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The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races
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In The Origin of Species, Darwin challenged many of the most deeply held beliefs of the Western world. Arguing for a material, not divine, origin of species, he showed that new species are achieved by 'natural selection'. Development, diversification, decay, extinction and absence of plan are all inherent to his theories. Darwin read prodigiously across many fields; he reflected on his experiences as a traveller, he experimented. His profoundly influential concept of 'natural selection' condenses materials from past and present, from the Galapagos Islands to rural Staffordshire, from English back gardens to colonial encounters. The Origin communicates the enthusiasm of original thinking in an open, descriptive style, and Darwin's emphasis on the value of diversity speaks more strongly now than ever.

It's hard to talk about The Origin of Species without making statements that seem overwrought and fulsome. But it's true: this is indeed one of the most important and influential books ever written, and it is one of the very few groundbreaking works of science that is truly readable.

To a certain extent it suffers from the Hamlet problem--it's full of clich¨¦s! Or what are now clich¨¦s, but which Darwin was the first to pen. Natural selection, variation, the struggle for existence, survival of the fittest: it's all in here.

Darwin's friend and "bulldog" T.H. Huxley said upon reading the Origin, "How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that." Alfred Russel Wallace had thought of the same theory of evolution Darwin did, but it was Darwin who gathered the mass of supporting evidence--on domestic animals and plants, on variability, on sexual selection, on dispersal--that swept most scientists before it. It's hardly necessary to mention that the book is still controversial: Darwin's remark in his conclusion that "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history" is surely the pinnacle of British understatement. --Mary Ellen Curtin

Customer Reviews:

  • Way more readable than you think ...
    People tend to look at me crazy when I tell them that I've read ORIGIN OF SPECIES. And really, I think we can all see where they are coming from. Nevertheless, being curious, I thought it might be interesting read the book that started all the fuss.

    I was surprised to find how readable it really was. Think about this: what we are taught in high school biology is way more than Darwin knew when he wrote this book. Accordingly, the science described in this book is quite easy to understand for anyone who has previously taken a biology class.

    Probably the most interesting thing about this book were the few times that Darwin threw in a little philosophical/theological side comment. I'll leave these juicy tidbits for you to find, but look for them as they add a little "kick" to an otherwise fairly "scientific" book. Though a bit lengthy, this accountant enjoyed ORIGIN OF SPECIES.

    As a sidenote: I find the funniest thing about those "Jesus fish" eating the "Darwin fish" car decals is that the base idea is that the stronger fish wins- a.k.a. surival of the fittest. The ensuing contradiction of unwittingly using one of Darwin's base tenets to attack Darwinian evolution is priceless....more info

  • The Fact of Evolution and the Theory of the Mechanism of Natural Selection.
    Before reviewing this excellent book it would be best to introduce this review with an overview of the current climate when it comes to Darwin.

    Charles Darwin (a naturalist) is the father of modern Evolution (not *Evil*ultion; it is pronounced *Evo*-lution).

    Darwin's overall explanation of evolution, in this book, is not modern evolutionary biology. Modern evolution can, and does, go beyond Darwin's view.

    Darwin's model is often called Darwinism, a partially philosophical concept but mostly the science of biology and geology combined. It is widely considered to be the single most important scientific discovery of all time. Darwin's underlying points are the essentials of evolutionary biology.

    Theories are comprised of facts without gaps. Theories are factual. Theories contain facts to explain a factual instance of something material. Theories do not contain fabrications or a little bit of lies plus some truths. If a theory is not all facts then it is not a theory.

    The phrase "it is just a theory and not fact" is a contradiction of terms. A factual instance of something (such as observing speciation) needs to be explained. Facts are used to explain the factual instance of something material.

    Darwin used philosophy and biological science and earth sciences (geology) to develop the concept of natural selection which is primarily based on explaining how evolution occurs with the mechanism of `natural selection'. Darwin observed in the world about him what he believed to be the result of a single cell organism that had evolved into all forms of life we see today. More importantly, there is no chaos involved. It has order. "The Origin of Species" (TOOS) is all about Darwin discussing how he came to this conclusion.

    In the 21st Century, "Speciation" has been observed countless times. Go search right now for "Observed Speciation Events".

    ***Speciation is a fact whether we can explain the mechanisms of how it works or not. This can not be understated! A fact is a fact regardless of our ability to explain how it works. Gravity existed well before Newton could explain it. Speciation exists (a new species developing in the world, under scientific observation) meaning evolution is a fact. Look at the title of this review. Nobody should have to explain evolution in order to prove it factual. ***

    Now is the time to say this. If you don't believe theories are factual, then stop engaging the results of factual science in your life right now. Walk the talk. Turn off the PC. Turn off the electricity. Turn off the heating... and walk. I will allow you the option of a bronze spear... that is if you know how to smelt bronze.

    As a note, the Catholic Church has been teaching the fact of evolution and the theory of the mechanisms of evolution in Catholic schools since the 1950s. This is exactly the same coursework that secular schools have on evolution. However there is some discrepancy over natural selection. Natural selection has order but it is not guided. This is the problem part for most religious people. One would do well however to experience thinking about natural selection without any divine guidance. This is truly the type of thinking that grasps the full impact of this work.

    The theory of the mechanisms of evolution is independent of the fact of evolution. The theory of the mechanisms of evolution is a compilation of facts (without gaps) used to explain the fact of evolution. The theory of the mechanisms of evolution is here, in part, but are much better explained and referenced by modern evolutionary biology. If its modern evolution you want (and you may well do if your first search brought you here) then go to talkorigins on the net and read about the "29+ evidences for macroevolution". It can take days, weeks months, or years, or a lifetime to parse the data, but keep going over it and it will eventually click.

    The most popular version of The Origin of Species is the one which contains the first edition published by Darwin in 1859 with an editor's introduction by J. W Burrow first published in 1968. Burrows covers the history of the work, the successive editions of the book that Darwin published and recent scientific discoveries that shed light on Darwin's theory.

    Introduction
    Darwin in TOOS starts by describing his life and times as a naturalist. Darwin explains the problem of immutable claims about the species and goes through the historical record to show instances where people have indicated that the species are mutable. He explains that he is writing this book because Alfred Russel Wallace has drawn the same conclusions about natural selection.

    Chapter 1: Variation under Domestication
    Darwin goes straight into variations under domestication showing that farmed animals are substantially different from their wild counterparts from which they came. Darwin did not have access to Gregor Mendel's laws of inheritance but he did guess that there was a mechanism like this responsible for variation. His bases for the assertion that species come from other closely related species is absolutely fundamentally correct by today's standards. His explanation for it was revolutionary for his time.

    Chapter 2: Variation under Nature
    Darwin exposes the instability of the then current system of taxonomy to show that categorization and labelling is not fixed and thus questions the bases for immutability. This paves the way for the natural overview that all like organisms share commonalities and that variations can be immediate or subtle gradual changes over time. Darwin discusses intermediate forms and shows that group changes are proportional while alluding to the first shape of an evolutionary tree.

    Chapter 3: Struggle for Existence
    Darwin presents the ecosystem and shows that all organisms struggle to survive and that this struggle influences what we, who have survived this struggle, see in the world today. Darwin shows this complex structure and connects it with such descriptions as the presence of a feline determining through the intervention of mice and then bees the frequency of certain flowers in an area.

    Chapter 4: Natural Selection
    This is core material of how highly complex organisms are formed from organisms with lesser complexity and has still stood the test of time today. Darwin not only verifies evolution but explains its mechanism, natural selection. Using the analogy of a tree and the taxonomy of living things Darwin shows how beneficial variations in conjunction with heredity are responsible for the formation of new species gradually over long periods of time which compete and cause extinctions. Darwin establishes the foundation for common descent.

    Chapter 5: Laws of Variation
    Darwin, without knowing Mendel's laws of inheritance, comes close to explaining it by in-depth analyses of the variations in organisms, such as the horse and cabbage. Darwin has been preparing the reader to accept that species are highly variable and that this means that ideas of a static independent design of the species without variation are highly flawed and evolution can be the only sensible conclusion drawn from the evidence.

    Chapter 6: Difficulties on Theory
    Darwin does what religious writers avoid which is self-critic, the hallmark of scientific thinking, brings up all possible problems with his theory and slowly shows how the answers are natural even though he doesn't have them all yet, but still manages to explain the evolution of the eye by comparison to lesser complex eyes in nature as well as the evolution of flight by comparison to gliding organisms. Darwin then shows imperfections in nature, explains why they are there and pulls off a last minute rationalization for why organisms more suited for another environment live in a completely different one with natural selection.

    Chapter 7: Instinct
    Darwin looks at complex instincts in the animal kingdom. Here Darwin examines the life of aphids and ants, revealing their instincts, turns to birds, before going back into the micro world of slave-making ants and the hive-bee, before tackling the design of complex hive honeycomb structures. Not only does Darwin show the evolution of beehives but has all along been preparing us for the slow long gradual evolution of instinct in all living things and then directly implies Mendel's laws of inheritance. Darwin amazingly demonstrates that neuter or sterile insects that perform specific tasks can be produced from parents who don't do those tasks, by way of natural selection.

    Chapter 8: Hybridism
    In order to understand this chapter one should know that at the time the sterility of species was considered the divine indication that species where not allowed to crossbreed. Darwin using sterility examples shows the reader that there is very little to distinguish species from varieties, if they can be distinguished at all. This undermines any attempt to say that a species has an exact definition or is fixed and this is fatal to the independent creation of species hypothesis. Darwin establishes yet another proof for evolution.

    Chapter 9: On the Imperfection of the Geological Record
    Darwin using Lyell's geology changes our view of the world. Suddenly we find that we are no longer the centre of the earth, just as Copernicus showed that we where no longer the centre of our solar system. Darwin describes geology in-depth, with the erosion of land, atom by atom, and the formation of land, atom by atom, adding that the world has seen many forms of life, gradually evolving, through a vast amount of time that we can barely comprehend. He challenges questions about the limits of the fossil record by revealing the story of life as only evident in some parts, with other parts yet to be found, if they will ever be found at all. It's a breathtaking chapter that reshapes how human beings will see themselves after reading it.

    Chapter 10: On the Geological Succession of Organic Beings
    Now that Darwin has completely revised our world view with the evidence of evolution he proceeds to explain how geological movements over long period of time, as well as the migration of species, will create an imperfect fossil record but that this imperfect fossil record will always show organisms of lesser complexity evolving into organisms of greater complexity via the mechanism of natural selection. Darwin shows that species evolve at different rates over time and in different directions which explains the present existing complexity of life today and the scientific record of every organism that has ever lived.

    Chapter 11: Geographical distribution
    Darwin describes a series of practical experiments that anyone can do in their own back garden involving picking seeds from bird droppings, germinating them, sinking seeds in water for 28 days, growing them, analysing the content of mud in the paws of trekking animals and then concluding that the geographical dispersal of fauna from island to island is not a mystery. Darwin then explains why similar fauna are found up mountains around the world by way of glaciers pushing and splitting primordial plant life from the ground upwards. These simple explanations are yet another blow to the suggestion of the immutability of species.

    Chapter 12: Geographical distribution -- continued
    Without directly saying it, Darwin has been implying the common decent of all biological organisms from a single source, the origin of species. Darwin now says it but continues on the topic of distribution showing how birds can easily spread freshwater organisms and how the geological changes of streams, intersecting and separating, can spread freshwater life across the planet. Darwin joins geology with distribution presenting the historical record for all life on earth. Laws of diversity regarding degrees of complexity are introduced. Darwin has established the structure of evolutionary biology as the explanation for life. The scientific impact is immeasurable.

    Chapter 13: Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs
    For anyone left unconvinced, for some odd reason or another, Darwin simply points to the current work in the natural system and shows that the underlying theme taxonomists have been searching for is actually common decent. Darwin then demonstrates how natural selection can create similar developments in very diverse organisms. Embryology alone is argued as evidence for common decent as Darwin illustrates that all embryos and newborn virtually look the same in some respect and that growth and aging in the lifetime of any organism is almost enough evidence alone for mutability. Finally Darwin delivers on a collection of useless organs and appendages no longer in use because they have been naturally breed out because of disuse or `inutility'.

    Chapter 14: Recapitulation and Conclusion
    Darwin runs through all the main points of his argument for natural selection. Darwin is aware that evolution is a minority view but hopes that in the future more evidence for natural selection will appear. He says he can offer nothing to support the idea of the immutability of species and closes with a profound statement and for the first time invokes and ends with the classic word that defined his view. Darwin says, "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."

    The complex web of relations with livings things to the environment is staggering yet so obvious in hindsight. The whole point of TOOS is it is ridiculous that someone didn't get this sooner. The environment has an impact of living things and living things have an impact on the environment. This is a symbiotic relationship. There is an opportunity for improvement or deterioration in the offspring just on the basis of all possible genetic combinations. Minor changes add up to big ones.

    Darwin's findings about how the environment causes variations in living things is accurate in his proposals although his tenders are mostly humanistic with references to biology especially with regards to "monstrosities" that simply don't have any reason for things like "wings", such as some insects and some birds, if they can't fly. Vestiges are an extremely good case for evolution. The cave crab with an eye stalk without an eye is like a telescope without the lens. Darwin identifies the possibility of sex linked traits in animals, a proven point today.

    Reading TOOS is like a romance novel where the birth of something to unify the sciences further is described in a man's love for nature and his crucial discovery. TOOS is something that needs to be reread several times for the full impact. Walking around in the world today knowing that all organisms have evolved from lesser complexity to greater complexity by means of natural selection is a whole different worldview to thinking that a supernatural deity did it. Challenge yourself. Try it....more info
  • Even compared to modern non-fiction, this book fares well
    Many reviewers start with the warning that this is primarily a scientific
    work, and therefore a casual reader may find it difficult to read. I would
    take quite the opposite view: given that this _is_ a scientific work,
    comparable in its impact to Newton's Principia, it is a surprisingly
    easy and lively read. While the text is a bit dry, and the numerous examples
    may seem overwhelming, I still found Darwin to be a gifted writer, and his choice
    of examples enlightening, and entertaining (this is the first time I read about
    ants that enslave other ants, for instance). I wish
    that modern scholarly works in biology, or any other science, were
    written nearly as well as the "Origin of Species."

    Even so, it is difficult to give this book a rating. It's impact on the view we
    have of ourselves as a species is so enormous that judging the literary
    merrits of the book is, perhaps, beside the point. Darwin's amazing prescience,
    and the thoughtfulness in presenting an "abstract" of his argument for
    descent with modifications are awe inspiring....more info
  • This edition is poorly formatted.
    Darwin's _Origin of Species_ is a phenomenal work and was truly brilliant and insightful at the time. It's a classic of science and it's one of those books that everyone should read.

    That said, this particular Kindle edition of the book is disappointing. Primarily, the text is fully-justified rather than normal left-aligned (right-ragged). (This means that spacing between words varies so that the last characters of each line end up being aligned along the righthand margin, and the first characters are still aligned along the left margin.) It's a well-known principle of typography that justified text is harder to read than ragged text -- the spacing between words is variable, so your eyes have to work harder to move over the text. I don't see why this edition would have made that choice.

    If you want to read this excellent book, you might consider a different edition....more info
  • Too outdated
    Many people don't realize that there are many flaws with the theory of evolution. And that Darwin was not in fact a naturalist on the Beagle...BUT the captain's companion. In addition to that we have found NO evidance of one species evolving to another.
    A creature such as Homohabilus is actually thought to be a combination of other bones put together...meaning that it is not real. It is a made-up creature that people have made themselves believe real to support their ideas without actual scientific evidence.
    I believe that Darwin's theory is wonderful, but people have to be more open-minded and not believe everything they read or hear. ...more info
  • Natural Selection to be accepted by Christianity by 2136AD?
    It took 277 years for the Church to accept that the universe did not revolve around the Earth, from the publication of Copernicus' 'On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres' in 1543 to the Vatican's total repeal of the condemnation of the Copernican doctrine in the period 1820 to 1835. If that's anything to go by as far as the speed with which the Church accepts new truths about the universe, none of us will be around to see the day Darwin is vindicated as one of humanity's guiding lights, as opposed to the Son of Satan. Seldom in history has such a noble person been subjected to such vilification. It reminds one of the ridicule once heaped on supporters of the Copernican theory, and their disbelieving mockery - how could the Earth possibly revolve without the people flying off? Today we all can only laugh at their ignorance, but only some of us can laugh at the ignorance of those 'Flat-Earthers' who still disregard Darwin's theory. Like many have already pointed out, much of the material that fuels the evolution debate is not to be found in this book. There are no claims or even insinuations in the book of descent from apes. Rather, it was disciples like Huxley who really helped focus the debate on man's primate anscestry, and Darwin was far more direct in his beliefs in his later books such as 'The Descent of Man' and 'The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals', both of which are worth reading as they bolster his theory in countless ways, always combining a penetrating natural observation with intelligent analysis. In fact, I must admit to enjoying them even more than this book, although of course as Darwin's classic, it's a must read for anyone interested in man's evolution, and no open-minded person could possibly remain unconvinced after going through Darwin's evidence and arguments against spontaneous creation. (Creationists still believe that God came down to Earth in 19th century industrial revolution England to create the darker moths which started appearing as the trees gradually darkened from pollution, kindly making sure they did not stick out like sore thumbs on the blackened trees anymore...)...more info
  • This edition is poorly formatted.
    Darwin's _Origin of Species_ is a phenomenal work and was truly brilliant and insightful at the time. It's a classic of science and it's one of those books that everyone should read.

    That said, this particular Kindle edition of the book is disappointing. Primarily, the text is fully-justified rather than normal left-aligned (right-ragged). (This means that spacing between words varies so that the last characters of each line end up being aligned along the righthand margin, and the first characters are still aligned along the left margin.) It's a well-known principle of typography that justified text is harder to read than ragged text -- the spacing between words is variable, so your eyes have to work harder to move over the text. I don't see why this edition would have made that choice.

    If you want to read this excellent book, you might consider a different edition....more info
  • A must read the original book has some of the best arguments
    In this wonderfully readable text Darwin introduces the ideas that have changed biology.
    The two strongest points of the book are: its readability, which it really is, it's arguments against repeated creationism, which are among the best and clearest I have read.
    The structure of the arguments for his theory which slowly unfolds for the eyes of the reader makes for a convincing and readable story. Of course the book being 150 years old there are some shortcomings, especially focussed around Darwin's lack of knowledge of the mechanisms invoklved in inheritance (genes). Quoting and treating of scientific references might also appear oldfashioned.
    In spite of thse shortcomings the impact of this book has been so immense that I would advice everyone to read it, that is why it got the 5 stars as well. Without reading it neither supporters nor opponents of his theories can fairly debate about its implicaitons...more info
  • The most important Biology book of all times!!!
    Every biologist (professional or amateur), every lover of the nature, every scientist have to read this book. "Origin of the species" opened the doors for a new era of scientific thought and dramatically shaped the development of all life sciences. It correctly describes, for the very first time, a most fundamental truth of the natural world, one which had eluded philosophers and scientists for millenia.
    Beautiful, just beautiful. An intellectual triumph for mankind. Thank you, Charles! ...more info
  • Evolution
    The Origin of Species: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

    This is an excellent ebook. Darwin was a great scientist! ...more info
  • Wonderfully readable
    The cover of this edition is misleading as Darwin only refers to man once in this book. It was in "Descent of Man" that he addressed the subject of evolution in man. That aside, this is a great book. Darwin wrote one of the most readable scientific texts in history. It also happens to be one of the most important science books in all of history. If you have never read a seminal science book before, treat yourself and see what a pleasure it can be....more info
  • Great edition
    I liked the edition very much. Its legibility is very nice and it's a lightweighted version, dispite its 470 pages. I was just disapointed with the illustrations, that have very little relation to the text. But this fact doesnt compromise the quality of the whole. And the content... well, it's darwin world changing work, very readable....more info
  • Requirement for the Advanced Biology Student
    It is a crying shame that many reviewers have used this forum to try and critique evolutionary theory, making no references to the text at all and drawing on erroneous conclusions about Darwin in general. The Origin of Species is most definitely the most important work in the field of biology, as it is the most succinct and well developed explanations of the unifying principle of the field, evolution via descent with modification. I don't want to spend a lot of time explaining the theory or why a person should study it. I want to explain who should read this book and why. If you are looking for an introductory text on the theory of evolution you need to stay well away. There are other better books. In many cases Darwin's examples and arguments are outmoded or have been changed. The book overlooks many aspects that are included in modern evolutionary theory, such as genetics, simply because Darwin did not know about them. Natural selection as Darwin wrote it is one of the most effective explanatory theories in all of science but by reading this book you miss almost 150 years of the things it has explained. It is also a flat out PAIN to read, they where much "wordier" in the 1800's and Darwin's English is rather stilted and formal, even compared to modern scientific writing. So, who should read this book? Any person who is an advanced student in biology (I read it the summer before my senior year) should be aware of how the modern theory of evolution was born. You can't really achieve this without reading Origins. I am aware of no better way of understanding evolution that to follow its development through time, beginning with Darwin. And, if you don't understand evolution, you don't understand biology. As something to read it is a classic, arguably the most influential work of all time.

    A note on edition: this copy is the one I have. I would suggest the facsimile of the First Edition found elsewhere on Amazon. I don't know why the publishers felt the need to put the caricatured human evolution (addressed nowhere in the book) on the cover....more info

  • Very Very Good
    While neo-Darwinism is still struggling and many prominent biochemists, physicists, and biologists themselves are predicting its demise in its current form, Darwinism, as presented in the Origin of Species is still undisputed. Instead of reading claptrap that evolutionary theory has inadvertently produced, I recommend reading the book that started it all. Yes, much of it is refutable, but this books stands as a testament to one of the best theories science ever put forward. And unlike neo-Darwinism, it is not just one giant contradiction. Recommended....more info
  • Elegantly brilliant
    I had read The Voyage of the Beagle first. It is easy to see how Darwin's theory of evolution was growing as he traveled and saw how plants and animals adapted to different environments. Then he invented a theory to explain what he had observed.
    This book is a 300 page definition of the theory of natural selection. Darwin goes through a detailed explanation of how evolution must have occured. He is very methodically, very detailed. When he doesn't understand something, he says he doesn't. He is humble in his presentation, giving credit to other scientists. I was amazed at how many experiments he performed himself, growing generations of plants and insects, watching how they developed and changed.
    There is a quote in the book from Darwin's gardener who said, "He's really a sad little man. Sometimes he stands and stares at a flower for hours. I really think he'd be better off if he had something to do."
    We are so lucky that Darwin inherited money and could spend his early years traveling and his later years in contemplation and writing. ...more info
  • Natural Selection to be accepted by Christianity by 2136AD?
    It took 277 years for the Church to accept that the universe did not revolve around the Earth, from the publication of Copernicus' 'On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres' in 1543 to the Vatican's total repeal of the condemnation of the Copernican doctrine in the period 1820 to 1835. If that's anything to go by as far as the speed with which the Church accepts new truths about the universe, none of us will be around to see the day Darwin is vindicated as one of humanity's guiding lights, as opposed to the Son of Satan. Seldom in history has such a noble person been subjected to such vilification. It reminds one of the ridicule once heaped on supporters of the Copernican theory, and their disbelieving mockery - how could the Earth possibly revolve without the people flying off? Today we all can only laugh at their ignorance, but only some of us can laugh at the ignorance of those 'Flat-Earthers' who still disregard Darwin's theory. Like many have already pointed out, much of the material that fuels the evolution debate is not to be found in this book. There are no claims or even insinuations in the book of descent from apes. Rather, it was disciples like Huxley who really helped focus the debate on man's primate anscestry, and Darwin was far more direct in his beliefs in his later books such as 'The Descent of Man' and 'The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals', both of which are worth reading as they bolster his theory in countless ways, always combining a penetrating natural observation with intelligent analysis. In fact, I must admit to enjoying them even more than this book, although of course as Darwin's classic, it's a must read for anyone interested in man's evolution, and no open-minded person could possibly remain unconvinced after going through Darwin's evidence and arguments against spontaneous creation. (Creationists still believe that God came down to Earth in 19th century industrial revolution England to create the darker moths which started appearing as the trees gradually darkened from pollution, kindly making sure they did not stick out like sore thumbs on the blackened trees anymore...)...more info
  • talkin' to a dead man
    "Step back from the tree Charles"

    ...he can't - he's dead....more info
  • Well worth the read...
    "If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly service) that individuals having many advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favorable variations and the rejection of injurious variations I call Natural Selection" p. 130, The Origin of Species.

    "Many Christians perceive evolutionary science itself as essentially an enemy of the faith, and so expend considerable energy attempting to deny its explanatory power..." states F. LeRon Shults in his brilliant book Reforming Theological Anthropology (p. 207). I've owned The Origin of Species for nearly 10 years now but never actually read it: or hardly cracked it open. I did spend a lot of time trying to DISprove what I had not read though - which really got me nowhere. I'll be preaching on ideas of creation and evolution at our church in Brooklyn, and decided that instead of just giving second-hand quotes from the book without reading it, why not read it? I'm glad that I did.

    Darwin's most well-known book was really virtually nothing like I had expected that it would be, and I found that I really enjoyed it: and for the most part thought that he made excellent points. At no point did I ever see him trying to disprove God in any way - he simply spoke against "the common idea of creation" (pp. 66-67, 113, 171, 223, 379, 382, 384, 392, 415-417, 458, et. al) which he seemed to take as meaning `all things were created as they are today with no room for mutability' or something along those lines. In fact at several points he even seemed concerned that we not mock God/the Creator. On page 201 Darwin states, "To admit this view is, as it seems to me, to reject a real for an unreal, or at least for an unknown, cause. It makes the works of God a mere mockery and deception; I would almost as soon believe with the old an ignorant cosmogonists, that fossil shells had never lived, but had been created in stone so as to mock the shells now living on the sea-shore."

    Darwin very systematically looks at a number of objections and problems to his theories - for example:

    "To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree." p.217

    "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not have possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case..." p.219

    "If it could be proved and any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection." p.228-229

    "Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record." p.292

    "If numerous species, belonging to the same genera or families, have really started into life all at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of descent with slow modification through natural selection." p.309

    It is important to note, however, that after each of these possible explanations Darwin gives credible thoughts as to how these (and other objections) could be overcome. He often "freely admits" that not all will believe his theory based off of his arguments, and I find that the general tenor of the book is humble: at times a little too apologetic (in the "I'm sorry for this" sense) as he often states that [putting all the details here would be impossible]. I'm actually thankful for that as at times the book became frightfully boring as he listed fact after fact about different species/varieties of creatures. Don't get me wrong though: there were many shining moments of interest as I read. For example the section on ants (p.243ff), the bit about the seeds in the mud that he studied (p.374ff) and the section on the metamorphosis of the cirripedes which I found to be stunningly interesting (p.420ff).

    Darwin's tremendous volume of study is clear throughout the book: the ease that he demonstrates in switching his focus from animal to animal and issue to issue was extraordinary - it would be fantastic to actually meet him and watch his mind work.

    I think that Darwin's most significant contribution in the book overall is showing just how dependant the entire world is on each other - I think that we could all learn a lot from this very true concept. On page 125 he states, "Hence it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district" just to name one such instance of interdependence.

    Another sort of `theme' that emerges in the book is Darwin's need for an actual explanation of why things are the way they are (pp.67, 399, 415-417, et. al.). He's not happy to just say "such and such was created thus" - he want to know WHY they are the way that they are. The Bible (both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament) are really never interested in the "why" or "how" of creation - only that ultimately God was responsible. With this pointed out, I can confidently say that nothing in "The Origin of Species" contradicts anything that's in the bible to any sort of severe degree, outside of staunch strict literalism, which the Biblical texts by no means demand.

    I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about the core of the ideas that have become so prevalent in today's world. I'll end my review with one last quote, which is what Darwin states at the very end of the book (pp.459-460):

    "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 fixes law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
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  • Amazing Book!!!
    First you must read the voyage of the beagle by Darwin in which this book is base and it will make much more sense for you to read!!!!...more info
  • A Handy Edition of this Vital Classic
    There are many different versions of Darwin's "The Origin of Species" available, but I found this one particularly helpful. First, while it is nicely printed and easy to read on good paper, it is not terribly expensive. Second, it reprints the first or original version of the book which Darwin subsequently modified substantially in the the further five editions he published. Third, it also includes Darwin's "Historical Sketch" and "glossary" which had not appeared in the first edition. Fourth, the color cover illustration by the Victorian artist Henry de la Beche is an important indicator of why the Victorians were so into prehistoric studies. However, the thing that really distinguishes this Penguin Books edition is the incredibily incisive and invaluable introduction by the editor, J.W. Burrow. Burrow is beyond question one of the most significant intellectual historians of our time. Among other things he has written extensively on the concept of evolution in Victorian thought in his classic "Evolution and Society: A Study in Victorian Social Theory." In 37 crisp pages, Burrow incomparably sketches the Victorian intellectual background against which Darwin wrote. Although the essay is nearly 40 years old, it has stood the test of time very well. It alone is worth the price of the book. Altogether, a very nice introduction to this critical event in scientific and intellectual history. ...more info
  • One of the Greatest Books ever written
    Darwin was one of the most brilliant men who ever lived. He was perhaps the greatest observer the world has known. In 1831, he set sail on the Beagle, a tiny little ship, for a five-year cruise around the world, and without pay, as naturalist. He had studied theology, medicine, and, finally, biology and geology. He saw how organisms change with time and environment and how Biblical events simply could not have happened as stated. He spent twenty-three years going over his notes, rethinking, and agonizing over the results. In 1859, he published Origin of Species, and it upset the world. He demonstrated evolution as no one had. Uneducated religious leaders may ridicule it, but evolution is a fact, accepted by any intelligent, educated, honest person....more info
  • ONE OF THE GREAT WORKS
    "Origin of Species" differs from most other scientific books or original articles in that it can be understood in its original form by an average person. When Newton wrote his Principia, only a handful of people could understand it. It had math and it was written in Latin. But Darwin's method is the same as Newton's: both developed a theory which "explained" observation. Neither gave nor claimed to give the final word. Neither is a discussion of ethics, politics, religion. business, etc. It was known to everyone that variation in life existed with some sets of living organisms being more akin to one another than to other sets. Some sub-sets within a given set of organisms were able to interbreed with one another, but not with other members of the set. Darwin attempted to explain how this happened. Science is never "true" in the sense that
    religion is "true". Science does not depend upon the authority of individues.
    The idea that the Pope may pronounce something true and it becomes "true" is a different definition of the word "true" than Darwin or Newton or any other scientist saying someing is true--on the one hand the "truth" exists because of who made the statement, but on the (scientific) hand, the one making the statement is not relevant.

    Some reviewers have stated that "Origin of Species" is hard to read. I suppose that is true compared to a novel, but compared to most scientific literature it is a piece of cake. It is about as hard to read as "The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith.

    Darwin's work, like all science, is based upon the concept that nature is consistent over time. To throw out Origin of Species
    based upon the idea that God creates inconsistencies now and again to effect this purpose or that mekes no more sense than throwing out Newton, Einstein etc and physics and chemistry as well as biology. No amount of evidence to the contrary convinces those who insist upon God's intervention because it cannot be absolutely disproved. Such views are OK, but they are not science and must not be introduced into science classes.

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