On the Origin of Species n/e (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 13 Nov 2008
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'can we doubt ...that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind?' In the Origin of Species (1859) Darwin challenged many of the most deeply held beliefs of the Western world. His insistence on the immense length of the past and on the abundance of life-forms, present and extinct, dislodged man from his central position in creation and called into question the role of the Creator. He showed that new species are achieved by natural selection, and that absence of plan is an inherent part of the evolutionary process. Darwin's prodigious reading, experimentation, and observations on his travels fed into his great work, which draws on material from the Galapagos Islands to rural Staffordshire, from English back gardens to colonial encounters. The present edition provides a detailed and accessible discussion of his theories and adds an account of the immediate responses to the book on publication. The resistances as well as the enthusiasms of the first readers cast light on recent controversies, particularly concerning questions of design and descent.
About the Author
Dame Gillian Beer is Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Literature. Her Darwin's Plots (1983; second edition 2000) was followed by Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter (1996). More recently she has been working on Carroll's Alice books in the context of nineteenth-century intellectual controversies and a new collection of her essays on literature and science is scheduled for 2008.
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The starting chapters introduce the theory of natural selection, explaining why certain species thrive, while others decrease in number, how the members of nature are in competition with each other and why organisms tend to vary and change with time. Much of this work is based on experiments and observations seen within domestic animals and plants.
The later chapters defend the theory of natural selection against apparent inconsistencies, why geological records are incomplete, why we find species so widespread and how sterility can be inherited when the organisation is unable to reproduce and more.
The book is approachable for any audience, though the language is naturally dated. Having read the book, one can really appreciate the complex relations in the world and the individuals within it. Though the theory of natural selection is easy to accept, many thought provoking difficulties within the book really make it interesting. Well worth reading.
Interesting and well worth reading. It will help you understand how much thought and work Darwin and others put into this vitally important work. What a shame Darwin did not live to see the discovery of DNA.