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On the Origin of Species

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This is a pre-1923 historical reproduction that was curated for quality. Quality assurance was conducted on each of these books in an attempt to remove books with imperfections introduced by the digitization process. Though we have made best efforts - the books may have occasional errors that do not impede the reading experience. We believe this work is culturally important and have elected to bring the book back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide.

616 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1859

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About the author

Charles Darwin

1,435 books2,801 followers
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 selection came to be widely seen as the primary explanation of the process of evolution in the 1930s, and now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory. In modified form, Darwin’s scientific discovery remains the foundation of biology, as it provides a unifying logical explanation for the diversity of life.

Darwin developed his interest in natural history while studying medicine at Edinburgh University, then theology at Cambridge. His five-year voyage on the Beagle established him as a geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author. Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin investigated the transmutation of species and conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay which described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of both of their theories.

His 1859 book On the Origin of Species established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. He examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.

In recognition of Darwin’s pre-eminence, he was one of only five 19th century UK non-royal personages to be honoured by a state funeral, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to John Herschel and Isaac Newton.

Her was the father of naturalist Francis Darwin, of astronomer George Darwin, and of politician, economist and eugenicist Leonard Darwin.

(Arabic: تشارلز داروين)

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Profile Image for Pam.
168 reviews34 followers
September 14, 2007
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...
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews55.9k followers
August 18, 2021
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life = On Natural selection = Natural selection = The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin

The Origin of Species is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype.

It is a key mechanism of evolution, the change in the heritable traits characteristic of a population over generations.

Charles Darwin popularized the term "Natural selection", contrasting it with artificial selection, which is intentional, whereas natural selection is not.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «بنیاد انواع: به وسیله انتخاب طبیعی یا کشمکش و نبرد برای زیستن، برگردان جناب عباس شوقی»؛ «بنیاد انواع: به وسیله انتخاب طبیعی یا تنازع بقا در عالم طبیعت، برگردان جناب عباس شوقی»؛ «انتخاب طبیعی، برگردان سرکار خانم مرضیه خسروی»؛ «تکامل»؛ «بنیاد انواع»؛ «منشا انواع، برگردان جناب ن‍ورال‍دی‍ن‌ ف‍ره‍ی‍خ‍ت‍ه»؛ «خاستگاه گونه ها، برگردان جناب ن‍ورال‍دی‍ن‌ ف‍ره‍ی‍خ‍ت‍ه»؛ «اصل انواع»؛ انتشاراتیها (ابن سینا؛ شبگیر؛ ارومیه نشر انزلی، نگارستان، روزگار نو)؛ نخستین خوانش: سال 1972میلادی

عنوان: بنیاد انواع: به وسیله انتخاب طبیعی یا کشمکش و نبرد برای زیستن؛ نویسنده: چارلز داروین؛ مترجم: عباس شوقی؛ تهران؛ ابن سینا، 1351، در536ص؛ عنوانهای دیگر تکامل؛ بنیاد انواع؛ موضوع زیست شناسی، تکامل، و انتخاب طبیعی، از نویسندگان ب��یتانیایی؛ سده 19م

عنوان: منشا انواع؛ نویسنده: چارلز داروین، مترجم: نورالدین فرهیخته؛ تهران؛ شبگیر، 1359، در 618ص؛ چاپ دیگر ارومیه، انتشارات انزلی، 1363؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، نگارستان کتاب، 1380، شابک 9644072677؛ در 618ص؛ چاپ دوم 1389؛ شابک 9786005541877؛

عنوان: انتخاب طبیعی؛ نویسنده: چارلز داروین، مترجم: مرضیه خسروی؛ تهران، روزگار نو، 1394؛ در 77ص، شابک 9786007339534؛

نوشتاری پیرامون «آغاز گونه‌ ها بوسیله ی انتخاب طبیعی»، یا «نگهداری نژادهای اصلح برای تنازع بقا»؛ مهم‌ترین اثر «چارلز داروین»، دانشمند و زیست‌ شناس اهل «بریتانیا» است، که نخستین بار در سال 1859میلادی چاپ شد؛ «داروین» در این کتاب، نظرات نوینی درباره ی «فرگشت»، «پیدایش حیات»، و «انقراض انواع موجودات» بیان کرده اند، که در زمان خود جنجال‌های بسیاری را سبب شد؛ پژوهش‌های «داروین» به آرامی پیش می‌رفت؛ در سال 1842میلادی، ایشان نوشتاری از دیدگاه خویش بنگاشتند، و در سال 1844میلادی رساله‌ ای دویست و چهل صفحه‌ ای، درباره ی «گزینش طبیعی» نگاشتند؛ با وجود پافشاری دوستانش، ایشان همچنان در انتشار گسترده دیدگاههای خویش دو دل بودند، و نتایج پژوهش‌های خویش را تنها با برخی همکاران نزدیک خویش، همچون «چارلز لایل»، و «جوزف دالتون هوکر»، در میان می‌گذاشتند؛ اما دریافت نامه‌ ای، در ماه ژوئن سال1858میلادی «داروین» را واداشت، تا تردیدهای خویشتن را کنار بگذارند؛ نویسنده ی آن نامه، زیست‌شناس جوانی، به نام «آلفرد راسل والاس» بودند، که در «بورنئو» کار می‌کردند؛ او نیز درباره ی «فرگشت» به همان اندیشه‌ های «داروین» رسیده بود؛ «داروین» در دو هفته، نوشتاری نگاشتند، و همراه با نوشتار «والاس»، به «انجمن علمی لینیان» فرستادند؛ دوستانش ترتیبی دادند، که هر دو نوشتار با هم ارائه شوند، اما همراه با مدارکی، که حق تقدم «داروین» را اثبات کند؛ «داروین»، که اراده‌ اش بر اثر آگاهی از وجود رقابت، برانگیخته شده بود، پس از ارائه ی نوشتار، آغاز به نگارش کتابی کردند، با عنوان «پیرامون آغاز گونه‌ها به وسیله انتخاب طبیعی یا بقای نژادهای اصلح در تنازع برای بقا»؛ در آن کتاب که سپس با عنوان «آغاز گونه‌ها» نامدار شد، ایشان کوشیدند، نظریه ی «فرگشت» به وسیله ی «گزینش طبیعی» را شرح دهند، و مدارک علمی برای آن ارائه نمایند

کتاب در دوازده فصل گردآوری شده‌ است؛ چهار فصل نخستین درباره ی اساس نظریه ی «داروین» است؛ چهار فصل بعدی به بررسی انتقاداتی می‌پردازد، که «داروین» پیش‌ بینی کرده، ممکن است به نظریه ی او وارد شود؛ سه فصل بعدی مربوط به شواهد زمین‌شناسی، و پراکندگی گیاهان، و جانوران، و رده‌ بندی، و ریخت‌ شناسی آن‌هاست؛ در فصل آخر تمام آنچه در کتاب آمده به صورت چکیده بازگو شده‌ اند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 07/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 26/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,108 reviews44.2k followers
March 4, 2017
Charles Darwin changed the world when he wrote this book.

I mean if you think about it logically, no other book has had such a powerful impact on the way humanity views the earth; yes, we have countless religious doctrine, but never before had there been a book that so drastically alternated our perceptions of the mechanisms that are behind our existence. I’m not talking about on a spiritual level, a level of ideas that cannot be scientifically proven or unproven, but on an actual physical level.

These ideas weren’t accepted overnight, few things are, but over time they began to be more and more accepted. Even today we still refer to Darwin’s ideas as “the theory of Evolution” despite the fact that it is now empirically proven as to how we got where we are. It is, generally speaking, a culturally accepted idea. The fact that we still refer to something most accept to be fact as a theory is a phenomenon. It’s unusual.

Contrary to popular belief, Darwin did not seek to debunk any religious beliefs. In fact, the research he carried out put him in constant confusion about his own Christianity. For a time he believed religion and science could work together; he believed that science helped to explain some of the ideas in creation stories, but eventually he stopped believing. He lost his faith and embraced the logical mind of the scientist; again, he didn’t seek to counter religion. It was just a simple case that over time he could no longer personally and logically believe in it: it could not be proved rationally. As a student of literature, as a lover of stories, history, nature and narrative, I find myself drawn to ideas of religion and science. For anybody to call religion groundless (I say this from my own agnostically driven perspective) is to divulge a massive lack of judgment. Without wanting to offend any atheists, or anybody of faith, we will never know either way which is ultimately right. But, I do most ardently think that we can only begin to understand what it is to be human by reading and exploring the ideas of both religion and science. They have both been perpetuated by man, so I think we owe it to ourselves to try and understand why.

Some of you may have noticed how eclectic my reading tastes have become. I pretty much read anything. I have many reading lists-both shortlists and longlists- but four works I simply need to read in my lifetime are The Qur'an (I have a beautiful edition I picked up from a used book store- a late 19th Century edition), The King James Bible (I’ve recently finished genesis), Relativity: The Special and the General Theory by Einstein and A Brief History of Time by Hawkins. The point is, I think in today’s world we need to understand both religion and science. Both parts form a larger part of our society.

Well, anyway, that was a rather large digression. I read the origin of species back in 2013 for the first time. My second reading was more of a gloss over of certain key ideas, and a revisit of passages that I flagged down before. The ideas in the book are obviously ground-breaking, though not the first historical example of them. But, for me, this book is more of a slog than leisure driven reading. The writing isn’t great and it is terribly repetitive at times, but I suppose that’s what comes with observing the natural world in such scientific detail. From the findings here Darwin would eventually go on to lay down his full arguments in The Decent of Man, a read that sounds more compelling and all encompassing. So it’s another one to add to my list!
Profile Image for Luís.
1,820 reviews470 followers
December 18, 2022
A founding text of the thought of humanity. What a pleasure to immerse yourself in the world of a nineteenth-century naturalist. We touch on daily life; it is seeing consulting a mass of documents on the insects of Central Asia and the beetles of Paraguay, observing for days and days, every year, the life of an anthill. Argue in front of a wall of perplexed scholars or conquered on the natural selection and evolution of species and then scrolls in our mind a list of plants and animal species ranging from cabbage, holly, oak and Sylvester pine to the silk, the wolf, the cock of heather and the alligator. Like many men of his time, Charles Darwin is an observer who enjoys trying to try the results, observing them and analyzing them to conclusions. So it is returning, through his work's reading, to the scientific methodology that has imposed itself as a rule in the nineteenth century. His tremendous observation capacity points out phenomena that he can not explain by his theory of evolution, but that will be known a few years later thanks to the appearance of genetics.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 28 books13.5k followers
October 14, 2012
Dear Carol,

Thank you for your mail, and of course I remember meeting you on the flight last month! It was a very interesting discussion and I'm still thinking about it. The semester has now started here at Creationist U and I am working hard, but I found time to read the book you recommended. And I'm glad I did, because it was really a lot better than I thought it would be.

I guess I was expecting Darwin to be like Richard Dawkins, but he was respectful of religious ideas. And it was great that he liked Paley's Natural Theology so much... he says he almost knew it by heart! We read Paley last year in History of Creation Science, and I also thought it was a terrific book. So I could see Darwin was an open-minded person who was prepared to look at both sides of the question. Richard Dawkins could learn a lot from that!

The way he sets up his argument is smart. He starts off talking about how stockbreeders can improve their breed - well, I'm a country boy, and I could see he knew his stuff. This is someone who's spent time down at the farm and understands how country people feel about livestock. And I liked that he'd done all that work raising pigeons. Not the kind of scientist who just hangs out at the lab all day.

After that, he introduces his Big Idea about the survival of the fittest and he almost made evolution sound sensible. He's a good writer. And then he was honest when he explained all the problems with the theory. He really got me - I was wondering if he was going to mention any of that stuff, and a page later he came out and said just what I was thinking! Nice work, Mr. Darwin. But I did wonder what he was doing, cutting out the ground from under his own feet. He said he could explain things like the eye and how bees could evolve to make honeycombs, but even if he was real good at making his case, I wasn't buying any.

So by the halfway mark, I figured he was done, but like ol' Dubya used to say, I misunderestimated him - he'd saved all his best stuff for last. He had some good shots! I got to admit, he made me think. Why does God put the species that look alike in the same place? Like he says, it is weird how you have a mountain range, and there's one kind of animals and plants on one side, and a different kind on the other side. God's ways are inscrutable to us, but why does He care about those mountains? And the islands, they were even worse. He says if you look at the species on a lot of islands, you don't have any mammals there, except you do have bats. Why? I could see where he was going with this one - the bats could blow in off the mainland and evolve, but other mammals couldn't do that. I admit it, I don't have an answer, except maybe God's testing our faith again. But I can see not everyone will like that. I'm still wondering about those bats! Okay Mr. Darwin, I said it already but I'll say it again, you were a smart guy.

So how's life at MIT? And I hope you read the book I recommended to you. A Canticle for Leibowitz will show you that faith and science have more in common than you might think!

Take care,

Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,668 followers
January 22, 2016
“One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.”
― Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species


It is amazing to think that this mild, scientific book published a little less than 155 years ago caused (and is still causing) such a complete storm. I'm surprised at how adapted we have become (or at least the segment of those people on the planet who don't reject Darwin's theory of natural selection as counter to their own idea of the way God makes and shakes) to Darwin's revolutionary idea(s).

Like with many of the pantheon of scientific geniuses (Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, etc) there was a bit of random chance involved. The ground was ready for Darwin's adapted seed. There were enough scholars and scientists and rationalists around to carry his idea(s) hither and his theory thither. So while this book, and Darwin himself, were both stellar examples of scientific restraint, the force and momentum of OftS can't be under appreciated. It was just the right time and right place for a scientific revolution. Darwin and his little book walked by a labour of scientific mouldywarps who happened to find themselves on the chalk cliffs of science, pushed those sterile hybrids off, and never looked back. Evolve bitches!
Profile Image for Paul.
2,306 reviews20 followers
December 19, 2016
Ah, you can't really review a book like this. It's almost complete transcended its role as a seminal scientific tome and become a legitimate historic artefact. You can't review a historic artefact.

This is a fantastic read, even viewed in a completely different way to how it would have been read at the time. It really is amazing how much evolutionary biology Darwin was able to formulate almost a century before Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA. It boggles the mind what Darwin could have been capable of if he'd had access to the last 150 years of genetic research.
Profile Image for Stephen M.
137 reviews594 followers
January 12, 2013
Edits for NR because I love him that much.

"This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection. Variations neither useful not injurious would not be affected by natural selection, and would be left a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in the species called polymorphic.

"We shall best understand the probable course of natural selection by taking the case of a country undergoing some physical change, for instance, of climate. The proportional numbers of its inhabitants would almost immediately undergo a change, and some species might become extinct. We may conclude, from what we have seen of the intimate and complex manner in which the inhabitants of each country are bound together, that any change in the numerical proportions of some of the inhabitants, independently of the change of climate itself, would most seriously affect many of the others. If the country were open on its borders, new forms would certainly immigrate, and this also would seriously disturb the relations of some of the former inhabitants. Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be. But in the case of an island, or of a country partly surrounded by barriers, into which new and better adapted forms could not freely enter, we should then have places in the economy of nature which would assuredly be better filled up, if some of the original inhabitants were in some manner modified; for, had the area been open immigration, these same places would have been seized on by intruders. In such case, ever slight modification, which in the course of ages chanced to arise, and which in any way favoured the individuals of any of the species, by better adapting them to their altered conditions, would tend to be preserved and natural selection would thus have free scope for the work of improvement.

"We have reason to believe, as stated in the first chapter, that a change in the conditions of life, by specially acting on the reproductive systems, cause or increases variability; and in the foregoing case the conditions of life are supposed to have undergone a changes, and this would manifestly be favourable to natural selection, by giving a better chance of profitable variations occurring; and unless profitable variations do occur, natural selection can do nothing." (I DIDN'T WRITE THIS. DARWIN DID IN THIS BOOK.)

Or This.
Profile Image for Michael .
283 reviews25 followers
February 11, 2011
I swear I cannot figure what all the fuss is about. This is a science book. It was sometimes a bit tough to read because of the depth into detail. If I were an anthropologist I'm sure I would more appreciate that detail, but as a layman it did at times seem too thick.

If I were lost in an uncivilized world and had only two books, I would want a Webster's dictionary and this Origin of Species. The dictionary to learn word definitions and this book to learn about the flora and fauna around me. For all those people who get upset because you think this book may contradict another one you are so fond of, just be very careful not to fall off the edge of the flat 6,ooo year old earth......mgc
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,815 reviews646 followers
February 17, 2023
Very hard book for me to get through - not really my background. This book really opened my eyes to how balanced everything is; how each form of life on this planet has had to fight to survive. As man'kind' we have shown little kindness to others, animals or Mother Earth...time for us to evolve in our souls. David Case does a wonderful job.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,076 reviews52 followers
April 23, 2018
Too much to unpack here and not an easy read as it was written 150 years ago.

Despite all of the knocks against reading Origin for enjoyment, I can only express extreme awe and state the obvious - how much of a genius Darwin was.

From his theory of natural selection to glacier theory, to hybrid plants, to fossil theory and a dozen other biological and geological theories that he developed or contributed to, it is remarkable to me how very little Darwin got wrong in a book that was 600 pages long.

We live in a science based world, or at least we like to think so, and this man manages to remain so relevant. It is the scientific method at its best, one part rigorous logic, one part observation, and one part intuition. The recipe works.
Profile Image for Lisa (Harmonybites).
1,834 reviews326 followers
May 11, 2012
Decry or applaud it, there's no question this work has had a profound effect not just on science, but the culture at large. What I wouldn't read this book for is the science, or in an effort to either defend or refute the argument for evolution. The core of Darwin's argument certainly is still what was taught in my Catholic high school biology class (taught by a nun). In a nutshell, the theory is that given there are wide-ranging subtle Variations among organisms, the Malthusian Struggle for Existence causes by means of Natural Selection of the inheritable traits that are the best Adaptations to the environment the Origin of Species or as Darwin calls it, the "theory of descent with modification."

But, after all, this book is now over 150 years old. Science is about explaining natural phenomenon and correcting mistakes through observation, experimentation and falsification--not dogma--and so is always a moving target. I know that. But I still raised an eyebrow when in the first chapter of the book Darwin said he believed the "most frequent cause of variability" was caused by the experiences of the parents before conception--such as cows' udders being larger in countries where they're milked because the habit of milking by itself alters in the reproductive organs what is inherited by the next generation. WTF Darwin? When Darwin first propounded his theory of evolution (a word never used in the book by the way) through natural selection, Mendel had yet to discover the basic principles of genetics in his experiments with peas and Watson and Crick had yet to unravel the structure of DNA. Nor was continental drift known and understood, so there were notable gaps in Darwin's reasoning that has since been filled. Stephen Jay Gould, one of the staunchest defenders and popularizers of evolution is famous within science particularly for where he differs from Darwin. Darwin thought changes in species were very gradual. Gould favors "punctuated equilibrium" where there are rapid changes followed by long periods of stability. That's why scientists today talk of the "theory of evolution," not of "Darwinism" as if a scientific principle is an unchanging creed and Origin of Species scripture.

So, the book is dated and filled with lots of details I'm sure are just plain wrong and might be onerous to unlearn. That does make me reluctant to give this book top marks despite its profound impact. Someone interested in modern evolutionary science would be better off picking up a copy of a book by Jared Diamond, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan (although by now I suppose his very readable Dragons of Eden is dated) or Stephen Jay Gould. So, was there no value in reading On the Origin of Species? I wouldn't say that. It's surprisingly readable--or at least understandable. There are definitely dry passages that were a slog to get through, my eyes glazing over as Darwin gave example after exhaustive example to make his points. However, I couldn't help but be impressed by the knowledge of nature shown by his wide-ranging examples from every continent from ants and bees and algae to pigeons to zebras. Given the way he cited various authorities and spoke about his own experiments, I definitely felt that here was a master generalist and enthusiast on nature. Moreover Darwin does have a gift for metaphor and illustrative examples. I was particularly taken by his explanation of "inter-crossing" and the function of sex in creating biological diversity. I also was struck by how cautious and civil in tone Darwin is in his arguments, devoting an entire chapter on what he saw could be the flaws and holes in his theory--particularly the issues of transitions between species and intermediate forms. Bottom line? Arguably this specific book had as much influence on the literature and politics of the next century as Freud or Marx, so I think there is historical value in reading this, preferably in the first edition (which is what I read) that exploded upon the world in 1859.
Profile Image for [ J o ].
1,936 reviews426 followers
August 16, 2018
"If, however, a caterpillar were taken out of a hammock made up, for instance, to the third stage, and were put into one finished up to the sixth stage, so that much of its work was already done for it, far from feeling the benefit of this, it was much embarrassed, and, in order to complete its hammock, seemed forced to start from the third stage."

On the Origin of Species is one of the most important books ever written. Although a lot of people-scientists, naturalists and the like-were coming to the same kind of conclusions, Darwin was one of the first who wrote it all down in a profound and concise manner and used his influence and friends to make it a well-known theory: the theory of evolution.

There is only one thing you need to know before you read this, and that is that Charles Darwin was a very religious man. This is a five-star worthy book, but my ignorance of this fact caused me to be so infuriated by the end that I couldn't bring myself to rate it higher. It is written exquisitely: if you've read anything particularly science-related in this day and age you will notice how science-related it is. The words, the terms, they're all very much science-related and it can be so difficult to really understand and comprehend what you're reading because it's almost in another language.

This is written very much in the way any Victorian novel would have been written. There is a smattering of Latin terms, but for the most part it is easy to understand if you get in the right frame of mind as you would a Classic. It can be heavy going, however, as the paragraphs are long and often repetitive, but his thoughts on pigeons are the most endearing things I've come across: this is Victorian science and it's all about pigeons.

To go back to why I only rated it three stars: throughout at no point did Darwin mention God or the creation of the world, except perhaps in very subtle reference and the theory of evolution and instinct reigns supreme, until the very end when he concludes that God did not create the world 1859 years, but millions of years ago, instead, and that all current flora and fauna are descended from the original God-created animals. I should have expected something like this but I did not and that annoyed me more than it should have. Of course, it makes the entire thing that much more impressive, though the horrific experience Darwin must have gone through as he tried to make a religious-belief co-live with a scientific frame of mind would have been supremely agonising. It's wholly my fault for this ignorance, but I still can't bring myself to heighten it.

It's still one of the most important books ever written and its legacy will never become diminished, but it is often repetitive and sometimes out-dated with quite a lengthy part about geology which is fairly unremarkable, but his amusing and enjoyable experiments with flowers and his views on pigeons are just a delight.

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Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,062 reviews694 followers
April 4, 2017
My book group selected this book for discussion probably because of the historic impact it has had on the field of science. However, I found it to be very worthy of respect from a literary viewpoint. Charles Darwin's writing comes across as a methodical thinker and patient explainer to many recalcitrant readers who are determined not to believe a word he says. He had me convinced after only a couple dozen pages, but he kept doing what seemed to me to be piling on observation after observation, explanation after explanation, until after a while I felt like crying out, "Enough already, I believe!"

Frankly, I was impressed by the breadth of knowledge about the natural world already accumulated by the middle of the 19th century as demonstrated by this book. There are obvious things poor old Darwin didn't know about, one of them being the laws of genealogy discovered by Gregor Johann Mendel. Mendel was a contemporary of Darwin, and I have heard that a published copy of Mendel's study was on Darwin's book shelves but it hadn't been opened or read. Of course Darwin wasn't the only person who ignored Mendel. Mendel's work wasn't appreciated for its contribution to understanding of inherited traits until after his death. Meanwhile Darwin is writing this book giving many observations regarding the variability of crossings of various plants and animals, but doesn't understand why.

Also, Darwin was plagued with physicists of the time who calculated that earth couldn't be as old as needed for Darwin's theory of natural selection to accomplish all the required changes. The physicists were basing their calculations of the rate cooling of the core of the earth. Of course they were wrong; what they didn't know about was radioactive decay which gives off heat they weren't making allowances for. It turns out the earth is even older than Darwin would have guessed.

And of course the really big advance of science that Darwin didn't know about was the DNA double helix. Darwin insists that life forms need to be classed according to genealogy, and he speculates that in the future scientists will be able to classify life forms more accurately as more knowledge is obtained about them. Darwin would be amazed to know how precisely genealogy can be determined these days. For example, it can be determined that humans are more closely related to fungi than to photosynthetic plants.

I listened to the audio version of this book. This is an example of a book that is much easier to listen to than to read because of all the big Latin words used in describing species. Having the words read aloud made them fit into the context of the sentence much better than if I were trying to read (and probably skip over) those unfamiliar words.

There were six editions of "Origin of Species" in Darwin's life time. It could be argued that the 1859 edition is the second best version of this book with the 1860 British edition being slightly better in that it contains some insignificant, but non-substantive, corrections. The editions of 1861, 1866, 1869, and 1872 are all inferior. In them Darwin made changes and expansions in an effort to meet the objections that arose during those times. The modifications expanded the book and clouded the argument. Since most of the objections that were raised would be regarded as silly today, Darwin's arguments against them are of interest for social history, but not for Darwin's theory. I think that most published copies today are based on the 1872 edition. If you have an earlier edition you will find that it is shorter and, as indicated above, is probably better.

The following quotation is from the sixth edition and not in the earlier editions. It is from a section of the book on instincts and follows a couple paragraphs discussing the habit of some birds to lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. Mr. Darwin has just sighted some of the observations of the nesting habits of a type of cowbird [Molothrus Bonariensis] written by a naturalist colleague.
"Mr. Hudson is a strong disbeliever in evolution, but he appears to have been much struck by the imperfect instincts of the Molothrus Bonariensis that he quotes my words and asks, 'must we consider these habits not as an especially endowed or created instincts but as small consequences of one general law, namely transitions?' "
I take from the above that Darwin was enjoying the irony of a naturalist from the creationist camp finding it difficult to attribute to God the endowment of the slothful nest making habits to the cowbird. Since the behavior is repugnant it must have been caused by that old nasty evolution stuff (i.e. the work of the devil).
Profile Image for Orhan Pelinkovic.
86 reviews150 followers
June 11, 2020
Highly recommend for the evolution enthusiast. Charles Darwin is the prophet of the natural selection theory and the Godfather of the struggle for survival.

Darwin's work "On The Origin of Species" gives you a feel at times that you're reading something between a textbook and a book.

This book is a short summary of his Voyage and 15 years of studying and researching organisms prior to writing this book. On the other hand, Darwin gives us an extensive detailed elaboration of his theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

I wish he could have wrote more with regards to the humankind Species, but it was a different time, and writing this book was probably risky in itself.

He was such a humble gentleman that he dedicated big portions of his book to the possible difficulties with his theory.

I've read the Serbo-Croatian translation Postanak Vrsta autora Čarlsa Darvina / Akademska Knjiga 2009 6th Edition Publishing / 573 pages / 158,662 words.
Profile Image for Lori.
353 reviews420 followers
February 22, 2020
Read a long time ago but wouldn't have been able to review it anyway. Some have done a great job I see. But not me, I don't have the words for this one and GR doesn't have enough stars.
Profile Image for Markus.
635 reviews74 followers
January 20, 2018
On The Origin of Species
Darwin (1809-1882)

Darwin published this book in 1859.
It is his scientific treaty based on the idea of all organism living on the earth to be descendants from one or several original progenitors.

The work is mostly a transcription of the author’s notes throughout his years of study and his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle to the Southern Hemisphere.

It had likely been addressed to the quite sceptic scientific community of his time, to demonstrate his idea and to bring supporting material enough to convince and to proof its validity.

Apart from the excessively rich scientific vocabulary, the book is pleasant reading.

A few quotations will give some insight:

"This Abstract, which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give references and authorities for my several statements, and I must trust to the reader reposing some confidence into my accuracy. No doubt errors will have crept in, though I hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone.

In considering the origin of species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on their embryonic relations, their geographical distribution, geological successions, and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties from other species.”

The work is developed in chapters:

Variations under Domestications,
Variations in Nature,
Struggle for existence,
Natural selection; or Survival of the fittest,
Laws of variation,
Difficulties of the theory,
Miscellaneous objections to the theory of Natural Selection,
On the imperfection of the Geological Record,
On the Geological Succession of Organic Beings
Geographical distribution,
Mutual affinities of organic beings, Embryology,

Quotations from Recapitulation and Conclusion:

"I see no good reason why the view given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone. It could be just as noble a conception for a Deity to believe that He created a few original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms, as to believe that He required a fresh act of creation to supply the voids caused by the action of His laws.

The belief that species were immutable productions was almost unavoidable as long as the history of the world was believed to be of short duration; and now that we have acquired some idea of the lapse of time, we are apt to assume, that the geological record would have afforded us plain evidence of the mutation of species.

Now, things are wholly changed, and almost every naturalist admits the great principle of evolution, over the old belief in the creation of species from the dust of the earth.

The laws of Nature, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to the struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural selection, and the Extinction of less-improved forms.

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.”

I have much enjoyed reading this book and am glad not to have missed it.
I recommend it to anyone interested in Natural History or just in knowledge as such.
13 reviews2 followers
October 27, 2007
Are you an Evangelical Christian? Or, perhaps you are a student participating in one of nation's modern and progressive science classes, learning about the Origins of Man, but confused by the lack of scientifically observable studies missing from your text books. Fortunately for you, Darwin spent decades of his life documenting the observable changes in various species, hypothesizing about these changes and drawing some interesting conclusions about his life's work.
Profile Image for Mohamed al-Jamri.
174 reviews112 followers
June 8, 2016
كثير ممن يعرفونني ويعلمون باطلاعي على نظرية التطور سيستغربون أن هذه هي المرة الأولى التي أقرأ فيها كتاب أصل الأنواع للعالم تشارلز دارون. بل إن سبب قراءتي لهذا الكتاب هو إبداء إحدى الصديقات استغرابها من هذا الموضوع بالذات، فهي ممن يصر على أننا يجب أن نقرأ لما كتبه الشخص ذاته بدل القراءة لما كتب عنه لتكوين صورة مستقلة ومحايدة عنه وعن أفكاره. كان ذلك في بداية شهر مايو، وقررنا أن نبدأ بقراءة جماعية في نهاية الشهر، وانضم لنا ما يقارب العشرة من مجموعة القرآء البحرينيون.

قمت بوضع خطة لقراءة عدد من الكتب التي تؤرخ لنظرية التطور وكتاب أصل الأنواع قبل قراءة الكتاب ذاته لكي أعيش الأجواء التي كانت موجودة وقت نشره واستطيع فهمه بصورة أكبر، فهو بالنسبة لي كتاب تاريخي بدرجة أساسية وعلمي بدرجة ثانوية فقط لأنني أعلم أبرز النقاط لتي فيه مسبقًا، فعلماء التطور لا يكادون ينفكون عن مدح دارون والاقتباس من كتبه، بل إن ريتشارد دوكنز قام بترتيب كتابه حول التطور بنفس ترتيب فصول كتاب أصل الأنواع، وكان في مقدمة كل فصل اقتباس من كتاب دارون. كذلك فإن النظرية قد مرت بمراحل تغيرت وتطورت فيها وتم دمجها مع علوم أخرى وقد ذكرت ذلك بشيء من التفصيل في مراجعتي لكتاب حول تاريخ النظرية - اضغط هنا للذهاب للمراجعة.

من شدة شوقي لقراءة الكتاب، بدأت قبل الموعد المتفق عليه بيوم، وانهيت الكاتب ذو السبع مائة صحفة في خمسة أيام. هو مقارب لما حدث للكتاب عند نشره في العام ١٨٥٩، فقد نفذت جميع النسخ في نفس اليوم! بعد اتمامي للكتاب استمعت إلى سلسلتي محاضرات تاريخية، علمية، فلسفية حول نظرية التطور تم خلالهما التطرق لفصول الكتاب واحدًا واحدًا، فزاد هذا في فهمي له وقدرتي على انتقاده بشكل موضوعي. هذه المراجعة ليست تلخيصًا للكتاب لذلك إذا أردت معرفة الحجج التي يطرحها الكاتب، فعليك بقراءته بنفسك.

لقد كان دارون بلا شك عبقريًا ومتواضعًا في نفس الوقت. إن تمكنه من وضع هذا الكم الهائل من المحاججات والأدلة لتأييد نظريته أمر عظيم جدًا وتطلب منه جهدًا كبيرًا استخدم فيه كل الخبرات التي كونها خلال حياته كعالم. لقد كان صريحًا وصادقًا، لدرجة أنه ذكر نقاط ضعف نظريته في ذات الكتاب، وهي نقطة لامه عليها بعض مؤيديه. إن قدرته على الملاحظة والتأمل قوية جدًا، وذلك واضح لكل من قرأ كتابه حول رحلة سفينة البيقل. ولكن مهاراته في الكتابة ليست أفضل صفاته، لذلك فإن كتبًا أخرى حول الموضوع مثل كتابي دوكنز وجيري كوين ليست فقط أكثر إمتاعًا، بل ��عرض الحجج والأدلة بصورة أقوى وأوضح وأسهل للفهم، وذلك يؤدي لاكتمال الصورة بطريقة رائعة وبالتالي القبول بهذه النظرية العلمية.

أعلم أن هذه المقارنة غير عادلة خصوصًا وأننا الآن بعد قرن ونصف من نشر الكتاب نفهم التطور بشكل أكبر بكثير وهو ما يسهل تقديمه بصورة واضحة، وكذلك لدينا عدد أكبر بكثير وأنواع جديدة من الأدلة التي تشير ليس فقط لوقوعه بالفعل -وهي حقيقة لا يختلف عليها العلماء- بل للآليات التي تدفع وتؤدي لهذا التطور، وهي النقطة الأصعب في الإثبات والتي لم يتمكن دارون من اقناع العلماء بصحتها في عصره، ولم يحدث ذلك إلا في ثلاثينات وأربعينات القرن العشرين عندما ظهر النموذج التطوري الحديث.

يبدأ دارون كتابه بالاعتراف بأن هناك عددًا من العلماء سبقوه في موضوع طرح نظريات حول التطور، ويقوم بانتقاد بعضها بصورة سريعة. من ثم يذكر بشكل مختصر قصة الكتاب، وكيف أنه سافر على متن سفينة البيقل لمدة خمس سنوات قبل أن تبدأ أولى لبنات النظرية تتكون في عقله. يؤكد هنا على حرصه الشديد على التحقق من نتائجه وعدم التسرع، فقد استغرقه البحث سبع سنين كتب في نهايتها مسودة من مئتي صفحة، إلا أن هذا الكتاب لم يكتمل ولم ير النور إلا بعد إحدى وعشرين سنة من انتهاء رحلة البيغل، كان عمر داروين حينها خمسين سنة وكان عالمًا معروفًا ومحترمًا،

مسار رحلة سفينة البيقل

بعد عودته من رحلة البيقل عندما خطرت له فكرة التطور لأول مرة

وهذه قبل نشر كتاب أصل الأنواع بفترة وجيزة

إن هذا التردد كان لسببين، الأول هو خوفه من رفض المجتمع العلمي لنظريته كما تم رفض نظريات أخرى مشابهة عن التطور، لذلك أراد لها أن تكون متينة ومحكمة علميًا قدر الإمكان. أما السبب الثاني فهو خوفه من التداعيات الاجتماعية والدينية لهذا الكتاب، فدارون بدأ يفقد إيمانه بشكل تدريجي منذ صعوده على ظهر سفينة البيغل إلى أن وصل إلى التخلي التام عنه، ولكنه لم يكن ملحدًا قط، بل كان لا أدريًا. لهذا كان دارون يخشى أن يؤدي كتابه إلى تخلي الناس عن الدين كما فعل هو، وما يمكن أن يؤدي هذا إليه من انهيار للقيم الأخلاقية والانحدار إلى عالم الغاب حيث تصبح القوة هي اللغة الوحيدة والبقاء للأصلح هي القاعدة المسيطرة. وهو يشبه في طريقة تفكيره الفيلسوف الفرنسي فولتير الذي قال: إذا لم يوجد الرب فعلينا إيجاده. وهو ما يمكن أن نسميه، الإيمان بالإيمان.

على عكس ما يعتقده الكثيرون، فإن دارون لم يتطرق لموضوع تطور الإنسان في هذا الكتاب، بل تجاهله بشكل متعمد ووعد في سطر واحد بإلقاء الضوء في المستقبل على هذا الموضوع. وهو ما قام به بعد إثنتي عشر سنة في كتاب تحدّر الإنسان. قد يكون السبب في عدم التطرق لهذا الموضوع منذ البداية هو الخوف من إثارة المزيد من الجدل، إلا أن هذا هو ما حدث بالضبط، وتركز حديث الناس على تطور الإنسان ولا يزال كذلك حتى اليوم، بل إن هذه هي النقطة التي تدفع الكثيرين لرفض هذه النظرية.

استخدم دارون في الكتاب وخاصة في الطبعات اللاحقة بما فيها هذه الطبعة كلمة الخالق عدة مرات، ويُعتقد أن هذا لم يكن سوى لمراضاة زوجته المؤمنة، فقد كتب دارون في إحدى رسائله أنه لا يعتقد بالتطور الموجه من قبل الخالق، وتساءل عن طبيعة هذا الخالق الذي يمكن له أن يستخدم آلية قاسية ومؤلمة ومسرفة مثل البقاء اللأصلح من أجل تطوير الكائنات، في إشارة محتملة لمشكلة الشر.

يصف دارون كتابه هذا بالمختصر، وغير المكتمل، والمحتوي على أخطاء وكذلك يقول أنه ليس سوى محاججة واحدة طويلة. يذكر دارون أنه دفع إلى كتابته بشكل مستعجل بعد وصول عالم آخر هو ألفريد والاس إلى نفس النظرية. لا توجد بالكتاب أية مصادر أو هوامش وذلك بسبب استعجاله من كتابه ونشره. وقد قام أحد العلماء في العام ٢٠٠٩ بنشر نسخة من نفس الكتاب مع المصادر والشرح.

أسلوب الكتاب بسيط جدًا، فهو ليس كتاب علمي بالمعنى التقني الذي يفهم اليوم، بل هو أقرب إلى الكتب العلمية التي تكتب للعوام، والسبب في ذلك هو أن المجتمع العلمي حينها كان مشكلًا من مزيج من الهواة وأنصاف العلماء وكان عدد العلماء المتخصصين في العلم فقط (بحيث يشكل مدخل رزقهم) قليلًا نسبيًا، بل إن دارون نفسه لم يكن متخصصًا كعالم. لذلك نراه يخاطب القارئ مباشرة من خلال الكتاب ويحاول اقناعه بطريقة بسيطة، وإن كانت لا تخلو من الأمور التقنية هنا وهناك. لم تكن صورة الغلاف ملونة أو تحتوي على رسمات، بل كانت عادية جدًا، ولم يحوي الكتاب إلا رسمة واحدة وهي مخطط لشجرة الحياة. في نهاية كل فصل يقوم الكاتب بتلخيص أهم الأفكار التي طرحها بشكل بسيط وسهل الفهم.

جزء من الرسمة الوحيدة في كتاب أصل الأنواع

في القسم الأول من الكتاب، يحاول دارون اقناعنا بآلية الانتخاب الطبيعي. لا أعلم حقيقة لماذا اختار البدء بهذا بدل اقناعنا ب��دوث التطور أولًا ومن ثم الدخول في آلياته. ربما يعود السبب إلى الحديث الواسع في ذلك العصر عن التطور في المجتمع العلمي، فكان لا بد له أن يقدم الانتخاب الطبيعي الذي يميّز نظريته عن باقي النظريات المطروحة. ربما يكون هذا هو أضعف جزء في الكتاب من الناحية العلمية، فبالرغم من الشرح الوافي والمنطقي لآلية الانتقاء الطبيعي وكيفية علمها، بل وتسهيل ذلك عن طريق مقارنتها مع عمليات تحسين النسل (التدجين أو كما نعرفها اليوم باسم الانتقاء الاصطناعي) التي يقوم بها البشر على الخيول والكلاب والحمام وغيرها، إلا أنه لم يحتوِ أدلة مادية أو دراسات أو تجارب تؤيده وتؤكد صحته، بل إن دارون كان يرى في إثبات ذلك صعوبة بالغة حيث أن العملية تستغرق سنين طويلة جدًا تفوق العمر البشري، أو هذا ما كان هو وأبناء زمانه يعتقدونه.

في القرن الذي تلا داورن أجريت دراسات عديدة تمكنت من رصد حدوث الانتقاء الطبيعي، بل تم عمل تجارب أكدت على ذلك أيضًا، وقد حدثت بسرعة أكبر مما كان دارون يعتقده بكثير. بل إن بعض أنواع البكتيريا تقوم بتطوير مناعة للمضادات الحيوية خلال عام واحد فقط. والكتاب الذي أقرؤه حاليًا بعنوان منقار العصفور يتطرق لأشهر وأطول دراسة تمت على الانتقاء الطبيعي. كما أنه يتطرق لموضوع الانتواع (نشوء أنواع جديدة)، وهو الموضوع الذي لم يتطرق له دارون إلا مرورًا بالرغم من كون عنوان كتابه أصل الأنواع. ربما لو أسماه أصل التكيفات التطورية لكان ذلك أدق.

يحسب لدارون اعترافه الصريح منذ البداية والمتكرر بجهله لأصل التنوعات بين الحيوانات وكذلك طريقة نقل الصفات الوراثية. ويعتذر عدة مرات عن عدم قدرته وضع جداول تدلل على الكلام الذي يذكره لأن مساحة الكتاب لا تتسع لذلك، ولكنه يذكر الكثير من الأمثلة على كل موضوع يطرحه وهذا يدل على اطلاعه الواسع جدًا. بالرغم من اعتراف دارون بعدم معرفته لطريقة انتقال الصفات الوراثية، حيث لم يكونوا يعرفون ما هو الجين، فإنه تبنى بعض الأفكار التي تقول بتوريث الصفاة المكتسبة وهو ما يعرف بشكل عام بالوراثة اللاماركية، نسبة إلى العالم جون باتيست لاماراك، صاحب أول نظرية تطور كاملة.

يتحدث دارون في الفصل الثاني عن صعوبة التفريق بين الأنواع والتشكيلات، ووجود تشيكلات كثيرة مختلفة بين أفراد النوع الواحد، بل ووجود فروق فردية بين التشكيلات ذاتها، وكيف أدى هذا إلى وجود آراء متضاربة للعلماء، ويسهب في ذلك بعض الشيء. يخلص إلى أن تعيين الأنواع والتشكيلات ليس سوى علمية تعسفية لا تخضع لقواعد ثابتة. وفي الفصل الثامن يعود لنفس النقطة ويضيف أن التزاوج والخلط بين بعض الأنواع ممكن وبين بعضها الآخر غير ممكن، وأحيانًا يكون النسل قادرًا على التكاثر وأحيانًا أخرى لا يكون ذلك. لم أفهم سبب استغراقه في هذه النقطة إلا بعد انتهائي من الكتاب. في عصره كان الخلقيون يقولون بأن الرب قد خلق كل نوع بشكل مستقل ومنفرد وأنها لا تتحول من نوع لنوع آخر، وقد وضع ضوابط وموانع لكي لا تختلط الأنواع ببعضها البعض وهي عدم إمكانية التزاوج بينها أو كون النسل غير قابل للتكاثر، كالبغل مثلًا. فهدف دارون هنا كان الإشارة إلى أن هذا المانع المفترض غير موجود في كثير من الحالات، وخاصة النباتات، فكيف تقولون بثبات الأنواع؟

في الفصل الثالث والرابع يشرح الكاتب عملية الانتقاء الطبيعي ويبين عدم إماكنية الموارد توفير حاجات الكائنات الحية خصوصًا وأن معدل التكاثر يزداد بشكل أكبر بكثير من زيادة الموارد وهو ما يؤدي للصراع عليها من أجل البقاء والتكاثر. لا يقتصر هذا الصراع على الأنواع المختلفة فحسب بل إنه قد يكون أشد بين أفراد النوع الواحد لاشتراكهم في ذات الموارد. إن أبسط الفروق بين الكائنات الحية قد تعطيها الأفضلية، لذلك يقوم الانتقاء الطبيعي بتفضيل الصفات التي يؤدي للبقاء والتكاثر، وهو بذلك يفوق الانتقاء الاصطناعي الذي يقوم به البشر، فهو يعمل في كافة الأوقات وعلى جميع الكائنات ومنذ ملايين ملايين السنين، لذلك إذا كان الانتقاء الاصطناعي يؤدي للنتائج الملموسة التي نراها، فبالتأكيد فإن الانتقاء الطبيعي أقدر منه بكثير. إن تراكم هذه الانتقاءات عبر ملايين السنين هو ما يخلق لنا أنواعًا جديدة (إلا أنه كما ذكرت لا يفصل في كيفية حدوث هذا الأمر). يذكر دارون أن هذه العملية بطيئة وتستغرق سنين طويلة بحساب البشر، ولكنها ليست كذلك بحساب السنين الجيولويجية. بالرغم من هذا فإن هذه العملية لا تصل إلى حد الكمال في التكيّف، بل تظل ناقصة، فهي تسير في اتجاه التكيف بشكل مطابق أو أفضل من الكائنات المنافسة وليس في اتجاه الكمال. إن الطبيعة والحياة إذًا هي ساحة حرب عظمى بين المخلوقات المختلفة لا تكل ولا تتوقف.

يبدو لي أن دارون لم يوفق في استخدامه لهذه الكلمة، فهي تسبب الكثير من سوء الفهم لدى العامة، حيث يعتقدون أن هناك جهة ما (الطبيعة) تقوم وبشكل واعي بالتفضيل والانتقاء وهذا الأمر غير صحيح. فما تعنيه هذه العبارة باختصار هو الآليات التي تساهم في اختيار الأفراد الذين يتكاثرون. وهي علمية عمياء، طبيعية، غير عاقلة وغير هدفية. وقد شبه دارون الكائنات الحية بالشجرة التي تتفرع أغصانها، فهي تتفرع وتتشعب ولا تسير في طويل واحد مرسوم نحو الأعلى، بل إن دارون يرفض وجود تسلسل هرمي أو تراتبية للكائنات الحية. في الطبعات اللاحقة من الكتاب استعار دارون عبار�� "البقاء للأصلح" من هربرت سبينسر واستخدمها بشكل متبادل مع عبارة الانتقاء الطبيعي. وهذه العبارة أيضًا لا تخلو من انتقاد، فكان من المفترض أن يضيف لها كلمة التكاثر على الأقل، لتصبح البقاء والتكاثر ��لأصلح.

بناءً على ما سبق يقول دارون أن الانتقاء الطبيعي لا يمكن أن يستبقي صفات تكون موجودة فقط وفقط لفائدة كائن آخر دون أية فائدة تطورية للكائن الأصلي، ويذكر أنه بحث في مختلف الأنواع الحية المعروفة ولم يجدها لدى أي منها. بل إنه يطرح هذا الأمر كوسيلة لتفنيد الانتقاء الطبيعي إن أمكن إثبات وجودها في الطبيعة. ويطرح كذلك عملية الانتقاء الجنسي بشكل مختصر ويذكر أنها أقل شدة من الانتقاء الطبيعي، حيث أنها صراع على التكاثر فحسب بين أفراد النوع الواحد، ولا تؤدي بالخاسر إلى الموت، ولكن تقلل من فرص تكاثره وعدد نسله. يذكر كذلك دور الانعزال والانقراض في عملية التطور.

في الفصل الخامس يحاول دارون الوصول لأصل الاختلاف في الصفات بين الكائنات الحية وهو أمر ضروري لكي يستطيع الانتقاء الطبيعي العمل. يكرر هنا الاشارة إلى الوراثة اللاماركية ويذكر عدد من الأدلة على حدوث التطور مثل التشابه في الهياكل التشريحية، التطور باتجاهات متقاربة لدى بعض الكائنات، ووجود الأعضاء الضامرة التي لا تستطيع فكرة الخلق المباشر تفسيرها.

في الفصل السادس يقوم بذكر الصعوبات التي تواجه نظرية الانحدار مع التعديل عن طريق الانتقاء الطبيعي، وهو الإسم الذي استخدمه دارون للإشارة لنظرية التطور. ولا اعتقد أن كلمة تطور قد وردت في الكتاب إلا مرة واحدة في الخاتمة. يطرح دارون هنا نقاطًا قد يكون القارئ قد فكر فيها وطرحها بنفسه ومن ثم يحاول الإجابة عليها. إجاباته جيدة في الغالب، إلا أن تطور العلم وفّر إجابات تامة لغالبية الصعوبات، وحتى الأمور التي لا تزال فيها مشاكل صغيرة قد حدث فيها تقدم كبير جدًا بما يجعلها غير ناقضة للنظرية، بل حتى غير مهددة لصحتها وقبول المجتمع العلمي بها.

المشاكل التي يطرحها هي عدم وجود الأحفورات المتوسطة بين الأنواع، عدم معرفتنا لأصل اختلاف الصفات أو قوانين الوراثة، صعوبة تصوّر أن عضو معقّد ودقيق مثل العين قد تطور. وهذه النقطة الأخيرة هدف مفضّل لدى الخلقويين الذين يرون عدم استطاعة تفسير تطور أعضاء معقدة من أعضاء أبسط لأن ذلك سيخل بعملها، فهي إذًا معقدة بشكل غير قابل للتبسيط كما عبر عنه الخلقوي الشهير مايكل بيهي. لا داعي أن أكرر مجددًا أن العلم الحديث تمكن من تفسير الخطوات التسبيطية التي مر بها تطور الكثير من الأعضاء التي استخدمها الخلقويون لانتقاد النظرية والتشكيك في صحتها ومن ضمنها العين البشرية وهذه الأمور تجدها بشكل متكرر في الكتب التي تعرض أدلة التطور وترد على حجج الخلقويين. تبدو هذه التحديات لأول وهلة غير قابلة للرد ولكني صدمت وأعجبت بالتفسيرات التي يطرحها العلم الحديث عليها بما يجعل الصورة مكتملة ويؤكد صحة النظرية.

في الفصل السابع يطرح الكاتب موضوع الغرائز وكيف تطورت. ويختار هنا ثلاث غرائز غريبة ومعقدة وهي طائر الكوكو الشهير الذي يضع بيضه في أعشاش غيره من الطيور، واستعباد أحد أنواع النمل لنوع آخر، والنحل وقدرته الفائقة على تنظيم الخلية. هذا الفصل مثير لأنه يظهر محاولات دارون تصوّر الخطوات الانتقالية التي مرت بها هذه الكائنات لتطوّر هذه الغرائز. في الحقيقة فإن دارون لم يوفق كثيرًا هنا، خاصة بالنسبة لمشكلة وجود أفراد غير قادرين على الإنجاب ومع ذلك يضحون بأنفسهم من أجل الخلية. اعتبر داروين أن هذا هو أقوى تحدي لنظريته وطرح الانتقاء الجماعي كحل محتمل له. وقال أن هذه المشكلة هي ضربة قاضية لنظرية لامارك في التطور والوراثة. في منتصف القرن العشرين طرح العالم هاميلتون حلًا مميزًا لها عن طريق النظر للتطور من وجهة نظر الجين بدل وجهة نظر الفرد، وقد انتشرت أفكاره بشكل واسع جدًا خاصة بعد كتابة دوكنز لكتابه الأول الجينة الأنانية التي شرح فيه هذا الموضوع بصورة أدبية وعلمية رائعة وباع أكثر من مليون نسخة.

في الفصلين التاسع والعاشر يرد الكاتب على مشكلة عدم وجود أحافير مرحلية أو متوسطة بين الأنواع، مثلًا بين الزواحف والأسماك أو بين الطيور والزواحف. ويرى أنه بمزيد من البحث فلا بد أن تظهر بعض الأحافير المرحلية وإن بأعداد قليلة وهو ما حدث فعلًا، ولعل إحدى أشهرها هي أحفورة التيكتاليك التي عثر فريق العالم نيل شوبن عليها في العام ألفين وأربعة والتي تشكل أحفورة مرحلية رائعة بين الأسماك والزواحف. وقد ألف شوبن كتاب بعنوان سمكتك الداخلية ذكر فيه قصة هذا الاكتشاف وأهميته.

نصل أخيرًا للفصل الحادي عشر الذي يتحدث فيه عن التوزيع الجغرافي للكائنات الحية وهذا الموضوع (بالإضافة للحفريات) هو الذي دفعه لاكتشاف نظرية التطور وحسب وجهة نظري فإنه أقوى دليل يقدمه في هذا الكتاب، فلماذا توجد كائنات مختلفة تمامًا في استراليا وأفريقيا وأمريكا الجنوبية بالرغم أنها تعيش في نفس المناخ والبيئة وعند نقل إحداها من قارة لأخرى فإنها تتأقلم بشكل ممتاز مع البيئة، فلم لم توجد فيها إذًا؟ إن البيئة والمناخ لا يفسران ذلك، فكما ذكرت فالمناخ والبيئة متطابقان تقريبًا، بينما الفروق بين الكائنات هائلة جدًا. لا تستطيع نظرية الخلق الخاص تفسير هذا الموضوع، وما القول "بحكمة الخالق" أو "طرقه الخاصة والغريبة" إلا تعبير عن العجز وعدم وجود إجابة، أما نظرية التطور فتطرح الهجرة ومن ثم حدوث التطور لكل نوع بشكل منفصل عن الآخر كإجابة.

لذلك لا نرى الثديات موجودة في الجزر البركانية، وهذا لعدم استطاعتها قطع مسافة المحيط الهائلة، ويستثنى من هذا الخفاش لقدرته على الطيران فوق المحيط. وكذلك أسماك المياه العذبة لا توجد في الجزر البركانية. على عكس الزواحف والبرمائيات والطيور والنباتات التي تستطيع الانتقال لها. وقد أجرى دارون وعلماء آخرون عددًا من الدراسات على بذور عدد من النباتات للتأكد من قدرتها على النمو بعد أيام من سباحتها في مياه المحيط أو وجودها داخل معدة الطيور. لو كان دارون يعلم بنظرية الزحف القاري لكانت أدلته هنا أقوى مما هي عليه، وهو الذي بدا لي من خلال قراءة كتابه رحلة البيقل وهذا وكأنه قاب قوسين أو أدنى من اكتشافها، إلا أنه لم يخطوا الخطوات الأخيرة، ربما بسبب انشغاله الشديد بنظرية التطور.

توزع الحفريات من الأدلة على حدوث الزحف القاري

في الفصل التالي يستعرض بشكل موسع الأدلة التشريحية وخصوصًا التنادد بين الأعضاء وهو التطابق في العظام المستخدمة في عضو ما، بل وفي ترتيب اتصال العظام مع بعضها البعض، ولكن مع اختلاف وظيفة العضو، فعظام اليد لدى الإنسان هي نفس العظام الموجودة في رجل الحصان وجناح الخفاش وزعنفة الحوت، بل أنها متصلة بنفس الترتيب. ويستعرض كذلك الأدلة من علم الأجنة، حيث يكون هناك شبه تطابق بين الكائنات المتقاربة، فمثلًا ينمو للإنسان ذنب خلال النمو الجنيني إلا أنه سرعان ما يختفي، وكذلك ينمو لجنين الحوت طرفان خلفيان سرعان ما يضمران. إن هذه الأمور تشير لوجود سلف سابق كانت توجد به هذه الأعضاء بشكل مكتمل، ولا تستطيع نظرية الخلق المباشر تفسيرها. ويتطرق مجددًا للأعضاء الضامرة كجناح النعامة وعظام حوض الأفعى.


ظهور ثم ضمور الطرف الخلفي لجنين الدلفين

عظام الطرف الخلفي أصبح عظام ضامرة لدى الحيتان بفعل تطورها من حيوانات رباعية الأرجل

وفي الفصل الثالث عشر والأخير يلخّص دارون أهم النقاط التي ذكرها في الكتاب، بحيث تصبح حججه واضحة ويضعها كلها معها لتكتمل الأحجية وتتضح الصورة، كان هذا أفضل فصل في الكتاب، خاصة مع استخدام دارون للغة الشعرية في خاتمته، وهو الذي كان يحب قراءة أشعار جون ميلتون. يمكننا القول أن دارون خبّأ أقوى أسلحته للنهاية وهي أسلحة قوية للغاية لا تفسرها إلا نظرية التطور. في البداية أعطيت الكتاب ثلاث نجوم فقط لأنني شعرت بالملل خلال قراءة بعض الفصول، فأنا أعلم مسبقًا غالبية ما سيقوله وكيف سيستدل عليه بسبب قراءتي لكتب عديدة عن التطور، ولكن بعد تأملي في الكتاب كصورة كلية أراه يستحق الأربع نجوم، ولا غرابة في قدرة دارون على إقناع المجتمع العلمي بصحة حدوث التطور وطرح الانتقاء الطبيعي كإحدى أهم آلياته. لو كان تقييمي هذا مبنيًا على القيمة التاريخية لهذا الكتاب، فلن يقل عن الخمس نجوم لما له من دور في تغيير الفكر البشري.

إنه كتاب مهم جدًا ويتطرق لإحدى أهم النظريات التي غيرت فهم البشرية لموقعها في الكون ولذلك أنصح كل من لم يقرأ الكتاب بقراءته، وما هذه المراجعة إلا غيض من فيض. كذلك أنصح من قرأ هذا الكتاب بقراءة الكتب الحديثة التي تتطرق لنظرية التطور من أجل فهم أبرز التغيرات التي طرأت عليها والأدلة المستحدثة. وبالتحديد أنصح بهذين الكتابين: أعظم استعراض فوق الأرض : أدلة التطور - جزئين للكاتب ريتشارد دوكنز ولماذا النشوء والتطور حقيقة للكاتب جيري كوين.

اختم مراجعتي هذه بنفس الفقرة التي ختم بها دارون كتابه، والتي تستحق منك تعلم الإنجليزية إن لم تكن تتقنها لتستطيع تذوق جمالها وروعتها:

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
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April 12, 2016

لا اعتقد أنه يوجد من العلماء من أحدث أثرًا في حياة البشر ومعتقداتهم وثوابتهم كما فعل داروين، وفي دراسته تلك يقدم لنا خلاصة تجاربه ودراساته، ولم أجد في الكتاب ما يؤصل فيه للفكرة الشائعة عنه بأن الإنسان في الأصل قرد، بل كان الكتاب بالكامل يناقش نظرياته وتجاربه.

والملاحظ تواضع داروين كباحث المثير للإعجاب، ولا سيما برجل غيّر مجرى التاريخ، ورغم ريادة الكتاب إلا إنه في تناول أي قارئ، فلا تجد في ثناياه التعقيد والصعوبة، فكل ما يحتاجه هو نوع متأني من القراءة لاستيعاب معلوماته.ورغم امتلاكنا كلنا قشور لما يحتويه الكتاب إلا أن قراءتها من مصدرها بيكون له تجليات خاصة كأنك تقرأها لأول مرّة.

وإذا أردنا تلخيص وجهة نظر داروين قد نختصرها في مقولة: أن أي كائن بسيط وبأي وسيلة مفيدة له تحت تأثير ظروف الحياة المعقدة والكثيرة التغيير،فسوف تكون له فرصة أفضل للاستمرار في الحياة، وبالتالي سوف يتم انتقاؤه طبيعيا، وبناء على المبدأ القوي للوراثة فإن أي ضرب منتقى سيميل إلى الإكثار من شكله الجديد والمعدل.
أي أن موضوع الدراسة الرئيس هو الانتقاء الطبيعي، وكيف أن الحياة لا تُمنح إلا للقادر على التحسن ومواكبتها وأن الأشكال الأقل تطورا ستندثر،

ثم ينطلق داروين يحدثنا عن كل ما يخص الكائنات الحية وأساليب حياتها، وأثر الغريزة على تعاملها.

في المجمل الكتاب عظيم وسهل وممتع حتى لغير المتخصص، وتبقى ريادته لأمد بعيد، وعرض داروين كان من السلاسة بمكان، وطبعة المركز القومي بمشاركة من مكتبة الاسكندرية جيدة للغاية.
Profile Image for Owlseyes .
1,641 reviews262 followers
June 28, 2022

"Darwin gave us the explanation for why we exist"
Richard Dawkins

"O chimpanzé e os seres humanos compartilham cerca de 99,5% da sua história evolutiva, no entanto a maioria dos pensadores humanos considera o chimpanzé uma excentricidade mal formada e irrelevante, enquanto se veem a si próprios como degraus para o Todo-poderoso. Para um evolucionista isto não pode acontecer. Não há fundamento objectivo para elevar uma espécie acima da outra. Chimpanzé e seres humanos, lagartixas e fungos, todos evoluímos durante aproximadamente 3 biliões de anos por um processo conhecido por SELEÇÃO NATURAL"
in "O Gene Egoísta"


“If life progressed by an accumulation of small changes as Darwin suggests …the fossil record should reflect …this…”

“But before the Cambrian era, a brief 600 million years ago, very little is inscribed in the fossil record, but then...an astonishing number of biological structures…come into creation at once"


"Stephen Meyer’s thoughtful and meticulous Darwin’s Doubt (2013) convinced me that Darwin has failed."

"There's no reason to doubt that Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances: changes to fur density or wing style or beak shape. Yet there are many reasons to doubt whether he can explain the big picture -not the fine-tuning of species but the emergence of new ones. The origin of species is exactly what Darwin CANNOT explain"
David Gelernter, Claremont Review of Books*.


"Some biological systems at the molecular level strongly appear to be the result of deliberate intelligent design."

"Darwin's theory of evolution by random mutation and natural selection- the dominant view in the biological community- is utterly incompatible with a theory of purposeful, intelligent design."
Michael J. Behe (PhD)


"Finally"? Really?







"In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown in the origin of man and his history."
Charles Darwin, 1859


Despite all the wonderful knowledge (flora, fauna, geology etc) Darwin exhibited in/for his time and his daring hypotheses, I believe, like Stephen Meyer, that "intelligent design" and "the God Hypothesis" provide "superior explanatory power than other hypotheses*" (Darwin's included).

*in YouTube: Stephen Meyer on Intelligent Design and The Return of the God Hypothesis.
Profile Image for Vanessa J..
347 reviews597 followers
July 21, 2015
This is not exactly what I would call "fun reading," but it's worth it. At times, it was hard getting through this book, mainly because it's dense and sometimes Darwin tended to drag and not get to the point, but I'm glad I finally read it. However, I think I should have read this at another point of my life - I mean, it was exasperating to read something I had just studied at a biology course I was taking. I still don't regret reading this. If you're considering on whether picking this book or not (yeah, I'm actually recommending it), I suggest you do it between your leisure reading because it can get tedious if you swallow it all at once.
Profile Image for عماد العتيلي.
Author 6 books549 followers
September 27, 2015

[ أنا لا أرى أي سبب وجيه في أن تُسبب الآراء التي قد تم تقديمها في هذا الكتاب أي صدمة للمشاعر الدينية الخاصة بأي فرد.
وقد قام كاتب مرموق ولاهوتي بمكاتبتي بخصوص أنه قد تعلّم بالتدريج أن يرى أن التصور الراقي الخاص بالألوهية هو على نفس الدرجة تماماً من الإيمان بأنه قد قام بخلق العدد القليل من الأشكال الحية الأصلية القادرة على التطور الذاتي إلى أشكال أخرى وضرورية ]

[ إن هناك شيئاً من الفخامة في هذا المنظور للحياة، في أنه قد تمّ نفخها بواسطة الخالق بداخل العدد القليل من الأشكال أو في شكل واحد ]


هذا الكتاب بالفعل ورغم الانتقادات .. هو كتاب ضخم وفخم ورائع بلا شك.
واضح من خلال كل فصوله وكلماته أنه كُتِب على مهل وكان نتيجة رحلة بحث مضنية ومشبعة بالإخلاص والتفاني.
لقد ذُهِلت لمعرفة أن غالبية الانتقادات التي وجّهت للنظرية قد تم توجيهها من قِبَل داروين نفسه! وكان يعترف في كل من هذه الاعتراضات بصعوبتها محاولاً تقديم تفسيرات وردود عليها. ولكنه في حالات كثيرة كان يعترف للامانة العلمية بأنه لا يملك جوابا مرضيا عن بعض الاعتراضات القوية.
ما أعجبني وأدهشني في شخصية العالم الكبير تشارلز داروين .. هو أنه كان شديد التواضع في بحثه. ففي مواضع كثيرة وعديدة كان يعترف بعجزه عن رد بعض الاعتراضات .. كما انه حين يذكر اسم أحد العلماء المعارضين له كان يذكره بشيء من التقدير والتبجيل رغم اختلافه معه. وحين يرد على بعض الاعتراضات البسيطة التي يطرحها العلماء هنا وهناك .. كان يرد بشكل محترم جداً ومتواضع جداً وبأسلوب خالٍ تماماً من الاستحقار والتصغير. على العكس تماماً ممن يدّعون في عصرنا الحديث انهم من أتباع داروين ومحبيه الذين يستصغرون ويستحقرون كل من يخالفهم ويعتبرون أنفسهم آلهة وغيرهم عبيد و جهلة!

قبل قراءة الكتاب بفترة طويلة، كانت عندي تلك الفكرة الساذجة بأن داروين قال بأن الإنسان اصله قرد! ولا أنكر أنني كنت مقتنعاً بصحَّة نسبتها إلى داروين تماماً. ولكن والحمد لله انجلى كذب هذه الفكرة عندي حتى قبل قراءة الكتاب .. ولكنني مع ذلك حين بدأت قراءته عزمت على أن أكتشف أصل تلك الفكرة المغلوطة وفيما إذا كان لها وجود في أصل الأنواع أم لا. وها أنا ذا انتهيت من قراءة الكتاب ولم أجد أي إشارة لفكرة " أصل الإنسان قرد " إطلاقا.
على ما اظُنّ أن هذه الفكرة آثارها موجودة في كتاب داروين الآخر "نشأة الإنسان". ومنه نشأت الفكرة المغلوطة التي تداولها الناس بعدها بشكل جنوني.

طبعا لا بد أن أقول بأن داروين لم يُعطي تفسيراً مقبولا لبعض الاعتراضات الخطيرة التي كانت وما زالت موجهة للنظرية (وقد اعترف هو بذلك كما أسلفت) .. وأخطر هذه الاعتراضات هو ما يتعلق بالانفجار الكمبري.
أنا أعتبر نفسي من المقتنعين بالنظرية بنسبة كبيرة .. ولكن هذه الاعتراضات كبيرة وجديرة بالاهتمام .. فضلاً عن أنها لم تلق جوابا مرضيا حتى الآن.
ولكن على كل حال، سواءً كانت النظرية صحيحة مئة بالمئة .. أو خاطئة مئة بالمئة .. فهذا لا علاقة له بالتأثير على قضية الدين والوجود الإلهي. هذه العلاقة التي يحاول البعض إلصاقها بالنظرية هي باعتقادي خرافة، تماماً كفكرة أن الإنسان قرد!! كلاهما ناشئان عن سوء فهم وتقدير. وكما قال صاحب النظرية في الاقتباس الذي أوردته في بداية التعليق .. أن النظرية لا يجب أن تؤثر على الاعتقاد الديني .. بل على العكس هي تعكس منظورا أكثر فخامة للحياة وللإله.
ولكن عندما تتدخل التحيزات الأيديولوجية في هذا الموضوع تضيع الموضوعية العلمية. أنا أعتقد أن داروين مثل جميع المفكرين العظماء .. تصيبهم دائماً بعد موتهم لعنة الأتباع المُحرِّفين!


أنصح بشدة بقراءة هذا العمل الضخم، لكل من يحملون صوراً نمطية سواءً ضد أو مع النظرية. نعم، فالصور النمطية الغالِطة ليست فقط إلى جانب من هم ضد النظرية .. بل هناك صور نمطية غالِطة لا بأس بها في جانب من هم مع النظرية! وكم�� يقولون .. الحُبّ، مثل الكره، أعمى!

Profile Image for Aurelia.
88 reviews82 followers
June 14, 2022
Darwin’s origin of species is a 600 page argument. It is the synthesis of years of intense study and careful observation. It is also kaleidoscopic journey through Nature’s creatures: plants, domestic and wild animals, extinct and current forms of life, geological periods and violent climate changes. This very carefully and densely constructed argument needs a real determination and concentration from the reader. It requires an effort, just to appreciate the magnificence of what Charles Darwin devoted his life for.

Perhaps the first thing that one should keep in mind is that Darwin existed in a period when something we call genetics-he calls it inheritance- was in a rudimentary state, if not none existing. Now, we people of the XXI century only understand evolution through this genetic paradigm using key concepts such as genes and mutations. Darwin did not have this luxury. His work is based on observation; I must say a superhuman amount of observation of living creatures across an immense territory, combined with the work of other equally superhuman observers. The theory of evolution through natural selection was formulated through the examination of the patterns which Nature exhibits. It is going beyond the simplicity of the creationism which offered so much comfort for humans throughout the ages, and discovering the hidden law which governs and explains the wonders we see in the natural world.

The discovery of the New World and it’s life forms was also a decisive factor in the work of Darwin. This is a good illustration of how crucial is the exploration of the far and unfamiliar, and what it actually adds to human understanding. There were life forms observed in the new continent which were only slightly distinct from European ones, others fundamentally different. Climate and geographical conditions were also so variable that they offered the most puzzling scene to these naturalists. So many questions appeared and so many phenomena had to be explained. The fauna and flora of the new continent offered a sticking contrast to that of the old one, and pushed the naturalists outside of what they were familiar with.

Leaving the facts and the observations aside, a great wisdom is also to be learned from the way Darwin exposed his argument. Starting from what is the ordinary: domestic animals and the variation and selection they go through by man. One cannot imagine a better start. Then he expands to the wild life, supporting his case with a variety of cases and facts observed by his fellow naturalists. He also advances key parameters in the battle of life, mainly the adaptation to conditions of life, predators and food chains, characters transmitted because they give an advantage to those who have them over competitors. Natural selection can appear in the way lines are blurred between what is a species and what is a variety, it appears also when it comes to the geographical distribution of species according to natural barriers such as great seas and deserts. In the deep history of earth represented by the fossil records, change and adaptation can be seen across immeasurable time.

Darwin also anticipates every argument that his adversaries might think of. He addresses every one of them at great lengths. The infertility of certain forms such as working ants or bees, or that of hybrids is a complicated phenomenon to be explained by inheritance of the most advantageous characters. Darwin argues that this is not necessarily fatal to his theory because the development of such structures is after all beneficial to the whole species in the case of ants and bees. As for hybrids, the infertility can have other contributing factors, such as the failure of the combined reproductive system, or change in the conditions of life, similar to the hidden reasons of the infertility of our domestic animals when under confinement.

If we admit the evolution of species by natural selection, some naturalists wondered about the intermediate forms between the species we see today, at least in the fossil record. The fossil record was indeed a valuable insight into the history of the earth and its past inhabitants, an amazing discovery which fascinated naturalists of the XIX century. But Darwin asks for restraint and moderation when dealing with it. The fossil record is uncompleted and does not give us an accurate picture of Nature. Extinction of species and intermediate forms contributes greatly in making what we see today in the natural world.

By far, the greatest difficulty is why species change in the first place. Darwin is well aware of this. He knows that the change is somehow spontaneous, but cannot go beyond that. It is observed among domestic animals, as the domestication is based on breeding animals which for an unknown reason, acquired an advantageous character, a character which can also inherited by the offspring. We know better today how change occur, but Darwin did not. Yet in his great wisdom he stops right where he can go no further, and admits his inability to explain this fundamental matter without backing on his theory, which he nevertheless continues to support knowing this difficulty.

There is so much to learn from Darwin, even if today we no longer talk about evolution in the same terms as he did. One admires his penetrating insight, courage to eliminate illusions and seek truth. But by the end he knows that he knows nothing. The human mind is feeble and Nature is sublime. One must constantly remind himself with every supposition that nature is way bigger than what he supposes or believes.
Profile Image for Kevin.
476 reviews70 followers
February 19, 2019
"We are the one creature to whom natural selection has bequeathed a brain complex enough to comprehend the laws that govern the universe. And we should be proud that we are the only species that has figured out how we came to be." ~Jerry A. Coyne, Ph.D., University of Chicago

On the Origin of Species is Darwin laying out his theory of natural selection in precise, laborious detail. He knew quite well many of the objections and arguments this supposition would invoke, and he counters every anticipated antagonism with a barrage of evidence gained from detailed observation and/or astute experimentation.

The idea that plant and animal species evolved from common ancestry was an affront to 1859 sensibilities and the courage required to challenge widespread, ingrained superstition and misinformation must have been enormous. And yet, here it is. The imperfect but substantial cornerstone of biology, biochemistry, psychology, genetics, anthropology, neurology, primatology, embryology... the list is immense.

"Whoever is led to believe that species are mutable will do good service by conscientiously expressing his conviction; for only thus can the load of prejudice by which this subject is overwhelmed be removed." ~Charles Darwin, 1859
Profile Image for T.D. Whittle.
Author 3 books187 followers
October 19, 2020
I know the world has not been waiting with bated breath for 160 years to hear my opinion of this marvelous book, but I wanted to add my praise anyway. This is such a beautiful read. Darwin makes his argument for descent through modification of all organic life with such patience, eloquence, and clarity that it's awe inspiring, especially when one bears in mind that DNA and its sure-fire evidence of descent had not been discovered yet. It's truly remarkable that Darwin was right about almost every detail, using only the tools he had to work with in the nineteenth century, his formidable intelligence, and his sparkling intuition. I understand completely now why he is considered one of the few dozen greatest minds of all time, since recorded history.

Darwin writes like a dream. He is gracious to and appreciative of his fellow naturalists. He's honest about the limits of what could be known with certainty, and what could be only guessed at. This style of writing in science is a breath of fresh air from a bygone era. I found Darwin's exuberance regarding his subject contagious, and am including some of my favourite passages below, so that I can remember them.

One thing that made the reading a bit tricky is that I do not speak Latin and, even if I did, would not necessarily know the names of plants and animals by their scientific labels; thus, I did not even recognise the names of common animals in my own country: the kangaroo and the platypus! Given that this book was written for Darwin's contemporaries who were laypersons, I wonder how they would have known these names, or if they read Darwin whilst having editions of botanical and zoological binomial nomenclature nearby? I had Google, of course, but found it also helpful to keep charts of geological eras at hand, an excellent globe, and maps of the world reflecting things as they were at the time of Darwin's writing.

"It is a truly wonderful fact—the wonder of which we are apt to overlook from familiarity—that all animals and all plants throughout all time and space should be related to each other in group subordinate to group, in the manner which we everywhere behold—namely, varieties of the same species most closely related together, species of the same genus less closely and unequally related together, forming sections and sub-genera, species of distinct genera much less closely related, and genera related in different degrees, forming sub-families, families, orders, sub-classes, and classes. " (pps. 170-171)

"All the foregoing rules and aids and difficulties in classification are explained, if I do not greatly deceive myself, on the view that the natural system is founded on descent with modification; that the characters which naturalists consider as showing true affinity between any two or more species, are those which have been inherited from a common parent, and, in so far, all true classification is genealogical; that community of descent is the hidden bond which naturalists have been unconsciously seeking, and not some unknown plan of creation, or the enunciation of general propositions, and the mere putting together or separating objects more or less alike.

But I must explain my meaning more fully. I believe the arrangement of the groups within each class, in due subordination and relation to the other groups, must be strictly genealogical in order to be natural; but that the amount of difference in the several branches or groups, though allied in the same degree in blood to their common progenitor, may differ greatly, being due to the different degrees of modification which they have undergone; and this is expressed by the forms being ranked under different genera, families, sections, or orders." (p. 404)

"As all organic beings, extinct and recent, which have ever lived on this earth have to be classed together, and as all have been connected by the finest gradations, the best, or indeed, if our collections were nearly perfect, the only possible arrangement, would be genealogical. Descent being on my view the hidden bond of connexion which naturalists have been seeking under the term of the natural system." (p. 427)

"On the view of each organic being and each separate organ having been specially created, how utterly inexplicable it is that parts, like the teeth in the embryonic calf or like the shriveled wings under the soldered wing-covers of some beetles, should thus so frequently bear the plain stamp of inutility! Nature may be said to have taken pains to reveal, by rudimentary organs and by homologous structures, her scheme of modification, which it seems that we willfully will not understand." (p. 452)

"But the chief cause of our natural unwillingness to admit that one species has given birth to other and distinct species, is that we are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the intermediate steps. The difficulty is the same as that felt by so many geologists, when Lyell first insisted that long lines of inland cliffs had been formed, and great valleys excavated, by the slow action of the coast-waves. The mind cannot possibly grasp the full meaning of the term of a hundred million years; it cannot add up and perceive the full effects of many slight variations, accumulated during an almost infinite number of generations." (p.453)

On the imperfection of the geological record: "The noble science of Geology loses glory from the extreme imperfection of the record. The crust of the earth with its embedded remains must not be looked at as a well-filled museum, but as a poor collection made at hazard and at rare intervals. The accumulation of each great fossiliferous formation will be recognised as having depended on an unusual concurrence of circumstances, and the blank intervals between the successive stages as having been of vast duration. But we shall be able to gauge with some security the duration of these intervals by a comparison of the preceding and succeeding organic forms. ... " (p. 457)

This passage is so eloquent, and yet I do not believe mankind, at least, has continued to evolve towards perfection. So sadly optimistic: "Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. Judging from the past, we may safely infer that not one living species will transmit its unaltered likeness to a distant futurity. And of the species now living very few will transmit progeny of any kind to a far distant futurity; for the manner in which all organic beings are grouped, shows that the greater number of species of each genus, and all the species of many genera, have left no descendants, but have become utterly extinct. We can so far take a prophetic glance into futurity as to foretell that it will be the common and widely-spread species, belonging to the larger and dominant groups, which will ultimately prevail and procreate new and dominant species. As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Silurian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence we may look with some confidence to a secure future of equally inappreciable length. And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection." (p. 459)

"Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." (p. 460)
Profile Image for D.G..
1,363 reviews343 followers
May 2, 2012
My science education left a lot to be desired. I was never taught the Theory of Natural Selection in school but only heard it mentioned when some adults scoffed at it. Thankfully, my natural talents steered me away from a career in Biology or Genetics, so this lack of knowledge didn’t affect my career prospects. It just affected my understanding of the world.

I learned years later the basics of the theory but this just piqued my interest about reading the actual book. I always have problems with Victorian authors (very long sentences) so the print version gave me some difficulty. If it weren’t for Richard Dawkins' excellent narration, I don’t know that I could have enjoyed this book as much.

I’m almost shocked that I was able to follow the concepts herein as well as I did. I am amazed that Mr. Darwin could write this book (one of the most important in the history of science and the whole world) in such clear, concise way, that a person with minimal understanding of the topic in general could follow along so well. The concepts are explained logically with tons of examples so the reader is not left dangling wondering what he meant. Not only that, but he also writes beautifully and the prose is sometimes as poetic as it is instructive:

As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.

From the beginning, I understood this wasn’t a book I could listen in one sitting or while doing other things. I took it slowly and that allowed me to think things through. It made me think a lot about our place in the world and how sometimes we think we are above the system when in fact, we are just one creature among millions and not the most important in the grand scheme of nature (if we were to go extinct, the planet will continue merrily along.) It made reflect in our attempts to control nature, to see change as a bad thing, and our hubris that we can keep in check a process that has moved relentlessly forward for millions of years.

Darwin was certainly cognizant that his theory wouldn’t be accepted immediately: “Any one whose disposition leads him to attach more weight to unexplained difficulties than to the explanation of a certain number of facts will certainly reject my theory.” But I think he would be surprised by how much discussion there is still going on about the subject, specially given that DNA evidence has already proven he was correct in thinking that every living being sprouted from a single progenitor (mind staggering as it seems.)

As I already mentioned, Richard Dawkins is the narrator for this audiobook and he did an amazing job - you could tell he's probably read this book a million times and knows it like the back of his hand. His diction was very precise and clear; and his enthusiasm for the subject was contagious. It almost feels like Darwin is the one speaking.

Overall, a must read for anybody with an interest in learning how we came into being.
Profile Image for Morgan.
Author 11 books87 followers
February 19, 2014
I can now truly say that, having read the Origin of Species, I find the theory of evolution to be complete and utter hogwash. Darwin never truly gives an explanation for how microevolution can realistically extrapolated into macroevolution. Also, when he brings up objections against his theory, he gives an elaborate excuse for why he cannot prove his point rather than proving it. I am still a firm believer in Creation. It is a lot more logical than evolution.
Profile Image for Annie.
899 reviews306 followers
June 21, 2017
Sometimes when I read books with ideas that changed the world, I notice they’re boring. Not because it’s poorly written, archaically worded, or just a boring topic- all untrue- but because the ideas were so influential that the entire book is just one big “duh, yeah, I’m already on board with this, you don’t need to harp on so much, I see what you’re getting at and I agree it makes sense.” (I remember a similar feeling with Singer’s Animal Liberation, for example.)

This is obviously one of those books. If you’ve got a high school diploma, you already understand natural selection, and if you’re interested in biology at all, you probably also understand the evidentiary support/finer tunings of the theory.

Essentially this is like, 700 pages of Darwin giving evidence for his theory by listing out different animals or plants and discussing how the variations imply a common ancestor/his theory and how they disprove his opponents’ arguments. Pigeons with X number of tail feathers, horses with leg stripes, radishes versus rutabagas. Lots and lots and lots of details about things like this.

I’m glad I read it because Darwin is clearly anxious nobody will believe his wild new theory, since he throws so much evidence at the reader. This serves, to me, as a fantastic reminder that this was, in fact, a radical kooky theory at the time and nothing in science should be taken for granted as truth because there is always, always always, a shakeup on the horizon that will make us question everything. And no era is immune to that- every era has thought itself “finally at the truth” and every time we’ve been wrong. As we are now, in ways we can’t even imagine yet.
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34 reviews257 followers
September 9, 2021

Absolutely brilliant.

More personal notes:
-I tend towards the physical sciences, however even I was able to appreciate the scintillating profundities of this work. As such, I would sincerely recommend this to anyone in any of the sciences due to how it could help them. Though, this is one of the most impactful books of human history in general, so I would reaffirm that position and recommend this to anyone.
-I read this in order to better understand atheism after my exploration of religious texts. Mission accomplished. I now better understand why this work in particular, more so than other developments of science such as the heliocentric model of the solar system by Copernicus or gravity and the laws of motion by Newton, is considered important to the resistance to faith.
-I have learned biology multiple times at various levels growing up. As such, I was aware of Darwin and had considered his ideas enough to know they had much merit. However, reading this book was significantly better than any presentation of the ideas I have experienced in classes, textbooks, or other medium. This may be in large part due to 1. the step by step inductive construction of the ideas rather than the out of context and random deductive presentation in classes, 2. the "down to earth" first hand observations and experiments by Darwin and others are demonstrated and provide a story of sorts, and 3. the questions, issues, and considerations Darwin had in his time, which all lent itself by keeping focus to the fundamentals of his ideas rather than being conflated and mixed with genetics as done when taught today.

While reading, I was amazed by the scope of literature Darwin referenced ranging as far as farming and husbandry, anthropology, archaeology, geography, geology, and history in general. Darwin also did not refrain from going into surgical detail at times. This contributed to how the book, throughout, felt very "down to earth" and practical. As such, the subject matter was also very approachable.

It was interesting to observe Darwin repeatedly run up against modern developments namely surrounding genes. For example, the mechanisms of variability and specificities of inheritance. It is clear that Darwin was at the absolute cutting edge of sciences, and that he evidently set the course for much of 20th century biology through his recognition of the shortcomings and mysteries existent at the time.

Deconstructed: 1. the observations and experiments which led to pieces of evidence, 2. the pieces of evidence themselves, 3. the organization and putting together of all the evidence, 4. the claims made based upon the evidence, and 5. the implications and impact (predictive power) of the claims.

Simply put, this book is not only a masterclass of building up an argument or theory, however it also contains profound ideas beyond life itself.
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