on 26 September 2010
If your looking at this book im sure your aware its old, making the language quite difficult to follow unless you are fully awake and alert. I found parts hard to understand, not the ideas themselves but the way they are put forward, due to the era in which it was written. This is however one of the most exciting aspects of the book (the era it was written).
Once i got used to the fact that this was no "evolution for dummies" type book i began to find something i really enjoyed, it actually felt like Darwin was trying to convince me of his ideas, constantly giving arguments and counter-arguments, and going into great detail to prove his point. And he knows loads about pidgeons and bees.
I like to think i have a reasonable understanding of evolution and this book kept giving more to think about, it really was fascinating to read considering that this work literally started the entire idea. It goes really well with A-level biology and leaves you with plenty yo think about, im pretty tired now and am slightly aware of how this review does very little to explain why i loved this book so much.
Anyways for £3 you should buy it, it will make your life/thoughts better, that is all.
on 29 December 2005
Many people assume that Darwin's initial account of natural selection is so out of date that it is to be avoided in favour of more recent text books of evolutionary theory. While it is true that huge gains have been made in the one and a half centuries since the first publication of "The Origin", there is nothing in this work which is wrong. Darwin was too good a scientist and too cautious.
Some claim that Darwin admitted of the possibility of Lamarkian mechanisms. They have not read the original. Darwin knew nothing of the molecular basis of genetics, but knew that natural selection did not need a Lamarkian mechanism. He simply did not rule it out, although he found it improbable. Everything that is stated in this great classic is as true today as it was at the time of first publication.
It is also said that Charles Darwin was a lesser intellectual when compared to most other great names of science; that he was a plodder, a naturalist, a sort of gentleman stamp collector who pressed flowers into his books and barely a scientist in the contemporary sense. This is nonsense. Darwin was one of the giants of rigorous systematic thinking; the kind of rigorous thinking and critical attitude that asks the right questions and provides the capacity to answer them. Let me buttress this claim with one example.
At the end of chapter six Darwin noted that the theory of natural selection could not account for structures or behaviors found in one species that exist solely for the benefit of another unrelated species. In setting out the theoretical terms for the refutation of the theory in this way, he anticipated Karl Popper, that analytical non-nonsense philosopher of science, by more than a century.
I recommend you read this book with an attentive curious analytical mind. You will find yourself walking in the footsteps of an intellectual giant.
on 15 May 2010
The shockwaves from the publication of this book still resound today. The full title of the book is "On the Origin of Species By Means Of Natural Selection or Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" by Charles Darwin and it was first published on November 24th of 1859. The importance of the work was not in the originality of the idea; the idea of evolution had been a theory long before as Darwin discusses in the text, nor was Darwin the only scientist at the time to arrive at the theory, as a paper by Alfred Wallace arrived the same year as Darwin's. What made "The Origin of Species" so significant was the way Darwin discusses the theory, and that it was not written just for scientists, but for everyone. This makes it a work of Literature as well as one of Science.
Another key aspect to "The Origin of Species" is that it has completely changed the focus of the subject from the point of its publication until now and undoubtedly will do so for some time to come. It is still the dominate point of reference in the argument between those who oppose the theory and those who support it. Those on both sides of the argument (and I use the term argument because the term discussion would lead one to believe that the discourse is much more civil than it actually is) would do well to emulate Darwin in the way he discusses his theory.
"The Origin of Species" in many ways sets the standard for scientific argument. Though again Darwin did not create the standard with this book, the significance of the work and the readability of the book make it stand out as an example of the correct way to present and defend a theory. Of course Darwin presents facts which support his theory, but it is his discussion of problems with the theory which is the strength of the book and his theory. Darwin admits he doesn't have answers to all of the issue, and he offers ways to prove his theory wrong or at least force a significant adjustment to the theory.
It is interesting that the issues with Darwin's theory and the methods of proving it wrong are in many ways unchanged. There will always be gaps in the fossil record, and there will probably always be questions of reducibility, but that doesn't mean that there isn't more evidence to support the theory than there ever has been, there is a lot more which has strengthened the theory, and the key point is that there hasn't been any evidence found to disprove the theory. And with regards to species being fixed, the scientific argument has long been over, though one can still find non-scientists who would argue the point.
"The Origin of Species" remains an important work of science and literature today. Understanding Darwin's theory is necessary to understanding the political discussions and ramifications that continue to take place. It also serves as a great guide to understanding what a scientific discussion is and how it works, and by contrast how it differs from a political, social, or theological discussion. It should go without saying that "The Origin of Species" gets five stars, and the introduction by John Burrow enhances the experience by putting it in the context of Darwin's life, and the times in which it was written and published. I was a little surprised that the Penguin Classics edition didn't include any notes on Darwin's text, but it does include a bibliography of Darwin's works. Also, while the text included is from the first edition of the book, it does include "An Historical Sketch" and a Glossary which were in later editions.
on 22 January 2009
I ordered two versions of The Origin of Species. This version is the best of two. However, reader should be notice, this version is the first edition. As you may know, Darwin published six editions in total and final one is the most comprehesive one. However, as editor of this version said, the final edition had too many replies to the questioning from peers, which made the last edition much longer than the initial edition. I think the key ideas in different editions should be similar and I prefer this concise edition-the first edition.
I highly recommend this print by Wordsworth, given that it is the cheapest one with very high quality of print.
on 24 November 2010
This is a new printing of the original work by Charles Darwin. It is the book that caused so much furore amongst the people of the early 19th century and lead to outrage in society at the truly revolutionary idea of how species evolve. It is written in the style of the period, and as such is not the easiest read, but it is worth delving into the mind of a true pioneer of modern science.
Much of the book was written following Darwin's exploratory voyages in the South Seas. He observed the various physical differences between animals that he saw on the different islands and this lead him to postulate the idea that the variations might come about because creatures lived in separate environments. He then suggested that the local conditions might lead to the prevalence of certain characteristics. The book contains many descriptions of the variations of the anaimals that he observed and his thoughts on what he saw.
People that have not read this book seem to tend to believe that it contains certain anti-religious statements; in fact, this is far from the truth. However, don't take my word for it; get the book and read it for yourself.
A well-written, well-argued treatise on the volatile subject of the evolution of new species by natural selection. At the time, this flew in the face of accepted theories, and especially upset current theological doctrine, Archbishop Ussher would be particularly upset!.
Darwin agonised for years over the publication of his book, and it was only at the urging of his friends (that he was about to be upstaged by Wallace) that he finally published. The delay was of his own making - torn between the evidence of his notes and correspondence with Wallace, and the furore that would inevitably result. The furore was bound to happen anyway, surrounded as he was by small-minded bigots, so he should have published earlier. But ... this might have deprived us of the brilliant arguments he puts forth in support of each section in the book.
He obviously knew what he was up against, so he tried to present his case as lucidly as possible - and here's the unusual aspect of the work - in layman's language! This was almost unheard of in a Victorian Scientific treatise - they were meant to be read by Scientists, not the hoy-poloy! He tries to counter every conceivable objection to each statement, as nicely (in both senses of the word) as possible, without any of the fervour and tunnel vision that one expects from a convert to a new ideal. He takes us by the hand and gently walks us through the evidence in support of his theory, helping us to realise that, yes, he is talking sense, no matter what our pre-conceptions of life might be.
Discover for yourself that evolution is not 'survival of the fittest', but 'survival of the most fit' - that is, fitted for that particular ecological niche - fittest being a Victorian word that has taken a different modern meaning.
An amazingly good read, even for our enlightened times, but recommended reading - I'll bet there are hundereds of copies on dusty bookshelves that have never been read - time to dust it off and find out for yourself the genius of the man.*****
This is a quick review of the book not a dissertation on Darwin or any other subject loosely related. At first I did not know what to expect. I already read " The Voyage of the Beagle: Charles Darwin's Journal of Researches" (see my review). I figured the book would be similar. However I found "Origin" to be more complex and detailed.
Taking in account that recent pieces of knowledge were not available to Charles Darwin this book could have been written last week. Having to look from the outside without the knowledge of DNA or Plate Tectonics, he pretty much nailed how the environment and crossbreeding would have an effect on natural selection. Speaking of natural selection, I thought his was going to be some great insight to a new concept. All it means is that species are not being mucked around by man (artificial selection).
If you picked up Time magazine today you would find all the things that Charles said would be near impossible to find or do. Yet he predicted that it is doable in theory. With an imperfect geological record many things he was not able to find at the writing of this book have been found (according to the possibilities described in the book.)
The only draw back to the book was his constant apologizing. If he had more time and space he could prove this and that. Or it looks like this but who can say at this time. Or the same evidence can be interpreted 180 degrees different.
In the end it is worth reading and you will never look at life the same way again.
on 9 May 2011
Darwin begins with the very mundane subject of pigeons, which he talks about at some length and which, to be honest, is pretty uninteresting to those of us who are not pigeon-fanciers. From here, where he looks at variation under domestication, he goes on to look at variation in the wider world, where man's influence is not felt quite so directly.
Having started with this preamble, Darwin moves onto the heart of the book, which is his theory of natural selection (note, the word `evolution' is never used and the word `evolved' is only the last word in the concluding chapter). It seems hard to come to this afresh, with it being such a well-known phenomenon that has been built upon over the years; so to put yourself in the shoes (glasses?) of the first readers for whom this was a new concept is a challenge for the modern-day reader.
From here, Darwin then spends the rest of the book looking at potential problems with his theory as well as outlining the evidence in favour of it. It was his honest approach at pointing out his own weaknesses that has garnered him so much high esteem in the scientific world, possibly more so than for the theory of natural selection itself.
The book is not without its flaws, however. On the one hand, Darwin is attempting to form, and give evidence for, a new scientific framework of understanding. At the same time, though, he is attempting to reach as wide an audience as possible. What this leaves us with is a mixture, where some parts of the book go into too much detail for the ordinary reader, making it turgid and really quite boring, while at other times skimming over detail and leaving the narrative sounding very much like an ancestor of Kipling's Just-So stories.
This is somewhat remedied by the final chapter, where Darwin does finally break free from the constraints of evidence and reason, allowing himself a few flourishes of rhetoric, where he acknowledges that his book is only an introduction and that much more work is needed on tracing the family trees of species and tracing back to an original progenitor.
It can hardly be doubted how important this book is to biologists, though it is not a comprehensive review of the field. For that reason, I would not class it in the same category of "great" books such as Euclid's Elements or Newton's Principia. As far as understanding the history of the development of biology in the modern era, this is an essential book to read, and important for anyone wanting to sift the wheat from the chaff in terms of what Darwinism truly means.
on 1 October 1998
I started reading this book expecting to find offensive, disrespectful, and vicious material throughout it. What I came to realize instead, was that people have criticized this book based on offensive, disrespectful and vicious accusations. I can't identify how people have linked this work to God and blasphemy. It has nothing to do with religion, faith, or creation. This is a work of observation, logic, and adaptability. It makes perfect sense, and trust me, it is in no way offensive.
To think that for a century people have been debating, fighting, and cursing Charles Darwin over this work seems comical once you read his book. The book is written in easy to understand common language, allowing the not so biologically or anthropologically astute to understand it as well. Even if you are not convinced by Darwin's observations, you will be convinced that there is no threat to anyone's beliefs from this book.
I found this work to be very convincing and highly compatible with my faith in God. It does not threaten God, and it certainly does not require me to abandon any beliefs even though I fully understand and agree with Mr. Darwin. Read this book, it is worthy of consideration and it is only fair to hold judgment until after you have read it.
on 11 September 2009
An immensely important book which should be read by everyone, if only because of the huge influence it has had.
The only criticism I have of it is that Darwin's religious background means he is so wedded to the idea that mankind is the pinnacle of creation that he never addresses (or even appears to notice) the problem with the idea of "survival of the fittest".
This is the question why survival of the fittest should result in bacteria evolving into humans.
Considering that, according to the Columbia Encyclopedia, "there can be as many as 2.5 billion bacteria in one gram of fertile soil" and there are only currently about 6 billion humans on the entire earth, I'd say that survival of the fittest was all on the side of the bacteria.