OT Book: On the Origin of Species – Charles Darwin

Given my interest in science, I'm ashamed to say that I've only just got around to reading Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life". What prompted me to read it this time was watching two episodes of "The Genius of Charles Darwin" while flying across to the U.S. It's an excellent documentary by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins can see overbearing at times but in this series, he's measured, accurate and inspiring. In the documentary, he showed one of his most prized possessions: a first edition copy of this book.

The best ideas always seem to have three common attributes:

  • They appear totally obvious once someone else points them out
  • They are deceptively simple
  • It's hard to comprehend why someone hadn't noticed them before

The ideas described in this book are an amazing example of these qualities.

I have not the slightest doubt that in the future, this will be still regarded as a stunningly influential book and will have started the biggest change in human thinking.

Recommended! (Actually Required Reading!)

12 thoughts on “OT Book: On the Origin of Species – Charles Darwin”

  1. That book is 150 years old, and scientists *still* haven't proven that microevolution (natural selection) leads to macroevolution…  I'll keep holding my breath!

  2. Unfortunately this book is already regarded as a stunningly influential book for those that believe in it. Personally I would not put my faith in it.

  3. CJ: Nor have they proven that it doesn't. And no compelling alternative theories have come to light. So it's the best we have to work with, at least for now.

  4. Greg, big ups from me to you for having a life outside your chosen field of speciality.  I'm glad you posted about this important topic.  There's nothing I like more than discussing Origins.
    However, I'm amazed you can read that book and not cringe.  The science was minimal, the conjecture vast, the racism rampant, the outright pleading for there to be an alternative to accountability to higher power.  When I look at the same samples Darwin cites, I see the majesty and beauty of creation, not the ugliness of millions of years of death, struggle and disease.  It WAS hugely influential: in eugenics, abortion, euthanasia, atheism (which lead to two world wars – far outstripping any so-called religious wars).  
    Its time is (thankfully) finally coming to an end.  Creationism (religious) and Intelligent Design (scientific) are the double-blow that will finally depose this hugely negative humanistic philosphy from its perch.

  5. Yoinks, one of the more emotive blog postings…
    Science works by successive theories improving on past ones with the benefit of improved observations.  Newton's "If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants".
    Theories are children of their time, so you can't blame Darwin for the accepted views of his time now appearing unacceptable to our eyes.
    Evidence, not belief, supercedes currently accepted beliefs.
    As for whether his theories have led to the downfall of humanity, the human race had been practicing eugenics, abortion, euthanasia, atheism and wars long before Charles Darwin came along.

  6. Greg,
    You've inspired me to read this book also.
    I've heard so many people both praise and criticise the book, and if I'm honest I'll admit to having had strong opinions on it in the past – even though I've never actually read it myself.
    I borrowed the Ilustrated version (http://www.amazon.com/Origin-Species-Illustrated-Charles-Darwin/dp/1402756399/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257242518&sr=8-2) from the library today. What a beautiful book. I'm looking forward to finally having a considered opinion on it in not-to-distant future 🙂

  7. People had thoughts about evolution. His idea was to bring natural selection and variation as the underlying mechanism.
    He knew nothing about what was going on at the molecular level. The more we learn about what goes on at the molecular level, the less convincing neo-Darwinian explanations have become.

  8. As far as science goes, a flawed theory is better than just faith. If we are not talking about science, we are dealing with millions of different faiths out there, which of them to pick is yet another faith.

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