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The Descent of Man

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  3,707 ratings  ·  114 reviews
Applying his controversial theory of evolution to the origins of the human species, Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man was the culmination of his life's work. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction by James Moore and Adrian Desmond.

In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin refused to discuss human evolution, believing the subject too 'surrounded with
Paperback, 796 pages
Published February 26th 2004 by Penguin Classics (first published February 24th 1871)
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Two years ago in the summer, possibly on my birthday (view spoiler) I visited Charles Darwin's home Down House, in the village of Down, Kent, that address is slightly misleading as it is a very short bus journey from Orpington Train station (outer London), past some houses then suddenly a couple of fields with surprised looking horses (view spoiler), a small village with a couple of pubs and ...more
Bob Nichols
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Darwin wrote this book in 1872. It's interesting to compare what he wrote about then with what his successor theorists write about today.

In contrast to today’s emphasis on universals (e.g., humans are this or not this or that), Darwin notes throughout this book that individuals have a wide variability in physical, emotional, and mental characteristics. Importantly, this suggests variability in biological temperament (e.g., timidity and courage) and, more broadly, in inherited character traits.

Jason Sixsmith
Mar 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
This book reveals just how much Darwin's racist and sexist views influenced his scientismic method.
May 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
This is one of the few books I found no redeeming qualities in. Some of his sentences absolutely scream racism and sexism. I know that ignorant statements should not entirely discount what a person is saying but when Darwin refers to the "Negro" (his word) as an entirely different "species" than the European man; I think my cringe lasted for the rest of the afternoon. I am truly astounded that so many of Darwin's loyal followers have either not read this book or choose to ignore it. Granted it w ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Need anything further be said of the origins of our species? While Mr. Darwin goes to great lengths to discuss variations among and between different species, particularly between the sexes, this book is as valuable a reminder today of who we are, and why we behave the way we do, as it was the day it was published. As Mr. Darwin reminds us, we are the product of a most savage and brutal history, yet we are capable of great tenderness and love. He ends the work with:

We must, however, acknowledge,
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hallelujah! Finished at last....and it only took almost 2 years to get through all 648 pages. Darwin is much more verbose in this book than he was in the very readable Voyage of the Beagle. I'm sure that this book made quite a (shocking) splash in 1874, when it was first published. He put off publishing it for a while after On the Origin of Species as he was well aware of what knickers would be twisted by the realization that he was actually saying that even humans evolved...from apes, no less. ...more
Ali Shams
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
“One must admit when he makes a mistake, reading my below review I can see how ignorant I was to the studies that where conducted after Darwin’s work which proved the parts related to natural selection, yes there were mistakes in some of Darwins observations, but natural selection is not a theory any more and there is enough evidence to prove it right more than any other simplistic explanation for human existence, unless you believe that we are living in a simulation and all the archeological ev ...more
May Ling
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Summary: These old-timey science books are hard to rate b/c they are so profound for their day, but full of weird stuff with the lens of 2020. Also, I think I'd like to read the non-concise version. The editor's interjections are a little bit annoying and disjointed for me.

p. 2 - Larmark argued that two laws of nature gradually changed life over time. Simple life forms perpetually came into existence, and they were all driven toward greater degrees of perfection. Species also adapted to th
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Evolution is an area of major interest to me so it is curious I had never read "The Descent of Man." The reason is I had been told that there is no science in the book worth mentioning, and having now read the book I find that is the case.
In his conclusions at the end of the book Darwin states his ideas put forward in the book are "highly speculative and may be in error." He was correct in that statement.
Basically Darwin posits that the various human races, while descended from an ape-like ances
Bob Nichols
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Darwin applies his theory of natural selection to humans in ways that are not supported by today’s evolutionary science. Echoing Malthus, Darwin frames his argument by saying that reproduction outpaces the resources necessary to support a population and this creates competitive pressure that natural selection acts upon. “As all animals tend to multiply beyond their means of subsistence,” he writes, “so it must have been with the progenitors of man; and this would inevitably lead to a struggle fo ...more
Steve Van Slyke
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in the history of evolutionary theory
I have to admit I skipped a few sections in the part on Sexual Selection because Darwin went to such great lengths at times to quote every possible book, document, paper or manuscript that either supported or attacked his theories, that at times I just got worn down.

But having said that, it was a very worthwhile read and it is astounding how many of his theories about man's evolution from earlier forms have been proven to be right on or nearly so.

My only criticism of the book other than its leng
Jeff Johnston
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Finally finished. Yes, I know what you're thinking. It took you this long and you rated it 4 stars. Well what can I say, other than I was easily distracted by easier books to read.
Overall, Darwin is quite a persuasive fellow with very dry wit. No one can doubt that his research is extensive. Can you imagine the discussions that he had with his peers over a meal or ale. Or the correspondence sent back and forth over a differing view point. You have to applaud these educated persons, if not necess
Feb 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What can I say about Darwin and his contemporaries? Time has been the great witness to their theories. Those with eyes to see, see the world explained. Even those who don’t, can't explain their theories away. Darwin's logic opened the universe to my mind. It amazes me that they did their work totally by observation. Time has given us many tools to confirm their work. Some ideas fell away, almost all are still valid. One of the great accomplishments of our species.
Bcoghill Coghill
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this in my Uncles house in the sixties. He had a wonderful library and gave me complete access. Shockingly, he and his progeny are all deniers of evolution and much of modern science. Thank goodness someone got use out of his library.
R.K. Byers
Sep 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
legendary in it's racist iconography. a veritable Mein Kampf.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it did not like it
The secular humanist handbook and bible.
Rachael Bundy
Mar 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
99% of this book is racist ranting about why non-Europeans are less evolved than Europeans (specifically the British). Blech.
Fuzzball Baggins
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
A few interesting chapters, but the vast majority of the book was just 'and this type of beetle is green, and this type of beetle is blue, and this type of beetle is-' I DON'T CARE

Someone should write a combined edition of Darwin's works that presents all of his theories in one novel, and leaves out the pages and pages and pages of repetitive examples.

Also Darwin was really racist and sexist, but I suppose everyone was in those days.
ਮਨਦੀਪ ਸਿੰਘ
This book tells us about our relations with other creatures of this planet Earth.
How we connected to them. How this intelligency developed by us through a long period of time.
We had to bear a lot . After reading this book you have to think about your our life , we started respect it, (Earth, Animals, Birds, other creatures of this planet) as we know we are all connected to each other.
Gary Patella
This book has both positive and negative aspects. There are a lot of amusing anecdotes involving various animals, which I enjoyed. This book also covers sexual selection in complete detail. Darwin goes through sexual selection in insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The section on birds is very long, and is well worth reading for anyone interested in ornithology. He shows how the thought process of other animals is not so different from our own, and gives clear evidence that man is ...more
Peter Fox
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantastic read and lived up to the expectation that I had held for the scientifically beautiful prose. I read Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species over a decade ago, but for many different reasons didn't quite get around the following it up with the descent.

There is something special about reading his work that will always make me feel that he wasn't just ahead of the game; he had decided to reinvent what the rule book should look like. This is evident in the vision that he puts for
Johnn Escobar
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is amazing how brilliant Charles Darwin was in noticing and studying evolution completely apart from the limitations of his time, discovering what was at first a theory and today is an absolute truth.
Their scientific postulations make clear evidence of the similarities between humans and apes - in a broad sense of the word - denoting that the present primates would be a kind of evolutionary variation that measured between "the primate" as he called the creature that Gave rise to humans and th
Jan 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Going into this work, I was under the impression that it mainly focused on human evolution. That isn't entirely the case. There are chapters on human evolution, to be sure, but the lengthiest writings have to do with sexual selection in non-human species (there are three or four chapters on birds alone). This fact was my first disappointment.

My second disappointment is many of Darwin's remarks on the differences between the sexes in humans. A lot of his hypotheses in this regard are severely dat
Alex Lee
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, 2016
This book took a long time for Darwin to write because he was afraid of how his conclusions and thoughts would be treated by the public.

In a way this book is more application than anything else; but its effect is to realign all the justifications of the uniqueness of humankind and show how animals have a more abstract version of the same interaction. This places man at the apex with the rest of the animal kingdom as more specific interactions of the same, depending on their niche. Much of this b
Jul 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Another read for my Western Civ class. It's getting as bad as a Literature class. An interesting book by the man who came up with the Theory of Evolution. I probably would never have read it without this class and I don't think I'll ever read it again. Again it's a product of its time and dry reading, if you are interested in science especially Biology or Geology I recommend reading it at some point. If you do read it I also suggest finding "Bishop Wilberforce's Response". It's the Christian per ...more
Travis Lindeman
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was surprised by how very readable Darwin was. It's much more than just natural observations contained in this book, there are some pretty interesting and unique ideas about psychology. Where this work is instrumental is in establishing a link between humanity and the animal kingdom. The difference between us, the readers of this text, and animals is only one of degree, but not that we as humans are essentially different from the animal kingdom.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Any timidity Darwin showed in The Origin of Species published 12 years earlier is cast aside in The Descent of Man. Confidently, he proposes the application of natural selection to the history of humankind. But he does not sacrifice his scientific integrity in the process. After laying out his observations and the research of a lifetime, including everything from the vibrations of hair on flies' antennas to a lengthy examination of peacock feathers, he humbly offers room for doubt:
Many of the vi
Alexandre Couto de Andrade
Jun 04, 2010 rated it did not like it
It is incredible that the same man who wrote the "Origin of Species" also wrote this pseudoscientific and racist book!
Jun 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
Boring book, not worth reading. Proves evolution is false.
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
In 1859, Charles Darwin published his On the Origin of Species. In this ground breaking book, Darwin explained how species originate via the principle of natural selection. Each organism differs from the other members of the population, and lives in a continuously changing environment. Therefore, each organism has, in interaction with its environment, a degree of fitness that determines his chances of survival and reproduction.

Since all organisms differ, there are various degrees of fitness wit
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Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist, eminent as a collector and geologist, who proposed and provided scientific evidence that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through the process he called natural selection. The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the scientific community and the general public in his lifetime, while his theory of natural selec ...more

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