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On the Origin of Species

On the Origin of Species

Написано Charles Darwin

Озвучено Peter Wickham


On the Origin of Species

Написано Charles Darwin

Озвучено Peter Wickham

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4.5/5 (29 оценки)
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21 hours
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Jul 1, 2016
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9781843799696
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Perhaps the most influential science book ever written, On the Origin of Species has continued to fascinate readers for more than a century after its initial publication. Its controversial theory that populations evolve and adapt through a process known as natural selection led to heated scientific, philosophical and religious debate, revolutionizing every discipline in its wake. With its clear, concise and surprisingly enjoyable prose, On the Origin of Species is both captivating and edifying.
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Издано:
Jul 1, 2016
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9781843799696
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Charles Darwin was an English naturalist and author best-known for his revolutionary theories on the origin of species, human evolution, and natural selection. A life-long interest in the natural world led Darwin to neglect his medical studies and instead embark on a five-year scientific voyage on the HMS Beagle, where he established his reputation as a geologist and gathered much of the evidence that fuelled his later theories. A prolific writer, Darwin’s most famous published works include The Voyage of the Beagle, On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Darwin died in 1882, and in recognition of his contributions to science, is buried in Westminster Abbey along with John Herschel and Isaac Newton.


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  • (5/5)
    Charles Darwin was born at Shrewsbury, England in 1809, the son of a doctor, and grandson of Erasmus Darwin, the author of "The Botanic Garden". He compiled proof and documentation for explanations about living and nonliving things which exist. He begins with a simple, irrefutable, persuasive observation: "When we look to the individuals of the same variety or sub-variety of our older cultivated plants and animals, one of the first points which strikes us, is, that they generally differ much more from each other, than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature. When we reflect on the vast diversity of the plants and animals which have been cultivated, and which have varied during all ages under the most different climates and treatment, I think we are driven to conclude that this greater variability is simply due to our domestic productions having been raised under conditions of life not so uniform as, and somewhat different from, those to which the parent-species have been exposed under nature."While this 1909 work has been challenged, the proof remains. Critics also remain, but they have not "read" even the first sentence of this work. It remains fact, not theory. Not speculation.
  • (5/5)
    Important foundation for knowledge. An interesting read for me the summer after 8th grade.
  • (5/5)
    To begin with, a note on the edition. This Barnes & Noble Classics series version is based on the first edition of The Origin of Species, which is actually nice for a couple of reasons. First, it allows the reader to experience the book as it originally appeared. This is not only interesting historically, but a nearly unmitigated virtue because of the second reason: The core content of the book remained essentially the same throughout the later revisions Darwin made in his lifetime, but such changes as he did make were for the most part unnecessary or even (in retrospect) unfortunate---mainly minor concessions to skeptics (religious and otherwise) and to the Lamarckian theory of evolution (as opposed to natural selection as the basic mechanism driving evolutionary change).That said, there are several things to say about the book itself. First, it is extremely readable. Modern audiences (especially those educated in the American government schools, which almost certainly failed to introduce them to this material) might be intimidated by the prospect of tackling a somewhat technical scientific volume of this size written a century and a half ago. Those who attempt it, however, will be pleasantly surprised to find that Darwin's presentation is extremely clear and intelligible, at times even beautiful. This admirable writing style is in large part due to his scientific method, which leads me to the book's next great virtue.Darwin's approach is primarily inductive---that is, he was not some armchair philosopher abstractly theorizing off in an ivory tower somewhere, as one might suspect from the photograph of him as a bearded old man with which we are usually presented. In other words, evolution is not "just a theory," precisely because Darwin was not just a theorist. Rather, Darwin gathered massive amounts of evidence on his Beagle voyage, and continued to accumulate ever more (with the help of his scientific colleagues in various related disciplines) for decades before he felt ready to publish his theory (and he still felt rushed into it). (Indeed, for anyone interested in the philosophy of science, or in epistemology in general, On the Origin of Species should be the textbook case of scientific induction.) Darwin then presents all of this evidence to us piece by piece, building up his case from the ground, as it were, and in effect recreating his own line of thinking for his reader making it incredibly easy to follow his case.Which brings us to the third point: What kinds of evidence does Darwin draw on? Intriguingly, Darwin did not begin his career as a biologist aiming to solve the species question. He boarded the Beagle as a brilliant amateur natural scientist generally with an inclination toward geology. Perhaps this is why he was able to draw so widely on various fields in making his case for evolution when that question did become his main interest. From Lyell's theories and his own geological observations, Darwin concluded that the period of time available actually allowed for a very (previously unthinkably) slow process of evolution. From this geological perspective, he naturally was able to look at various pieces of evidence more directly bearing on the species question, such as the fossil record and (more importantly) the geographical distribution of species. After the Beagle voyage, he was able to conduct experiments in many other areas (and correspond with colleagues about the results of their experiments), including artificial selection (Darwin's pigeons being the most famous example of this) which became important as an analogy for the process of natural selection; the means of the geographical distribution and isolation of species (including seeing whether seeds can germinate after extended periods of submersion in salt water or passing through the digestive tracts of birds); and even the sex lives of barnacles. All of these experiments are described at some length in The Origin of Species.But Darwin, ever the scientist, was in fact cautious not to overstep the limits of what he could prove. The Origin of Species contains an excellent chapter anticipating and answering possible objections to his theory, and acknowledging its shortcomings. For instance, Darwin acknowledges that the fossil record at the time did not tend to show gradual progression from one species to another, and offers an explanation as to why the fossil record might be so incomplete. He also acknowledges that while he found the evidence for evolution by means of natural selection to be overwhelming, he did not know the actual physical, biological mechanism by which this takes place (as genes had not been discovered and the discipline of genetics created at that time), but he does briefly mention a hypothesis that was actually sort of on the right track. In fact, in all of these weak areas, subsequent history has borne Darwin and his theory out remarkably well.And finally, in addition to being a masterpiece of scientific thought, The Origin of Species is also a work of, at times, almost poetic beauty, and deserves praise for its literary merit. After presenting or indicating all the evidence in a specific area throughout each section, Darwin ends each chapter by summing it up in an eloquent statement naming the general principle to be derived from this vast array of specific evidence, often employing an apt and evocative metaphor. The most famous of these passages is of course the one with which he concludes the book: "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."You cannot legitimately consider yourself an educated person if you haven't read this wonderful book, and yet a shockingly small percentage of Americans (including even those who claim to believe in evolution) have read it. But you will find that to do so is not a chore, but one of life's great pleasures.
  • (4/5)
    A handsome boxed cover edition by the Heritage Press of one of the landmark works of science. I read the book in college and while now I remember only the broad outlines of Darwin's ideas, I was impressed with the clarity of his presentation of the evidence and the theory that arose from it. I have this book already in an earlier 1906 edition. I just couldn't resist this edition I found at an estate sale, because of the lovely wood engravings throughout the book by Paul Landacre. He is a favorite artist of mine; his "Sultry Day" print hangs in my living room.
  • (4/5)
    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 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."But, after all, this book is now over 150 years old. Science is about explaining natural phenomenon and correcting mistakes through observation, experimentation and falsification--not dogma--and so is always a moving target. I know that. 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. WTF Darwin? 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. Darwin thought changes in species were very gradual. Gould favors "punctuated equilibrium" where there are rapid changes followed by long periods of stability. That's why scientists today talk of the "theory of evolution," not of "Darwinism" as if a scientific principle is an unchanging creed and Origin of Species scripture.So, the book is dated and filled with lots of details I'm sure are just plain wrong and might be onerous to unlearn. That does make me reluctant to give this book top marks despite its profound impact. Someone interested in modern evolutionary science would be better off picking up a copy of a book by Jared Diamond, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan (although by now I suppose his very readable Dragons of Eden is dated) or Stephen Jay Gould. So, was there no value in reading On the Origin of Species? I wouldn't say that. It's surprisingly readable--or at least understandable. There are definitely dry passages that were a slog to get through, my eyes glazing over as Darwin gave example after exhaustive example to make his points. However, I couldn't help but be impressed by the knowledge of nature shown by his wide-ranging examples from every continent from ants and bees and algae to pigeons to zebras. Given the way he cited various authorities and spoke about his own experiments, I definitely felt that here was a master generalist and enthusiast on nature. Moreover Darwin does have a gift for metaphor and illustrative examples. I was particularly taken by his explanation of "inter-crossing" and the function of sex in creating biological diversity. I also was struck by how cautious and civil in tone Darwin is in his arguments, devoting an entire chapter on what he saw could be the flaws and holes in his theory--particularly the issues of transitions between species and intermediate forms. Bottom line? Arguably this specific book had as much influence on the literature and politics of the next century as Freud or Marx, so I think there is historical value in reading this, preferably in the first edition (which is what I read) that exploded upon the world in 1859.
  • (5/5)
    This isn't a book you'd read for fun, but for understanding and enrichment. Personally, I found it edifying to understand Darwin's thinking. In his younger days, he had traveled much of the world, and was primarily employed in collecting specimens from each region he visited. Over the years, he connected with farmers to discuss how different plants and animals were bred for certain traits. He catalogued the variations in species he would find in different areas having different "conditions of life". He studied and experimented as to how seeds, eggs, larvae, and adult creatures could travel from one place to another. He looked into the geological record and the fossil remains of creatures now extinct. He studies the embryos of plants and animals, and found that embryos of creatures of the same class had the same appearance and features, regardless of how different these creatures came to appear as adults. From a lifetime's study of all these factors, he came up with a unified theory of natural selection. In brief, that a creature's offspring will vary minutely in each generation, and that these miniscule variations give advantages to some and disadvantages to others. The most successful of these variations are passed on.
  • (4/5)
    A Classic. One of the most pathbreaking books of all times. A book, which took me a little over a year to finish. "The" discourse on Evolution, the world of Darwin, which all of us are familiar with, we grew up in, with little understood or completely misunderstood and misused idioms like "Survival of the Fittest", which Darwin, interestingly attributes to Herbert Spencer.I am sure everyone reading this review knows what the book would generally be about, and therefore, I would like to discuss some other features, which struck me. The book has a strong defensive undercurrent, through which Darwin at times is more concerned with defending his position than asserting his viewpoint. Darwin's tone, at places, where there is little proof to propagate his theory, is almost apologetic. Then he writes that many naturalists have come to terms with natural selection, while ridiculing others, who may still believe in independent creation of species.Another most interesting observation was the glaring and most obvious absence of any definitive statement on the evolution of humans - a clear indication on Darwin's lack of willingness to rake up such a sensitive issue, his work being controversial enough as it already was. He touches upon this topic most superficially, carefully sandwiched in a para about Herbert Spencer and human psychology, "In the future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be securely based on the foundation already well laid by Mr. Herbert Spencer, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history." Darwin revisited this topic 12 years later, in his The Descent of Man, by which time, the populace probably had enough time to digest and accept the basic tenets of evolution.A timeless book, even if now dated.
  • (5/5)
    I'm super glad to read this book - it was really enjoyable!One of the things I was struck by Darwin's writing was that it was eminently readable and was basically constructed as an essay with a prodigious amount of evidence lined up to back up the arguments made. I am impressed by his clarity in articulation that make his communication and message conveyable despite requisite nuance.The heart of this particular book is that animals and plants vary - that they are mutable over time via human control (i.e. breeding) but also do so naturally, and that selection pressures are the mechanism, and that over time variability, heredity, and selection are the underlying principles of evolution.It was quite clear that he was conscious of possible detractors - on both scientific and creationist grounds. And he readily admits that readers who simply are not already convinced of things like the vast age of the earth etc. are just not going to agree because of things like the imperfection of the geological record (which is still true, though some gaps have since been filled). This is still true today even with the accumulated knowledge of paleontology and geology due to (willful?) ignorance and/or disbelief regarding how fossils and rocks are aged.Aside from the assembly, synthesis, and description of a vast array of fascinating facts and evidence, was the ability to put forth a complicated argument fairly succinctly and then address potential detractions head on. What surprised me was that some of the things that he addressed were *still* being used as arguments against evolution of species via natural selection! For example I heard arguments by some espousing Intelligent Design talking about how the eye was something too complicated to have arisen or be selected for -- but Darwin addressed this fairly well (I thought!), noting several species that either had intermediate forms or uses for eyes and light sensitivity. The point being that for all the recent hubabaloo, we appear to be going around the same merry-go-round back and forth regarding whether or not we buy into this explanation of the natural world, without making much progress over the course of a century and a half.If you feel at all invested in the argument over evolution one way or the other, my feeling is that it's at least worth reading Darwin's original works rather than getting into a lather about bullet points that are only a poor shadow of their context.
  • (5/5)
    OK, so maybe the book is a difficult read, as many Victorian books are. The language may strike a modern reader as a bit arcane, and the sheer length and breadth of the work may be staggering to those used to getting their information in short, pithy bits. Still, let's be honest. This is THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, and it completely revolutionized biology, so I think the least one can do is give it 5 stars (since that is all that's allowable). To anyone who really reads this book, it should be impossible to continue to parrot the popular canard that there is no evidence for evolution. In the days before DNA, and when hominid fossils were still fairly sparse, and we knew very little about the microscopic world, Darwin was able to compile an impressive array of evidence, most of it while sitting in his own library at Down House in England. This book is rightly considered a classic, not just for its style, but for its substance.
  • (5/5)
    This remains one of my favourite books (not science books, but books in general) of all time. It is definitely worth while to get this edition. Others are sometimes abridged, or maybe taken from one of Darwin's earlier editions. The great thing about the final edition is that Darwin was able to explain things more clearly, by responding to the criticisms of the prior editions.Everyone should read this book. The thought process, and the simplicity of it all, makes the theory of natural selection one of the greatest scientific theories to date.
  • (3/5)
    I enjoyed reading the book that is the foundation of evolutionary biology, and it's fascinating to see what we used to believe and how far we've come.
  • (4/5)
    Easily the most difficult part of the book is Victorian logorrhea. The concepts are familiar enough to the interested not to be difficult any longer although I can imagine at the time that the average Joe would have had a tough time deciding, at best, what to believe and what not and, at worst, just railing against the book for its unpardonable blasphemy. Interestingly, Darwin seems to have had some trouble with math and elephants, and confirmed this issue on the internet. Also, on page 363 of this edition, Darwin, as best I can gather, seems to think that during an ice age the ocean will rise. Where did he think the water would come from for the ice? Advanced and certainly more developed thinking than Wallace had put together though both rather simultaneously developed the theory. A theory that saw its time a-coming. Very important book that is worth the wade through.
  • (4/5)
    There were significantly less pigeons than I expected. And a lot more pigeons. A LOT more. Thoroughly readable given its age and audience. Not too bad.
  • (5/5)
    What can one really say about this book?I found that this book, like most scientific books, well documented and referenced. The discussion related to domestication set the tone for much of the rest of the book by laying the ground work that most people know and believe but why do people doubt the rest of the book?I read this book due to the fact that many have made amazing claims about it and it has been clear that they had not read the book....Now that I have I can say that they did not.This should be required reading.
  • (4/5)
    It is only fair that I divide my review into two parts: Writing and Content:Writing: Darwin is obviously writing from a different century. With complex syntax and extensive vocabulary, both scientific and non, his writing is dense, convoluted and so very boring. Even if one makes allowances for the difference in writing styles, I still find his writing to drag on and on. Darwin stated he wrote this work for the masses, and I grant that he gave it a valiant effort, however much he failed.Content: Brilliant. From someone who was raised (and remains) a believer in Creationism, I have to say his work is logical, scientific, and well-thought out. He answered well many of the main arguments against his ideas. He mentioned many experiments conducted to further study his findings, and mentioned many works by contemporary naturalist that he drew on to reach his conclusion. As someone trained in the sciences, this does much to improve my thoughts about his ideas. Despite what many people say - Evolutionist and Creationist alike - Darwin's work is factual and logical, and demands serious consideration from anyone claiming to want to know the truth. While I have not reconciled my belief in a creator-God and the evidence of evolution, reading Darwin is a start for me and I recommend it as a start for anyone wishing to find the truth.
  • (4/5)
    Example after example for the explanation of life and how it has evolved. From plants to animals and everything in between. How climate and geography plays a role in the evolutionary process. He goes into many details that can be lengthy but overall a good representation of different species and their origin.
  • (5/5)
    On the Origin of Species is one of the most influential and fact-proven books of all-time. Unfortunately, some people don't think so and want to discredit Charles Darwin's work. However, facts and reason will prevail.
  • (4/5)
    It's amazing to me how much Darwin got right in this book, and also all that he got wrong.
  • (5/5)
    Fantastic book.

    chapter 13 was probably my favorite chapter. Thats where everything comes to a head and he brings up the similarities between different species as well as vestigial organs and how it could have served previous generations but be rendered useless or redundant now.

    It was impressive that he noticed and brought up several things that would later be fully explained by science.

    One such thing was linked genes. When talking about pigeons he mentioned that beak size and foot size would always be correlated. He admits hes not sure why but in all cases with pigeon breeding if you have a small beak you have tiny feet.

    As an interesting note: he never brings up the finches. Ever. He hardly ever mentions the Galapagos. Mostly that he visited it and it had a small highly specialized group of species.

    For the most part he talks about fancy pigeons. So if you want an easier time reading the book go look up fancy pigeons, look at all the different breeds of domestic pigeons, memorize them, then read the book. Trust me he brings them up a lot.
  • (4/5)
    Facsimile of first edition, with "An Historical Sketch" and "Glossary" from sixth edition.
  • (4/5)
    I recommend reading of this book because of the importance of it. When Charles Darwin published this in 1859 it rocked the English speaking world. Up to that point the religious idea of creation was unquestionably accepted. Religion held a lot of power over people and their lives. Then this book came out, and it put into question all that the English world held dear about God and creation. I don't know if any piece of literature has had such a profound affect on society and its beliefs. When I read it, I thought that it might be boring because of the scope of the work, but it's actually not boring because it's simply and plainly written. Remember the whole theory of evolution originated from this one work.
  • (5/5)
    It's very discursive. You can almost hear Darwin pulling up a chair to the fireplace to discuss this idea he's had. And he's thought about it a lot.It's also very cleverly written, starting with something the reader knows about (the human breeding of pigeons) then expanding slowly from that to the new stuff, but returning to that base whenever Darwin needs a clear, easy-to-understand example.It's a complete refutation of the 'one great man makes a giant leap for human understanding' way of looking at scientific progress, with Darwin being very careful to say where and who he has got information from and whose ideas he's building on (even if he's retested as much of the info as he can and tested his theories as best as he can). He's also a lot nicer about his fellow scientists than a look of books today are.I like that Darwin states the parts where his theory might not explain everything, and that he uses observation to try to plug those gaps.He might have been able to cover more detail in the book if he stopped apologising for the amount of stuff he couldn't put in.Looking backwards from what we know now, it's amazing how close Darwin gets to being right about most of it, and a lot of his uncertainties could only have been cleared up once genes and sequencing were discovered.There's a couple of points where he wanders down paths that turned out to be dead ends (recapitulation theory is bunk) and we've still not got a 'how' of instincts, but given the information Darwin had to work with, he's right more than he's wrong.It's pretty much a must read for scientists, and it's reasonably accessible to non-scientists, and a fairly straight-forward read once you've got used to certain Victorian writing quirks.Definitely worth reading.
  • (5/5)
    One of the most important scientific works ever written and a very impressive achievement.Darwin discusses his theory of the origin of species in a groundbreaking work that changed biology forever. I was very impressed with the way he expounds his theory. The novel takes you by the hand and explains different reasons why he believes this theory to be correct step by step. His work abounds in examples and evidence gathered by himself and other scientists, making it a very comprehensive and exhaustive work.Aside from discussing evidence in favour of his theory, Darwin also discusses many counterarguments. Some he refutes immediately, often with copious evidence, but others remain standing, even at the end of the book. Somehow, I actually rather liked this about him: he has a theory, he believes it to be true, but he is still aware that there are things that are problematic and isn't afraid to discuss them. It shows Darwin in a way that is simultaneously strong and convincing, as well as modest and almost fragile.Darwin was fully aware that there were problematic aspects to his theory - most notably the lack of genetic knowledge in his day - but still makes a convincing case based on the evidence he had available. He was also very much aware that people would disagree with his theory, which has made his discussion of facts very rigorous. He knew people would try to counter it, and spends a lot of time debunking any possible arguments they might give.I think for a person in our time it is somewhat difficult to truly comprehend the importance of Darwin's achievement. By now, evolutionary theory is so accepted that it is hard to imagine people ever believed otherwise. Reading Darwin's book you wonder that nobody saw this before - and some of the scientists in his own days felt the same way! Sure, there had been other theories and Wallace was proposing the same theory, so there definitely had been prior developments making this the logical next step, but it still remains an amazing thing that this book was written.A great work that anybody with an interest in biology and evolution should read.
  • (2/5)
    I marked this as 'Read' which isn't wholly true. If there was a 'Kinda, Sorta, Read' button I would have clicked that. Wow, I'm in awe of anyone who did read this cover to cover. Kudos to you, kudos to you.
  • (2/5)
    The journey of Charles Darwin on the H.M.S. Beagle and his reports, discoveries and observations relating to natural science and evolution. Fairly interesting for a book on science even though it is rather dated. The stir it caused in the mid 1800s no longer carries the same groundbreaking impact.
  • (4/5)
    Not what I was expecting at all.Here we have a very readable if thorough going explanation of his theory of descent with modification through variation and natural selection. I have seen comments such as dry and stodgy but did not find this to be the case to any great extent.I must confess to skimming a total of about three pages out of nearly five hundred. I did this because I had already got the point and he was listing in minute detail the implications of this or that on his famous "tree of life diagram" a to a' etc. etc.Apart from the exposition of such a simple theory the two main things I enjoyed most about the book were as follows;Firstly, just how much evidence in favour of evolution he did not have an inkling about. He bases his theory on how it explains the geographical distribution of life on the earth, variation, fertility, vestigial organs, eyes on cave dwellers, webbed feet on mountain ducks etc. It is therefore surprising just how much he got right and how little has since been shown to be wrong. Remember he had no idea of DNA or the molecular side of reproduction at all and yet he predicts a good deal of it.Secondly, his forays into experiment. Ranging from the counting of plant species in cleared ground, measuring and comparison of greyhound and bulldog puppies and adult dogs, to the immersal of seeds in sea-water and so on.The book is written for the lay audience and should be accessible, with a little patience, to most.Despite what many Creationists have told me there is nothing I could find about the origin of life, support for the Nazi's, reasons in favour of the Holocaust or the futility of existence at all.
  • (5/5)
    It's been criticized as unscientific, evil, and dry. I found it quite impressive. Though there are places where the detail might be too much for the casual reader, it is a very solid scientific work. He presents a hypothesis, shows significant supporting evidence, and defends it against the most common criticisms. It is not possible to prove that everything started from something simpler but it is now hard to refute that the natural process of natural selection is working on today's species. He leads his argument by showing the effectiveness that domestic breeders have achieved in altering species and guiding that process. Other highlights either new to me or especially interesting: the uniformity gained by consistent inter-crossing, the underlying ability of genetics to allow breakthrough changes and yet also to maintain uniformity, the complexity of larger areas in producing stronger more adaptable species, the effect of geographic changes (elevation, land forms, glaciers) on migration of living species and archival of fossil record, that fossils tend only to be saved during subsidence so only that direction of change is recorded, the species do not reappear once extinct (this seems to be in refutation of Lamarck), the phrase "grain in balance" to show the impact of small differences in the competition for survival, that it is the other species more than anything that determines a given organisms ability to survive in an area. Imagine his chart demonstrating how branching might work if he had had a PC at the time.
  • (2/5)
    Quite stunning in its way - but surely in need of an update in the light of genetics, DNA and plate techtonics. Not that the conclusions need to be changed, just that te argument becomes easier. That said, in the absence of knowledge on those points: that's what makes for the stunning.
  • (5/5)
    This is a wonderful and very readable book that truly changed the way we look at the world. It sold out on the day it was published in 1859 and created both friends and enemies of the theories discussed still to this day. There have been modifications of Darwin's theory of the origin of species (notably the Mendellian synthesis that incorporated genetics into the theory), but it stands to this day as the foundation of our understanding of the evolution. Surprisingly the only time evolution is mentioned is in the last paragraph of the book.This is a good book for anyone who once to read a classic text of science.
  • (5/5)
    Darwin wrote that , "When the views entertained in this volume on the origin of species, or when analogous views are generally admitted, we can dimly foresee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history".With the advantages of hindsight we can see that this was an understatement. The book has had an enormous impact , probably appearing in the indexes of more recent academic publications than any other 19th century text.To answer the question of why, the reason is no doubt the same as when it was first published in 1859. His discovery combines simplicity with great explanatory power in an area of critical interest, namely the natural world and our place in it. In contrast to the texts of today there are no formulas and only one diagram. The chapters have quick summaries and the whole thing has an easy flowing discursive style that is very accessible despite being a distillate of a large amount of widely differing knowledge. He starts by looking at selection under domestication (i.e. not in nature) of animals, with special reference to the pigeon, showing how desired characteristics can be chosen by the breeder. In this respect after a discussion about pigeons and pigeon breeding in general, he can quote the skilled breeder Sir John Sebright as saying that, "he would produce any given feather in three years, but it would take him six years to obtain a head or a beak". He goes on to extend the idea of selection to the natural state where nature takes the place of the breeder in selecting which variants breed successfully and which do not. The controller is not now the breeder with the feather or beak that he wants but rather the environment itself. Nature allows certain birds to reproduce that have the optimum colouring to avoid predators or attract mates or a beak type that best fits the most common functions. The idea is developed in the chapters entitled Struggle for Existence and Natural Selection . As he puts it: "In the case of every species, many different checks, acting at different periods of life, and during different seasons or years, probably come into play; some one check or some few being generally the most potent, but all concurring in determining the average number or even the existence of the species". There are many examples with studies of special cases such as isolation, intercrossing, convergence and divergence of characteristics, and the competition between individuals and varieties of the same species. He clearly states that the environment is the guide : "...the structure of every organic being is related, in the most essential yet often hidden manner, to that of all other organic beings, with which it comes into competition for food or residence, or from which it has to escape, or on which it preys".He speculates on the characteristics of variation without knowing of Mendels identification of particles (genes from each parent that could be dominant or recessive). Mendel only published in 1866 with his work not being rediscovered until 1900 so Darwin leaves this as somewhat of a grey area. He observes variation and catalogues it stating that it changes in small increments over time and is subject to selection pressure.He is the first critic of his own work, highlighting for example the patchiness of the geological record :"Why does not every collection of fossil remains afford plain evidence of the gradation and mutation of forms of life?" In the event these problems are being tackled a century later reinforcing his insight of any organ or instinct arriving at it's present state through many graduated steps.The high scientific reputation and social position of Darwin (needed to launch his ideas successfully) is covered in an excellent new biography by Janet Browne entitled Voyaging.