seek to debunk any religious beliefs. In fact, the research he carried out put him in constant confusion about his own Christianity. For a time he believed religion and science could work together; he believed that science helped to explain some of the ideas in creation stories, but eventually he stopped believing.


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It was just a simple case that over time he could no longer personally and logically believe in it: As a student of literature, as a lover of stories, history, nature and narrative, I find myself drawn to ideas of religion and science. For anybody to call religion groundless I say this from my own agnostically driven perspective is to divulge a massive lack of judgment.

Without wanting to offend any atheists, or anybody of faith, we will never know either way which is ultimately right. But, I do most ardently think that we can only begin to understand what it is to be human by reading and exploring the ideas of both religion and science. They have both been perpetuated by man, so I think we owe it to ourselves to try and understand why. Some of you may have noticed how eclectic my reading tastes have become. I pretty much read anything.

Both parts form a larger part of our society. Well, anyway, that was a rather large digression. I read the origin of species back in for the first time. My second reading was more of a gloss over of certain key ideas, and a revisit of passages that I flagged down before. The ideas in the book are obviously ground-breaking, though not the first historical example of them. But, for me, this book is more of a slog than leisure driven reading.

From the findings here Darwin would eventually go on to lay down his full arguments in The Decent of Man, a read that sounds more compelling and all encompassing. View all 13 comments. It is a key mechanism of evolution, the change in the heritable traits characteristic of a population over generations. Charles Darwin popularised the term "Natural selection", contrasting it with artificial selection, which is intentional, whereas natural selection is not.

Dear Carol, Thank you for your mail, and of course I remember meeting you on the flight last month! It was a very interesting discussion and I'm still thinking about it. The semester has now started here at Creationist U and I am working hard, but I found time to read the book you recommended. And I'm glad I did, because it was really a lot better than I thought it would be. I guess I was expecting Darwin to be like Richard Dawkins, but he was respectful of religious ideas. And it was great that h Dear Carol, Thank you for your mail, and of course I remember meeting you on the flight last month!

And it was great that he liked Paley's Natural Theology so much So I could see Darwin was an open-minded person who was prepared to look at both sides of the question. Richard Dawkins could learn a lot from that!

On the Origin of Species - Wikipedia

The way he sets up his argument is smart. He starts off talking about how stockbreeders can improve their breed - well, I'm a country boy, and I could see he knew his stuff. This is someone who's spent time down at the farm and understands how country people feel about livestock. And I liked that he'd done all that work raising pigeons. Not the kind of scientist who just hangs out at the lab all day.

After that, he introduces his Big Idea about the survival of the fittest and he almost made evolution sound sensible. He's a good writer. And then he was honest when he explained all the problems with the theory. He really got me - I was wondering if he was going to mention any of that stuff, and a page later he came out and said just what I was thinking! But I did wonder what he was doing, cutting out the ground from under his own feet. He said he could explain things like the eye and how bees could evolve to make honeycombs, but even if he was real good at making his case, I wasn't buying any.

So by the halfway mark, I figured he was done, but like ol' Dubya used to say, I misunderestimated him - he'd saved all his best stuff for last. He had some good shots! I got to admit, he made me think. Why does God put the species that look alike in the same place? Like he says, it is weird how you have a mountain range, and there's one kind of animals and plants on one side, and a different kind on the other side. God's ways are inscrutable to us, but why does He care about those mountains?

And the islands, they were even worse. He says if you look at the species on a lot of islands, you don't have any mammals there, except you do have bats. I could see where he was going with this one - the bats could blow in off the mainland and evolve, but other mammals couldn't do that. I admit it, I don't have an answer, except maybe God's testing our faith again. But I can see not everyone will like that.

I'm still wondering about those bats! Darwin, I said it already but I'll say it again, you were a smart guy. So how's life at MIT? And I hope you read the book I recommended to you. A Canticle for Leibowitz will show you that faith and science have more in common than you might think! View all 43 comments. Apr 25, Thabit rated it really liked it. View all 11 comments.


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Edits for NR because I love him that much. Variations neither useful not injurious would not be affected by natural selection, and would be left a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in the species called polymorphic. The Edits for NR because I love him that much. The proportional numbers of its inhabitants would almost immediately undergo a change, and some species might become extinct. We may conclude, from what we have seen of the intimate and complex manner in which the inhabitants of each country are bound together, that any change in the numerical proportions of some of the inhabitants, independently of the change of climate itself, would most seriously affect many of the others.

If the country were open on its borders, new forms would certainly immigrate, and this also would seriously disturb the relations of some of the former inhabitants. Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be. But in the case of an island, or of a country partly surrounded by barriers, into which new and better adapted forms could not freely enter, we should then have places in the economy of nature which would assuredly be better filled up, if some of the original inhabitants were in some manner modified; for, had the area been open immigration, these same places would have been seized on by intruders.

In such case, ever slight modification, which in the course of ages chanced to arise, and which in any way favoured the individuals of any of the species, by better adapting them to their altered conditions, would tend to be preserved and natural selection would thus have free scope for the work of improvement. View all 53 comments. I'm surprised at how adapted we have become or at least the segment of those people on the planet who don't reject Darwin's theory of natural selection as counter to their own idea of the way God makes and shakes to Darwin's revolutionary idea s.

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Like with many of the pantheon of scientific geniuses Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, etc there was a bit of random chance involved. The ground was ready for Darwin's adapted seed. There were enough scholars and scientists and rationalists around to carry his idea s hither and his theory thither. So while this book, and Darwin himself, were both stellar examples of scientific restraint, the force and momentum of OftS can't be under appreciated.

It was just the right time and right place for a scientific revolution. Darwin and his little book walked by a labour of scientific mouldywarps who happened to find themselves on the chalk cliffs of science, pushed those sterile hybrids off, and never looked back. View all 7 comments. Although a lot of people-scientists, naturalists and the like-were coming "If, however, a caterpillar were taken out of a hammock made up, for instance, to the third stage, and were put into one finished up to the sixth stage, so that much of its work was already done for it, far from feeling the benefit of this, it was much embarrassed, and, in order to complete its hammock, seemed forced to start from the third stage.

Although a lot of people-scientists, naturalists and the like-were coming to the same kind of conclusions, Darwin was one of the first who wrote it all down in a profound and concise manner and used his influence and friends to make it a well-known theory: There is only one thing you need to know before you read this, and that is that Charles Darwin was a very religious man.

Origin Of Species

This is a five-star worthy book, but my ignorance of this fact caused me to be so infuriated by the end that I couldn't bring myself to rate it higher. It is written exquisitely: The words, the terms, they're all very much science-related and it can be so difficult to really understand and comprehend what you're reading because it's almost in another language. This is written very much in the way any Victorian novel would have been written. There is a smattering of Latin terms, but for the most part it is easy to understand if you get in the right frame of mind as you would a Classic.

It can be heavy going, however, as the paragraphs are long and often repetitive, but his thoughts on pigeons are the most endearing things I've come across: To go back to why I only rated it three stars: I should have expected something like this but I did not and that annoyed me more than it should have.

Of course, it makes the entire thing that much more impressive, though the horrific experience Darwin must have gone through as he tried to make a religious-belief co-live with a scientific frame of mind would have been supremely agonising. It's wholly my fault for this ignorance, but I still can't bring myself to heighten it. It's still one of the most important books ever written and its legacy will never become diminished, but it is often repetitive and sometimes out-dated with quite a lengthy part about geology which is fairly unremarkable, but his amusing and enjoyable experiments with flowers and his views on pigeons are just a delight.

Dec 19, Paul E. Ah, you can't really review a book like this. It's almost complete transcended its role as a seminal scientific tome and become a legitimate historic artefact. You can't review a historic artefact. This is a fantastic read, even viewed in a completely different way to how it would have been read at the time.

It really is amazing how much evolutionary biology Darwin was able to formulate almost a century before Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA. It boggles the mind what Darwin could have been ca Ah, you can't really review a book like this. It boggles the mind what Darwin could have been capable of if he'd had access to the last years of genetic research.

Sep 18, Clif Hostetler rated it liked it Shelves: My book group selected this book for discussion probably because of the historic impact it has had on the field of science. However, I found it to be very worthy of respect from a literary viewpoint. Charles Darwin's writing comes across as a methodical thinker and patient explainer to many recalcitrant readers who are determined not to believe a word he says.

He had me convinced after only a couple dozen pages, but he kept doing what seemed to me to be piling on observation after observation, e My book group selected this book for discussion probably because of the historic impact it has had on the field of science. He had me convinced after only a couple dozen pages, but he kept doing what seemed to me to be piling on observation after observation, explanation after explanation, until after a while I felt like crying out, "Enough already, I believe! There are obvious things poor old Darwin didn't know about, one of them being the laws of genealogy discovered by Gregor Johann Mendel.

Mendel was a contemporary of Darwin, and I have heard that a published copy of Mendel's study was on Darwin's book shelves but it hadn't been opened or read. Of course Darwin wasn't the only person who ignored Mendel. Mendel's work wasn't appreciated for its contribution to understanding of inherited traits until after his death. Meanwhile Darwin is writing this book giving many observations regarding the variability of crossings of various plants and animals, but doesn't understand why. Also, Darwin was plagued with physicists of the time who calculated that earth couldn't be as old as needed for Darwin's theory of natural selection to accomplish all the required changes.

The physicists were basing their calculations of the rate cooling of the core of the earth. Of course they were wrong; what they didn't know about was radioactive decay which gives off heat they weren't making allowances for. It turns out the earth is even older than Darwin would have guessed. And of course the really big advance of science that Darwin didn't know about was the DNA double helix. Darwin insists that life forms need to be classed according to genealogy, and he speculates that in the future scientists will be able to classify life forms more accurately as more knowledge is obtained about them.

The Origin of Species

Darwin would be amazed to know how precisely genealogy can be determined these days. For example, it can be determined that humans are more closely related to fungi than to photosynthetic plants. I listened to the audio version of this book. This is an example of a book that is much easier to listen to than to read because of all the big Latin words used in describing species.

Having the words read aloud made them fit into the context of the sentence much better than if I were trying to read and probably skip over those unfamiliar words. There were six editions of "Origin of Species" in Darwin's life time. It could be argued that the edition is the second best version of this book with the British edition being slightly better in that it contains some insignificant, but non-substantive, corrections.

The editions of , , , and are all inferior. In them Darwin made changes and expansions in an effort to meet the objections that arose during those times. The modifications expanded the book and clouded the argument. Since most of the objections that were raised would be regarded as silly today, Darwin's arguments against them are of interest for social history, but not for Darwin's theory. I think that most published copies today are based on the edition.

If you have an earlier edition you will find that it is shorter and, as indicated above, is probably better. The following quotation is from the sixth edition and not in the earlier editions. It is from a section of the book on instincts and follows a couple paragraphs discussing the habit of some birds to lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. Darwin has just sighted some of the observations of the nesting habits of a type of cowbird [ Molothrus Bonariensis ] written by a naturalist colleague.

Hudson is a strong disbeliever in evolution, but he appears to have been much struck by the imperfect instincts of the Molothrus Bonariensis that he quotes my words and asks, 'must we consider these habits not as an especially endowed or created instincts but as small consequences of one general law, namely transitions? Since the behavior is repugnant it must have been caused by that old nasty evolution stuff i. View all 5 comments. Apr 28, Lisa Harmonybites rated it really liked it Shelves: Decry or applaud it, there's no question this work has had a profound effect not just on science, but the culture at large.

What I wouldn't read this book for is the science, or in an effort to either defend or refute the argument for evolution. The core of Darwin's argument certainly is still what was taught in my Catholic high school biology class taught by a nun. In a nutshell, the theory is that given there are wide-ranging subtle Variations among organisms, the Malthusian Struggle for Exi Decry or applaud it, there's no question this work has had a profound effect not just on science, but the culture at large.

In a nutshell, the theory is that given there are wide-ranging subtle Variations among organisms, the Malthusian Struggle for Existence causes by means of Natural Selection of the inheritable traits that are the best Adaptations to the environment the Origin of Species or as Darwin calls it, the "theory of descent with modification.

Science is about explaining natural phenomenon and correcting mistakes through observation, experimentation and falsification--not dogma--and so is always a moving target. But I still raised an eyebrow when in the first chapter of the book Darwin said he believed the "most frequent cause of variability" was caused by the experiences of the parents before conception--such as cows' udders being larger in countries where they're milked because the habit of milking by itself alters in the reproductive organs what is inherited by the next generation.

When Darwin first propounded his theory of evolution a word never used in the book by the way through natural selection, Mendel had yet to discover the basic principles of genetics in his experiments with peas and Watson and Crick had yet to unravel the structure of DNA. Nor was continental drift known and understood, so there were notable gaps in Darwin's reasoning that has since been filled. Stephen Jay Gould, one of the staunchest defenders and popularizers of evolution is famous within science particularly for where he differs from Darwin.

English naturalist Charles Darwin, in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection , recognized the problem of determining whether a feature evolved for the function it currently serves:. This concept, arising in strong debates, provided the starting point for anthropology.

In his book Darwin stated that all living creatures multiply so rapidly that if left unchecked they would soon overpopulate the world. A similar unification at the microscopic level had been brought about by the cell…. His On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection is a sustained argument showing that the diversity of organisms and their characteristics can be explained as the result of natural processes.

In he published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection , a treatise establishing the theory of evolution and, most important, the role of natural selection in determining its course. The fossils of the successive systems are different not only because parts of the stratigraphic record are missing but also because most species have lost in their struggles for survival….

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