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On the Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2005
Charles Darwin rushed his Origin to press when he became aware that he would be pre-empted with the theory of natural selection by Alfred Russell Wallace. In the course of the following few years he reviewed the manuscript thorougly at least twice. The Third edition, with the introduction written by Jilian Huseley, is generally the standard.
Many people assume that Darwin's initial account of natural selection is so out of date that it is to be avoided in favour of more recent text books of evolutionary theory.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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
After spending many hours travelling and listening, gripped by the audiobooks `Remarkable Creatures' by Tracy Chevalier and narrated by Sarah Le Fevre then `Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species' by Sean Carroll (Author) and narrated by Jim Bond, I was eager to pop this (Origin) audiobook into my car's CD player and hit the road; how wrong and disappointed could I have been in my haste to listen to THIS audiobook.

In principle, the `Origin of Species' should make fascinating listening: I read sections of it as a biology undergrad at Uni in the early 80s. I thought an easy way to do a complete `read' would be to listen to the audiobook in half-hour or so `nuggets' twice a-day in my car.

From the moment the narrator set off his voice and reading manner grated on my nerves. It is a `dead' reading by a narrator who sounds to be a rather bored caricature of Kenneth Williams (of `Carry On' films fame): his voice is grating, irritating and gives an overall impression that he cannot really be bothered expending the breath to read aloud this seminal work. Just to increase ones irritation level to bursting point, any passages in French are grossly over-enunciated to the point that is seems the utterance each and every syllable has caused excruciating agony to the narrator: for sure, this recording was a truly excruciating experience for this listener - giving birth to a bag of razor blades would be less painful.

At first, I gave the CD the benefit of the doubt by thinking that perhaps David Case would read only the introduction and perhaps another narrator would read the main body of the book, but no, this was not to be.

I toyed with the idea of giving this audiobook a 1-star rating, but my conscience would not allow me to do that to dear old Darwin and the inclusion of a pdf of the revised Origin of Species is an excellent addition to the CD. I am sorry to say that I received this CD one day and returned it to Amazon the next - it is truly awful, so buy it at your peril.

I rest my `Case'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 23 May 2010
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". 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.

The Voyage of the Beagle: Charles Darwin's Journal of Researches (Penguin Classics)
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 6 February 2009
The Origin of Species is, of course, one of the most famous and influential books ever written, but why would anybody read it today other than as a Victorian curiosity?

What struck me most was not only how much Darwin didn't know, but also the very different ways in which knowledge was acquired 150 years ago. Although the Victorians knew enough practical genetics to breed pigeons or improve livestock, the science of genetics as we understand it did not exist and it would take another century to discover DNA.

Modern laboratories are equipped with a bewildering array of sophisticated technologies that enable scientists to do everything from mapping the human genome to measuring the age of ancient micro-organisms.

And this is where the real difference lies: Darwin had a garden, notebooks, a microscope and (as Prof. Steve Jones recently pointed out) access to a breathtakingly efficient postal service, which brought information from the furthest reaches of Empire and beyond. Crucially, though, Darwin had gifts of observation, clear thinking and a knack for asking the right questions. The real value of this book to a modern reader is to observe these gifts at work in a context that any keen gardener or birdwatcher can understand.

This book is well written by the standards of the Victorian gentleman-scholars who were its first audience, but if you can cope with the average Victorian novel and don't mind looking up the occasional unfamiliar term, then The Origin of Species is probably worth the effort.

The World's Classics edition is well presented, has a useful introduction, a good index and a guide to the other writers mentioned in the text. There is a single diagram, as in the original, but no pictures, which may be a consideration for some readers. My only criticism is that the glossary of terms is Darwin's, from one of the early editions: it would have been useful to have a slightly more comprehensive list for the benefit of modern readers.

The Origin of Species deserves to be read not merely as a cultural artefact or the foundation document of the modern life sciences, but as a timeless work of natural philosophy in the very best sense of that phrase.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2009
At the time of writing Amazon.co.uk has muddled up two versions of this book. One is the original masterpiece by Charles Darwin. One of the greatest works of scientific literature. It is this famous book that has led many British people to carry Darwin's picture in their wallets, for it is his image that graces the ten pound note.

The Bridge-Logos edition is not an accurate edition of the book.
The text has been tampered with and an introduction has been written by Ray Comfort. Comfort is a Young Earth Creationist who has produced his own version of this book. It is a misleading version that contains very poor arguments and pseudoscience.
Comfort is regarded, by people who know and understand the science of evolution, with contempt, derision and often with outright hilarity.

If you want a proper copy of this book and to understand the science properly then buy any version but the Bridge-Logos edition.
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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2009
Not all editions are the same. The Bridge-Logos Foundation edition has had Darwin's original introduction replaced by one written by creationist Ray Comfort. It has been published in order to denigrate Darwin and the theory of evolution by natural selection. It is being given away in USA universities to promulgate creationist views. I'm horrified that anyone wanting a copy of Darwin's work might end up with this and believe the things written in the introduction. Note, by the way, that Amazon.com state that the introduction is by Comfort and link to his religious works whereas Amazon.co.uk do not. A real shame.
Buy ANY edition but this one.
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VINE VOICEon 11 May 2011
2009 is a year where the airwaves are saturated by documentaries about the bicentenary of Darwin's Birth. Combine this with the over-exposure of Richard Dawkins as (arguably) America's most famous intellectual, and you may see a product that has nothing new to offer and which will not enlighten you afresh.

However, if you haven't read the On the Origin of Species, then this audio CD is the perfect eye-opener. From the suggestive arguments of the start (artificial selection), through the sweeping poetry of the middle sections, to a prophetic conclusion, the whole of this audio CD conveys the argument well making you realize (in the words of the intro) 'how much he got right'.
Blend this with the harmonies of Dawkins' oratory, and you will find a work that is a classic of popular science rendered with high explanatory value by a reader who conveys the meaning of every syllable.

Especially notable sections are where Dawkins reads how '[Natural Selection is] immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those of Art' and also the section at the end about 'Light being shed on the origins of man'.

My one quibble with this work is that it is not especially light reading. Although it is well written & read, listening is not the ideal medium for this book (especially when commuting...) However this can be forgiven considering the depth of understanding created by seeing Darwin in the light of one of his modern disciples.

Overall, I am very glad I bought this book and happy to recommend it to all and sundry. Although it was written 150 years ago, and the voice of Dawkins can be found across the internet, the combination of these qualities creates something new of old things. I promise you that, in using this CD, far from being bored, you will be moved anew by the power of evolution.
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Rebecca Stott, in the preface to her book Darwin And The Barnacle, quite rightly calls Darwin's 'Origin' "one of the most groundbreaking books of all time." Darwin's 'abstract' for a putative multi-volume masterwork - a project that sadly never came to pass - doesn't use the idea Dawkins recently adopted in his book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, which uses the metaphor of a detective story to interest it's intended audience. And yet, whilst 'The Origin' is obviously not your typical pulp fiction detective thriller, it is nonetheless a gripping account of incredible detective work, all the more remarkable for being located in the realm of fact.

Heavy going in places - during the chapters that focus on variation under domestication the stuff about pigeons was, for me at any rate, tough to get through - overall, for a scientific work that continues to have an almost incalculable effect on the modern world, it's pleasingly easy to read and understand, and is in fact a key work of the emergent genre of popular science that's subsequently become a huge publishing phenomenon. There are also, as it happens, some justly celebrated moments of eloquence, such as the 'tangled bank' and 'certain grandeur' passages. But what lies at the heart of the book, and Darwin's overarching desire to contribute something of note to the 'natural sciences', is the desire to confront the world as it really is, and to understand it. Viewed in terms of these noble yet all too human aims, The Origin is undoubtedly a masterpiece.

Layers of argument and observation build, rather like the geological strata detailed by his hero Charles Lyell, as Darwin, through assiduous toil and endless detailed study and re-calibration, refines his ideas, ideas that, like a 'universal acid' (see Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life) eat through everything else, 'til we arrive at a point where we can be confident that not only was Darwin right about evolution, but we can now even talk about the evolution of language, culture, and, gulp, even religions.

In The Origin Darwin is the embodiment of tactful reserve in relation to religion, but one can't escape this aspect of the book's explosive impact. The best one can hope to say now for Biblical accounts of why things are the way they are, particularly in relation to life on this planet, is that humanity's continually evolving myths might sometimes capture poetically some interesting insight, such as the Garden of Eden story as a metaphor for the problems attendant on consciousness. But in terms of explaining our place in the grand expanse of 'Creation', the Bible is (regardless of whether it's interpreted literally or in any of the other myriad ways such books can be interpreted) worse than hopelessly wrong, it actively encourages an anthropocentric view of the universe that could very well be instrumental in our own undoing. But I digress.

Darwin's approach to why things are the way they are, regarding life on this planet, is, in stark contrast with clinging to received myth, to look and learn. A model of open-mindedness, clarity, and depth of perception and understanding, this is, as Holmes might've have said to Watson, quite another case altogether. The Origin should be, as many have hoped it will prove to be, central to the emergence of a new and more enlightened human culture, one in which we learn to bravely face the world and each other as we really are. But, just as the ancient Greek philosopher and proto-scientist Aristarchus' insights into the nature of the Cosmos went unheeded, or rather were lost and obscured, for the best part of two millennia, there's no guarantee that Darwin's wisdom and clear thinking will triumph over tradition and superstition.

I won't bang on about the detailed contents of the book, there are a million other reviews and synopses out there. But, speaking as one brought up on the muddled archaic hotch-potch of mythical Chinese whispers that constitutes the Bible, I can happily and confidently say that this is an infinitely more enlightening book from which to learn about life on earth and how it operates: "from so simple a beginning", says Darwin, "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." Amen!
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45 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2009
Upon opening this book you'll be confronted by a 50 page forward by the dishonest and renouned liar and young earth creationist, Ray Comfort. His arguments are of such a pathetic level even a third grade kid could clearly see through them, and he has been corrected so many times the only way to explain him is as a willing liar for religion. He is fraudulent and dishonest in all ways possible when it comes to pushing his agenda, the latest twist of which is publishing this book under the guise of it being Charles Darwin's work. Yes it does contain Darwin's work, but it is so littered with young earth creationist claptrap it's not funny. You will seriously get a headache even attempting to read this version.

Save yourself the trouble, get a different version.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2009
DO NOT GET THIS VERSION - It's not even worth the joke of showing it to others.

Due to some unintentional error by Amazon, most of the positive reviews are for a completely different book with the same title.

Ray Comfort (A Creationist) has written a 50 page introduction (16% of the book) to *celebrate* the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species and has added it to the beginning of Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" which, and I quote,

"...reveals the dangerous fruit of evolution, Hitler's undeniable connections to the theory, Darwin's racism, and his disdain for women. It counters the claim that creationists are "anti-science" by citing numerous scientists who believed that God created the universe - scientists such as Einstein, Newton, Copernicus, Bacon, Faraday, Pasteur, and Kepler." His ONLY intention is to denigrate the work of Charles Darwin while providing no evidence of his own.

DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK if you want one representing the facts about evolution and a scientific, rational and factual introduction. This introduction is for creationists that believe the world is only a few thousand years old, wilfully ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

The positive review shown here are for a completely different version ISBN-10: 0451529065 and ISBN-13: The Origin of Species or click on the links in the positive reviews.
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