Pam's Reviews > The Origin of Species

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
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Sep 14, 07

bookshelves: purchase
Recommended for: anyone with an open mind
Read in January, 1996

such a freakin' genius! and the sadest part is, that his "science" literally killed him. if you've read a lot in Darwin (as I have) you come to understand that as a religious man, his studies seriously conflicted with his beliefs. I hate it when I hear someone say that Darwin says, "we come from monkeys." because that is not the case.

his theory is on EVOLUTION, not monkeys. all he wanted people to understand was adaptation and survival of the fittest is really a simple concept, and daily life- proves just that.

his theories don't have to impede on your beliefs in God. he was a Christian man, himself, but could still see the science before his very eyes. give it a shot if you are intrigued by species changing, growing, dying, extinction, over time...
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He was agnostic and he died agnostic.


Kendall It's true he died an agnostic, but he started as a Christian, having trained as a clergyman initially. It's hard to say what changed his mind, but from my reading it was a gradual thing that troubled him deeply.

message 3: by Wayne (last edited Feb 07, 2009 08:32PM) (new) - added it

Wayne Kendall wrote: "It's true he died an agnostic, but he started as a Christian, having trained as a clergyman initially. It's hard to say what changed his mind, but from my reading it was a gradual thing that troub..."

Well, it certainly troubled Captain Fitzroy of the Beagle. Enough so he topped himself.
And it is very easy to say what changed Darwin's mind...but gradually changed. It was the mounting evidence for an evolution of life that excluded any Creator.Darwin's view was uncompromisingly mechanical.
Darwin never bothered to argue against Christianity openly because he saw it as a futile exercise. He preferred to undermine it by just going about his scientific work.
"THough I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects,"he wrote in 1880,"yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity or theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has therefore been always my object to avoid writing on religion and I have confined myself to science."
(Sorry Pam, no Christian Gent, our Mr Darwin!!!)

Darwin delayed his publication of his theory for over twenty years not because he was an agnostic, but because he was a materialist, having concluded that if mind has no real existence beyond the brain then can God be anything more than an illusion created by an illusion?( All recorded in his notebooks.)He knew his theory would cause consternation and be divisive; he also knew that being branded a materialist was no social asset.

Why has Darwinism had such an uphill battle being taught in American schools? Because those good ole fundamentalist Christians recognise an enemy when they see one, even if it's the kind, honest and humble Mr Darwin.

In Australia, the Land of Fundamental Materialists, there is no such problem. Even the monkeys in the zoos here believe in Evolution. And it is freely taught in ALL schools,except for the Christian Fundamentalist's - no place is perfect and variety is the spice of life anyway!!! Creationism and its subterfuge, Intelligent Design, got short shift here.
That's one of the benefits of having been founded as a Criminal Colony rather than as a Religious Refuge. We ended up being largely hedonistic, easygoing Realists while America burned witches, justified slavery with their Christianity and have had religious interference in their science curriculums.
We've never been able to have a Civil War - everyone's either too busy making money or at the beach.

Wayne, Sydney ,Australia.

message 4: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam wow, I just read the last post to my review. I am not sure if you are for me, or against me, Wayne- as you seemed very impassioned on the subject.

1. I never referred or revered Darwin to be a Christian gent. mainly that he was Christian and was studying for clergy before he took his fateful ride on the Beagle.
2. his findings on survival of the fittest conflicted with him early on, but he was able to see science before him. I suppose you could say it was gradual. I don't think he "changed his mind" as Kendall wrote, he just realized that the Big Bang might not be how Earth started.
3. the thing that troubled him most was the fact that he knew his theories would not be well-received. and that is obvious even today, as Evolution is still not commonly taught in American schools. truth is, he asked his wife to publish Origin for him, in anticipation of his death. however, Darwin was almost beat-to-the-punch by another scientist that, individually, had "discovered" evolution himself.

all that said, I just read a great childrens book, Who Was Charles Darwin? this breaks it down very simply.

message 5: by Wayne (last edited Feb 12, 2009 05:56AM) (new) - added it

Wayne Hi Pam,
Sorry if I shook you up!!!
Really not for or against anyone,least of all you.
Just interested in Darwin.
Have you read "Annie's Box: Charles Darwin, His Daughter and Human Evolution" by Randal Keynes?
I looked it up on Google where there is a wonderful site with photographs of several places in England where Darwin was born, married , went to school, went to uni. London.Lots of other stuff too. And the book sounds wonderful, revealing darwin as a person it must have been an absolute pleasure to know.The author is a great-grandson I think.
Today, THursday 12th is a special day here in Australia. Darwin celebrated his 27th birthday here in Hobart Tasmania in 1836.The Beagle stopped here on its voyage and Darwin did alot of travelling around.
I should have cooked a cake!!!!!!
Enjoy this special Darwin year, Pam ...his Bicentennial.
Cheers from Wayne.

message 6: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam ha! I had a cupcake for him on the 12th indeed!

I did not realize Hobart was a special place for Darwin, I hope on a return visit I look into his history there more and explore!

I have heard of the book you mentioned, I have not, however read it. that said, you are the third person to mention it to me, so I think I will look into reading it! I will give you a follow up!

(thanks for having my back!)

message 7: by Wayne (last edited Feb 28, 2009 01:54AM) (new) - added it

Wayne Hi Pam,
I thought it was you!!!!

Now eating cupcakes for Darwin!!!
You have certainly evolved into some sort of ...Cookie Monster??
Or Wild Party Go-er??
OR could it be a Fan of Charlie Darwin!!!??
( Yeah, me too! Do you think it's too late to have a belated cupcake???)

I tried to buy this book, "Annie's Box etc", a couple of weeks ago at one of our big city bookshops only to find that it is now out of print.
So will either have to try the libraries or the secondhand bookshops. So Good Luck in your part of the world, Pam.

Have bought "The Origin of Species" however, especially after seeing how you and other reviewers had enjoyed it so much.I find he writes very clearly.Perhaps it came from his lucid thinking.
Hope your search is fruitful. Yes, do let me know how you go.

Cheers from WaYnE.

message 8: by Wayne (new) - added it

Wayne Don't know how you arrived at these conclusions Hassan.
Could you make a list of the books you are referring to so the provenance for your statements can be given some validity?
Thanks, Wayne

message 9: by Pam (last edited Mar 25, 2010 05:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam Hassan,
are you actually reading On the Origin of Species? I can't really follow your train of thought in your review... so I would encourage you to read this book and see WHAT Darwin was actually talking about.

this seems a common mistake (and irritation) of mine that everyone jumps on "monkeyology" and gets in a tizzy about Darwin saying we evolved from Apes, etc. but that wasn't his theory at all.

what Darwin said was that a population changes over time to become another. example, there are many varieties of Finches on the Galapagos Islands (where most of his studying occurred.) and actually, his studies began because of fossil findings of PLANTS, when he noticed that there were similar species on surrounding islands. do you think all plants started out as their individual species? I assure they didn't since they have a class system just like every other living organism on this planet. AND, a lot (most, all) of them overlap or feature MANY VARIETIES.

you are correct, the first 50 pp is about the animals he studied, because THAT IS WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT: the animals he studied and how they were similar but also how they adapted to their environment to survive. I encourage you to not put words in Darwin's mouth and step over what his theory and findings actually were.

I am interested in how Apes evolved from Homo Sapiens or Homo Erectus.

message 10: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam taken from Goodreads: The book's full title is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, while for the 6th edition of 1872 the title was changed to The Origin of Species.

I still think you are missing the point, Hassan.

keep in mind, it was also a theory. therefore, facts are required to prove it.

I also wouldn't go so far to assume that the people who believe in Darwin's theory are all atheists. whereas, some might be- it doesn't mean all of them are.

I "read other books", too. lots of them, in fact. do you just want us to jump on your Bill Bryson bandwagon and talk about DNA other than what this review is about?

I'm confused.

message 11: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam I will say once more, Darwin's theory never stated that we descended from apes. please stop bringing that up. I stated it in my review (which, by the way, is what my commentary is still going to back up) that MANY PEOPLE ASSOCIATE DARWIN WITH THE THEORY THAT HUMANS EVOLVED FROM APES.

this book was based off of Darwin's findings from his travels on the Beagle. he continued his studies when he returned home and wrote the book based off of his THEORY. I'm not saying he's god spell, I also never said that I haven't read another scientists theory on evolution or natural selection. you assume too much.

I'm also pretty sure I never said I don't believe in DNA or bone studies. I'd like to know where you came up with that. for one, DNA is undeniable- there's isn't anything more concrete than DNA. if I brought up DNA its because I think you are confusing what Darwin's book was actually about and also what my review was about.

I don't hate any one person that is religious. it's their right to believe in their God. I also think you can be religious and still appreciate the theory of Evolution. people are going to believe what they choose to believe, calling them names and labeling them does nothing for me.

and for the last time, yes I believe in the THEORY of Evolution. (as it IS still a theory.) it doesn't make me a bad person, it doesn't make it wrong. it also doesn't make Darwin a bad person.

message 12: by Pam (last edited Apr 02, 2010 10:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam yay! you finally get what I was actually reviewing: the BOOK, that is based on Darwin's THEORY of Evolution by means of Natural Selection.

and really, there are many versions of this book published. do you think this was the original cover designed by Darwin himself? do you think he has any say by how the publishers are going to market his book? just because a monkey is on there, doesn't mean he put it there.

please stop referencing religions, religious persons or accusing the Jews of killing Darwin (?!), I do not condone or endorse those assumptions or accusations on any religion and don't appreciate you saying such things in a comment associated with me.

Charles Darwin died of natural causes.

if you want to attack someone's review based off of a book, then search the Descent of Man and talk to them about DNA, bones, facts and apes.

I wasn't defending Evolution vs Science. call me silly, but I associate the two together. I was defending Darwin himself and how he was associated with something that weren't his findings. I also defend the theory, that for his time- he was pure genius in what he discovered. as far as I can tell, what he put out was the beginnings of the Scientific Method- still stuck on Theory (hypothesis). its up the students and Scientists of our day to continue his experiment.

furthermore, please stop commenting on this review.

message 13: by Wayne (new) - added it

Wayne Re the atheists Hassan
The Catholic Church has given its seal of approval to Evolution but on the condition that people admit that we all descended from one woman.Scientists have proven with DNA that this is in fact the case!!!

But according to your fuzzy logic the Pope is an atheist.

I think you should just leave Darwin's book aside for the moment because it is just a seminal work and read books ABOUT Darwinism which should clarify and answer all your questions.

By the way, we humans share 50% of our DNA with bananas. And I think its 99% with the chimpanzee.
Have fun.

PS: Loved your idea that the Jews killed Darwin.
Never heard that one before.

message 14: by Wayne (new) - added it

Wayne Dear me!!!
I can see why poor Pam got so distressed with you.
Over and OUT.

message 15: by Ken (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ken I have not seen where he said we come from apes either. I think that is someone who dosen't like the idea of evolution. I'm what is called and creation/evolutionist. It is possible that evolution is the actual way that we came about. But, not from apes.

Kendall He believed we, homo sapiens and the great apes, descended from a common ancestor. Modern evolution has confirmed this.

message 17: by Ken (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ken your right we came from a common ancestor not the apes.

message 18: by Pamela (new) - added it

Pamela Whew!!!

I am going to read this starting today. Anything that causes this much controversy needs to be examined and understood more.
We touched on Darwin with one teacher in the 1960's, never with another. I gather it was not in our curriculum. Have only read a bit on Darwin but now after reading these reviews and replies I think I need to study him further. Cheers & Peace.

message 19: by Dia (new) - added it

Dia Mahmoud I think Pamela is dot on when she said that anything that causes this much controversy should be examined further.
I'm currently reading a very interesting book tackling the origin of man from first a scientific perspective, and then according to different holy scriptures. Highly recommended, in my opinion. Proves how misinterpreted Darwin's theories are. It's called 'What is the Origin of Man" by Dr. Maurice Bucaille.

message 20: by Ken (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ken Dia wrote: "I think Pamela is dot on when she said that anything that causes this much controversy should be examined further.
I'm currently reading a very interesting book tackling the origin of man from fir..."

I need to get "What is the origin of man."

message 21: by Pamela (new) - added it

Pamela Thanks Diane for the recommendation. I will pick that book up this weekend. Cheers.

message 22: by Pisces (new) - added it

Pisces Why is it always Christians who take offense? There are so many other religions that could take offense but, we rarely hear them get defensive? And why do people think creationism and evolution cannot both be true? Because species can evolve means they must not contain souls? How about, the bible is written by man and thus faulty, the physical world evolves and God created the energy (soul) that animates everything that lives? Simple and still beautiful and rational. I'm going to read this book. I'm not going to be one of those people who discredits Darwin without giving him the curtesy of trying to understand what he was trying to say. :) Peace

message 23: by Ken (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ken Pisces wrote: "Why is it always Christians who take offense? There are so many other religions that could take offense but, we rarely hear them get defensive? And why do people think creationism and evolution can..."

I agree. Most of friends from church get upset when we talk about this. I have been trying to get them to read the book. I think I finally have some convinced that Darwin DID NOT say we come from monkeys. He said we came from the same progenitor or ancestor or the same parent. I've read it and it talks mostly about plants and animals. I just want them to read it. Also he was not the first person who wrote about evolution and natural selection. Alfred Russel Wallace was the first although him and Darwin differed quite a lot on their beliefs.

Garry Alexander Darwin in fact he was an agnostic. not a christian. *

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I agree ith you ken. I am flabbergasted that somone of his time and era how superlative in knowledge he had! All americans be GREATFUL for your knowledge!

message 26: by Ken (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ken Ivanna wrote: "I agree ith you ken. I am flabbergasted that somone of his time and era how superlative in knowledge he had! All americans be GREATFUL for your knowledge!"

We should all be grateful

message 27: by Ken (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ken Garry wrote: "Darwin in fact he was an agnostic. not a christian. *"

Your're right

message 28: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam Ken wrote: "Garry wrote: "Darwin in fact he was an agnostic. not a christian. *"

Your're right"

read up on Darwin's history- he may have died an agnostic, but he started out attending church with his family, being baptized, and also attending studies as a Clergyman.
some argue that he renounced himself a Christian on his deathbed.
his studies into the theory of evolution was a conflict for him due to challenging everything he had learned/studied/believed up until that point.

lucky us, he pushed his comfort and questioned what was commonly accepted.

message 29: by Ken (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ken Pam wrote: "Ken wrote: "Garry wrote: "Darwin in fact he was an agnostic. not a christian. *"

Your're right"

read up on Darwin's history- he may have died an agnostic, but he started out attending church with..."

I glad he pushed his comfort and question what was accepted.

message 30: by Allen (new) - added it

Allen Wow. That was definitely a serious debate. I can definitely see why Pam and Wayne got so upset so quickly, because though no side was overly laden with references to their ideologies, Hassan's had close to none. Also, the debate quickly veered off of the topic of commenting on the book and went into a whole new realm. But it was a very interesting debate, nonetheless. Cheers to you all!

message 31: by Wayne (new) - added it

Wayne Allen wrote: "Wow. That was definitely a serious debate. I can definitely see why Pam and Wayne got so upset so quickly, because though no side was overly laden with references to their ideologies, Hassan's had ..."

Gosh, Allen !!! I recall this debate from over 3 years ago now !!! But very interesting to be reminded of it.
Thank you for that.

Darwin and his Theory of Evolution soon becomes such a contentious topic as Pam's site aptly illustrates.
It is also interesting to see Everyone claiming Darwin as 'theirs", when in fact he moved through a Spectrum of Beliefs the more he theorised and collected data.
Such a journey is only available to those who keep an open mind and Darwin had this and encouraged it in others.The journey often takes you where you fear to tread...I went from studying to be a priest in a monastery to being a reluctant atheist, a very painful outcome I had to learn to live with. I made it!!!!

One can see this journey in the changing theories of our world and its place in the cosmos...from the Ancient Greeks who finally settled on the Earth as the centre of the universe,a theory which held sway for well over a thousand years, collecting refinements and problems over time as theories always do; to Copernicus, who intellectualised that the Sun was at the centre but for the wrong reasons...but a very important attempt at adjusting the theory; till finally we have Galileo, standing on the shoulders of Tycho Brahe and Kepler, all of whom had abandoned intellectualising alone and arduously collected data for many years, becoming craftsmen by using and inventing machines and crafting his own telescope in the case of Galileo. Still, Scientific Facts are still only Theories, according to Science. No Absolute Truths here as Religion likes to have it.Even Newtown was Einstein. From being the Centre of the Universe and Creation, humankind found itself, more and more so as the journey has continued, relegated to a much more lowly position, a mammal !!
Painful ??? But you get used to it,and finally embrace it. eg. I have no regrets about my atheism. Glad I had the courage to embrace it, though at first, rather prickly.

Darwin believed that the best way to write about theology was to write about science.
And so he counselled his son George on the better path to follow when taking up the cudgels of argument with
Believers ie. clergy, theologians,the Churches, laity.
He discouraged him from 'doing a Dawkins'.
Unlike Richard Dawkins who alienates his opposition by full frontal Attack, Darwin believed that it was not "direct argument" that worked, but rather "the gradual illumination of men's minds" produced by science. He believed that "direct attacks on Christianity produce little permanent effect"; and that "good seems only to follow from slow and silent attacks."
So he studied and wrote about ...worms !!!
Insignificant ??? Far from it...the lowly worm in Darwin's hands becomes MIGHTY.

I'll stop my rant here and recommend a book, Allen.
"Darwin's Worms" by Adam Phillips...a look at endings, ie. mortality, extinction and death, via Darwin and Freud. Not too cheery ??? I have returned to this book time and again. It contains revelations.

And one more on Science, which sounds daunting but isn't...contains revelations too:
"The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"
by Thomas S. Kuhn.

So glad you wrote that review, Allen.
Fond regards from Me
...Wayne in Sydney, Australia.

Nathan Peterson @Pam
Finally! Someone else agrees with me. I wish more people recognized that science and religion don't have to go against each other.

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