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The Origin of the Species: (A Modern Library E-Book)
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Perhaps the most readable and accessible of the great works of the scientific imagination, The Origin of Species sold out on the day it was published in 1859. Theologians quickly labeled Charles Darwin the most dangerous man in England, and, as the Saturday Review noted, the uproar over the book quickly 'passed beyond the bounds of the study and lecture-room into the drawing-room and the public street.' Yet after reading it, Darwin's friend and colleague T. H. Huxley had a different reaction: 'How extremely stupid not to have thought of that.' Based largely on Darwin's experience as a naturalist while on a five-year voyage aboard the H.M.S. Beagle, The Origin of Species set forth a theory of evolution and natural selection that challenged contemporary beliefs about divine providence and the immutability of species. A landmark contribution to philosophical and scientific thought, the book has fresh application today for its pioneering views on the ecology of plants and animals. This edition also includes an introductory historical sketch and a glossary Darwin later added to the original text.

It's hard to talk about The Origin of Species without making statements that seem overwrought and fulsome. But it's true: this is indeed one of the most important and influential books ever written, and it is one of the very few groundbreaking works of science that is truly readable.

To a certain extent it suffers from the Hamlet problem--it's full of clich¨¦s! Or what are now clich¨¦s, but which Darwin was the first to pen. Natural selection, variation, the struggle for existence, survival of the fittest: it's all in here.

Darwin's friend and "bulldog" T.H. Huxley said upon reading the Origin, "How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that." Alfred Russel Wallace had thought of the same theory of evolution Darwin did, but it was Darwin who gathered the mass of supporting evidence--on domestic animals and plants, on variability, on sexual selection, on dispersal--that swept most scientists before it. It's hardly necessary to mention that the book is still controversial: Darwin's remark in his conclusion that "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history" is surely the pinnacle of British understatement. --Mary Ellen Curtin

Customer Reviews:

  • Well worth the read...
    "If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly service) that individuals having many advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favorable variations and the rejection of injurious variations I call Natural Selection" p. 130, The Origin of Species.

    "Many Christians perceive evolutionary science itself as essentially an enemy of the faith, and so expend considerable energy attempting to deny its explanatory power..." states F. LeRon Shults in his brilliant book Reforming Theological Anthropology (p. 207). I've owned The Origin of Species for nearly 10 years now but never actually read it: or hardly cracked it open. I did spend a lot of time trying to DISprove what I had not read though - which really got me nowhere. I'll be preaching on ideas of creation and evolution at our church in Brooklyn, and decided that instead of just giving second-hand quotes from the book without reading it, why not read it? I'm glad that I did.

    Darwin's most well-known book was really virtually nothing like I had expected that it would be, and I found that I really enjoyed it: and for the most part thought that he made excellent points. At no point did I ever see him trying to disprove God in any way - he simply spoke against "the common idea of creation" (pp. 66-67, 113, 171, 223, 379, 382, 384, 392, 415-417, 458, et. al) which he seemed to take as meaning `all things were created as they are today with no room for mutability' or something along those lines. In fact at several points he even seemed concerned that we not mock God/the Creator. On page 201 Darwin states, "To admit this view is, as it seems to me, to reject a real for an unreal, or at least for an unknown, cause. It makes the works of God a mere mockery and deception; I would almost as soon believe with the old an ignorant cosmogonists, that fossil shells had never lived, but had been created in stone so as to mock the shells now living on the sea-shore."

    Darwin very systematically looks at a number of objections and problems to his theories - for example:

    "To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree." p.217

    "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not have possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case..." p.219

    "If it could be proved and any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection." p.228-229

    "Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record." p.292

    "If numerous species, belonging to the same genera or families, have really started into life all at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of descent with slow modification through natural selection." p.309

    It is important to note, however, that after each of these possible explanations Darwin gives credible thoughts as to how these (and other objections) could be overcome. He often "freely admits" that not all will believe his theory based off of his arguments, and I find that the general tenor of the book is humble: at times a little too apologetic (in the "I'm sorry for this" sense) as he often states that [putting all the details here would be impossible]. I'm actually thankful for that as at times the book became frightfully boring as he listed fact after fact about different species/varieties of creatures. Don't get me wrong though: there were many shining moments of interest as I read. For example the section on ants (p.243ff), the bit about the seeds in the mud that he studied (p.374ff) and the section on the metamorphosis of the cirripedes which I found to be stunningly interesting (p.420ff).

    Darwin's tremendous volume of study is clear throughout the book: the ease that he demonstrates in switching his focus from animal to animal and issue to issue was extraordinary - it would be fantastic to actually meet him and watch his mind work.

    I think that Darwin's most significant contribution in the book overall is showing just how dependant the entire world is on each other - I think that we could all learn a lot from this very true concept. On page 125 he states, "Hence it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district" just to name one such instance of interdependence.

    Another sort of `theme' that emerges in the book is Darwin's need for an actual explanation of why things are the way they are (pp.67, 399, 415-417, et. al.). He's not happy to just say "such and such was created thus" - he want to know WHY they are the way that they are. The Bible (both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament) are really never interested in the "why" or "how" of creation - only that ultimately God was responsible. With this pointed out, I can confidently say that nothing in "The Origin of Species" contradicts anything that's in the bible to any sort of severe degree, outside of staunch strict literalism, which the Biblical texts by no means demand.

    I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about the core of the ideas that have become so prevalent in today's world. I'll end my review with one last quote, which is what Darwin states at the very end of the book (pp.459-460):

    "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 fixes law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
    ...more info
  • Way more readable than you think ...
    People tend to look at me crazy when I tell them that I've read ORIGIN OF SPECIES. And really, I think we can all see where they are coming from. Nevertheless, being curious, I thought it might be interesting read the book that started all the fuss.

    I was surprised to find how readable it really was. Think about this: what we are taught in high school biology is way more than Darwin knew when he wrote this book. Accordingly, the science described in this book is quite easy to understand for anyone who has previously taken a biology class.

    Probably the most interesting thing about this book were the few times that Darwin threw in a little philosophical/theological side comment. I'll leave these juicy tidbits for you to find, but look for them as they add a little "kick" to an otherwise fairly "scientific" book. Though a bit lengthy, this accountant enjoyed ORIGIN OF SPECIES.

    As a sidenote: I find the funniest thing about those "Jesus fish" eating the "Darwin fish" car decals is that the base idea is that the stronger fish wins- a.k.a. surival of the fittest. The ensuing contradiction of unwittingly using one of Darwin's base tenets to attack Darwinian evolution is priceless....more info

  • Amazing Book!!!
    First you must read the voyage of the beagle by Darwin in which this book is base and it will make much more sense for you to read!!!!...more info
  • Requirement for the Advanced Biology Student
    It is a crying shame that many reviewers have used this forum to try and critique evolutionary theory, making no references to the text at all and drawing on erroneous conclusions about Darwin in general. The Origin of Species is most definitely the most important work in the field of biology, as it is the most succinct and well developed explanations of the unifying principle of the field, evolution via descent with modification. I don't want to spend a lot of time explaining the theory or why a person should study it. I want to explain who should read this book and why. If you are looking for an introductory text on the theory of evolution you need to stay well away. There are other better books. In many cases Darwin's examples and arguments are outmoded or have been changed. The book overlooks many aspects that are included in modern evolutionary theory, such as genetics, simply because Darwin did not know about them. Natural selection as Darwin wrote it is one of the most effective explanatory theories in all of science but by reading this book you miss almost 150 years of the things it has explained. It is also a flat out PAIN to read, they where much "wordier" in the 1800's and Darwin's English is rather stilted and formal, even compared to modern scientific writing. So, who should read this book? Any person who is an advanced student in biology (I read it the summer before my senior year) should be aware of how the modern theory of evolution was born. You can't really achieve this without reading Origins. I am aware of no better way of understanding evolution that to follow its development through time, beginning with Darwin. And, if you don't understand evolution, you don't understand biology. As something to read it is a classic, arguably the most influential work of all time.

    A note on edition: this copy is the one I have. I would suggest the facsimile of the First Edition found elsewhere on Amazon. I don't know why the publishers felt the need to put the caricatured human evolution (addressed nowhere in the book) on the cover....more info

  • A landmark in science writing.
    A well-written, well-argued treatise on the volatile subject of the evolution of new species by natural selection. At the time, this flew in the face of accepted theories, and especially upset current theological doctrine, Archbishop Ussher would be particularly upset!.

    Darwin agonised for years over the publication of his book, and it was only at the urging of his friends (that he was about to be upstaged by Wallace) that he finally published. The delay was of his own making - torn between the evidence of his notes and correspondence with Wallace, and the furore that would inevitably result. The furore was bound to happen anyway, surrounded as he was by small-minded [people], so he should have published earlier. But ... this might have deprived us of the brilliant arguments he puts forth in support of each section in the book.
    He obviously knew what he was up against, so he tried to present his case as lucidly as possible - and here's the unusual aspect of the work - in layman's language! This was almost unheard of in a Victorian Scientific treatise - they were meant to be read by Scientists, not the hoy-poloy! He tries to counter every conceivable objection to each statement, as nicely (in both senses of the word) as possible, without any of the fervour and tunnel vision that one expects from a convert to a new ideal. He takes us by the hand and gently walks us through the evidence in support of his theory, helping us to realise that, yes, he is talking sense, no matter what our pre-conceptions of life might be.
    Discover for yourself that evolution is not 'survival of the fittest', but 'survival of the most fit' - that is, fitted for that particular ecological niche - fittest being a Victorian word that has taken a different modern meaning.

    An amazingly good read, even for our enlightened times, but recommended reading - I'll bet there are hundereds of copies on dusty bookshelves that have never been read - time to dust it off and find out for yourself the genius of the man....more info

  • Darwin's notion
    I picked this edition because it includes new modern evidence, not found in the original publication, that macroevolution is a fact: the cover art. Though not quite what Darwin would have wanted, descent with modification can be found in strata... the paper strata of textbooks that push his theory.

    Actually, this is a classic book to own even for someone like me who thinks evolution is more philosophical then scientific. Like it or not, this is one of the philisophic cornerstones of modern western civilization.
    ...more info
  • Natural Selection to be accepted by Christianity by 2136AD?
    It took 277 years for the Church to accept that the universe did not revolve around the Earth, from the publication of Copernicus' 'On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres' in 1543 to the Vatican's total repeal of the condemnation of the Copernican doctrine in the period 1820 to 1835. If that's anything to go by as far as the speed with which the Church accepts new truths about the universe, none of us will be around to see the day Darwin is vindicated as one of humanity's guiding lights, as opposed to the Son of Satan. Seldom in history has such a noble person been subjected to such vilification. It reminds one of the ridicule once heaped on supporters of the Copernican theory, and their disbelieving mockery - how could the Earth possibly revolve without the people flying off? Today we all can only laugh at their ignorance, but only some of us can laugh at the ignorance of those 'Flat-Earthers' who still disregard Darwin's theory. Like many have already pointed out, much of the material that fuels the evolution debate is not to be found in this book. There are no claims or even insinuations in the book of descent from apes. Rather, it was disciples like Huxley who really helped focus the debate on man's primate anscestry, and Darwin was far more direct in his beliefs in his later books such as 'The Descent of Man' and 'The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals', both of which are worth reading as they bolster his theory in countless ways, always combining a penetrating natural observation with intelligent analysis. In fact, I must admit to enjoying them even more than this book, although of course as Darwin's classic, it's a must read for anyone interested in man's evolution, and no open-minded person could possibly remain unconvinced after going through Darwin's evidence and arguments against spontaneous creation. (Creationists still believe that God came down to Earth in 19th century industrial revolution England to create the darker moths which started appearing as the trees gradually darkened from pollution, kindly making sure they did not stick out like sore thumbs on the blackened trees anymore...)...more info
  • This edition is poorly formatted.
    Darwin's _Origin of Species_ is a phenomenal work and was truly brilliant and insightful at the time. It's a classic of science and it's one of those books that everyone should read.

    That said, this particular Kindle edition of the book is disappointing. Primarily, the text is fully-justified rather than normal left-aligned (right-ragged). (This means that spacing between words varies so that the last characters of each line end up being aligned along the righthand margin, and the first characters are still aligned along the left margin.) It's a well-known principle of typography that justified text is harder to read than ragged text -- the spacing between words is variable, so your eyes have to work harder to move over the text. I don't see why this edition would have made that choice.

    If you want to read this excellent book, you might consider a different edition....more info
  • This edition is poorly formatted.
    Darwin's _Origin of Species_ is a phenomenal work and was truly brilliant and insightful at the time. It's a classic of science and it's one of those books that everyone should read.

    That said, this particular Kindle edition of the book is disappointing. Primarily, the text is fully-justified rather than normal left-aligned (right-ragged). (This means that spacing between words varies so that the last characters of each line end up being aligned along the righthand margin, and the first characters are still aligned along the left margin.) It's a well-known principle of typography that justified text is harder to read than ragged text -- the spacing between words is variable, so your eyes have to work harder to move over the text. I don't see why this edition would have made that choice.

    If you want to read this excellent book, you might consider a different edition....more info
  • Evolution
    The Origin of Species: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

    This is an excellent ebook. Darwin was a great scientist! ...more info
  • the foundation of modern science
    On the Origin of Species is perhaps the best known (but least understood) book of the modern age. I say least understood, because Darwin advances several theories (all relating to) evolution. It is a fascinating read, and a marvelous experience to "peek" into the mind of a genius.

    First, Darwin's theories are about natural selection, adaptation, extinction, species variation, and significantly, a common ancestor - all of which are a part of the bigger picture, that all life has evolved and is continuing to evolve. His evidence is overwhelming (it had to be in order to advance such radical ideas) and, for lack of a better word, brilliant.

    Much has been made about religion and evolution - which is why I mentioned that his theories are not well understood. At no point is God (or a Supreme Being, or whatever you want to call it) mentioned, let alone removed from Darwin's theory (regardless of how you feel about the matter.) Yet it is these theories that have laid the ground work for entire disciplines of science, and which has revolutionized science as a whole.

    With that said, the book tends to beat the points to death a bit. (Again, understandable given the magnitude of the ideas), but the lay reader can get a good flavor of the arguments, and the evidence about a third of the way through. Its interesting, to be sure, but a bit dry, which is why I can only give it 4 stars....more info

  • The most influential scientific book ever written
    In 1859, Darwin unleashed "Origin of Species", a juggernaut which smashed down millenia-old ideas with its elegant explanation of the natural variation of species, and extensive documentation of examples to demonstrate the work's argument.

    As a practising scientist myself, I was thoroughly impressed by Darwin's care in addressing his assumptions, considering alternative explanations, and providing a robust defense of his conclusions with his vast array of field data. "Origin of Species" is, as a purely scientific work, a beautiful example of how such a text should be written and defended.

    Of course, Darwin's work is now dated. Modern theories of evolution and genetics have added a tremedous amount of detail to Darwin's work, which obviously are not included in this text. If you are interested in a more modern adaption of Darwin's theory, I suggest John Maynard-Smith's "Theory of Evolution". However, Darwin's work remains a lucid, powerful introduction to evolutionary theory, with a host of interesting examples of how his theory works in nature. For both its historical and scientific merits, "The Origin of Species" should be part of any literate person's library. Highly recommended....more info

  • Darwin....
    Charles Darwin's The Origin of species was published in 1859 and he basically believes and tried to prove that different varieties of species will come about because of direct or indirect action of the species with the surrounding environment and/or conditions and also from the use and disuse of certain inherited functions. Which than leads to the Struggle for Life and thus you have Natural Selection, which means that species that are not the best equipped to survive become extinct.

    This book is packed with examples of his theories. I was impressed with all the information he had gathered over his twenty years or so of research.

    I also do not see how anyone after reading this book, could say that Charles Darwin's theory proved that a Creator or God does not exist. Darwin himself referenced many times to a Creator. He even said, "I see no good reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of any one." And he also said "Therefore I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings, which have ever lived on this earth, have descended from some primordial form, into which life was first breathed by the Creator."

    Not only that but he himself understands that there are still many problems with his theory. I was impressed that he included and admitted problems with the theory. For example he said, "Why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? And he also said, "Can we believe that natural selection could produce... organs of such wonderful structure, as the eye, of which we hardly as yet full understand the inimitable perfection?

    In the end, even though I myself am still a skeptic towards the theory that simple organisms have evolved into many different complex species, I would recommend reading this book, if not for anything to see how the evolutionary theory got started and though Darwin's theory has changed since his time, it would be a good read still for historical purposes if nothing else. Enjoy......more info

  • Darwinism is alive and good today
    I read this book, here in Brazil.The author, Darwin was an atheist and a racist.Writen at the same time and place, as Francis Galton and Karl Marx, Darwin didn't followed both of these charlatans, to the sewages of history.
    The theory of evolution began first in Greece and was also supported by another english, Wallace; but Charles Darwin, with this book really put evolution in mankind's mind.This book was read by Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill,Mussolini,etc.
    Someone will claims that Darwin knew nothing, about the genes and DNA.Fossils found decades after this book be published, also put new evidences to evolution.Even so, the main claim of this book,evolution, was increased in believe, by time.Begined by this book, darwinism is alive and good today. ...more info
  • Still good to get back to basics
    Although a lot has been learned since Darwin's time, and a lot of good books have been written, it's still useful to go back and read the book that started it all. Darwin's text is clear and readable; and, since he was writing for people who'd never heard the idea before, he starts from first principles, as some modern writers don't....more info
  • Very Very Good
    While neo-Darwinism is still struggling and many prominent biochemists, physicists, and biologists themselves are predicting its demise in its current form, Darwinism, as presented in the Origin of Species is still undisputed. Instead of reading claptrap that evolutionary theory has inadvertently produced, I recommend reading the book that started it all. Yes, much of it is refutable, but this books stands as a testament to one of the best theories science ever put forward. And unlike neo-Darwinism, it is not just one giant contradiction. Recommended....more info
  • The Most Important Book of the Last Two Hundred Years
    Whether or not you agree with my title, you must agree that this book is one of the most important volumes of Western science. That is the reason I resisted reading it for so long. In the end, this book should be read not because it is important or still controversial after a century and a half, but because it is interesting reading, giving insight into Darwin and his times. A great deal of his examples remain compelling and his analysis still engages the intellect. This book is not dull or stuffy, but rather, fun, interesting reading. A number of the concepts with which Darwin struggles still engage biologists today.

    This book will surprise and delight you, if you are like me, force you to read the current writings on evolution, creationism and genetics. In a world where genetic developments rule medicine and where genetic advances challenge our ethical concepts, it is important for all of us to understand these concepts, and the best place to begin is with the man who started it, Charles Darwin....more info

  • Save your money and read it online
    Go to any literature website and read it for free...more info
  • A quiet book for all the broohaha
    Required reading for any serious biologist. This is the theory from the man himself. Also valuable for understanding evolution in a historical sense. Darwin got some things wrong, but, in my reading of this (which I have done many times over), I am struck by the brilliance of a man who figured all this out in the absence of understanding the genetic mechanism of inheritance. I think Darwin is one of the great minds of western civilization, on a par with Newton, and he deserves FAR more respect than he is given today.

    For all the stir this book caused, for all the stir Darwin's legacy continues to stir today, I am always struck by his modesty and dedication to the principles of scientific endeavor. He seems such a quiet man to have revolutionized everything we know and understand about life....more info
  • Clear, convincing, modest writing
    Everyone is aware of the importance of Darwin's 1959 classic science text. Yet, few of the many defenders and detractors of evolution have read it. While certainly out of date and lacking in the loads of modern evidence to back him up, Darwin nevertheless provides the best introduction to evolution by means of natural selection.

    Darwin goes through nearly every point imaginable, providing the results of years of tests, observations, and study. Each chapter goes on an exhaustive analisys of different topics. I had already read much evolution literature, but I was even more convinced after reading Darwin's well-written thesis. He is unpretentious and modest. Even when the subject gets tedious (he goes into rather extensive details on raising pigions and floating various seeds over water), his good humor is always evident and you know you only have to wait until his next big find is revealed.

    "The Origin of Species" should be read by anyone claiming to know the origin of mankind. Though often tedious and lacking in modern evidence, this is still science writing at its best. Any layman can understand the principle concepts of evolution through Charles Darwin....more info

  • The second most misrepresented book ever written
    There is only one other book that is so widely known, discussed, and debated, yet so rarely read: that other book is the Bible. To make my point, here is a little quiz:

    1) Which name is most closely associated with the theory of evolution?

    2) Which book did this person write on evolution?

    3) What claims are made in that book?

    4) What else is contained in that book?

    With astonishing regularity, the average literate adult will respond as follows: 1) Darwin, 2) Origin of Species, 3) Humans descended from apes, and 4) I have no idea. The first two are correct, the third is absolutely false, and the fourth is an admission of complete ignorance. Considering that "Origin of Species" is over 600 pages long, and took nearly two decades to write, one would expect it to contain something more than the four simple words "Humans descended from apes," which, in fact, it neither contains nor implies. So, what DOES it contain? There is one word that best summarizes the bulk of Darwin's magnum opus: "observation".

    It is a lengthy book; at times it is tedious, at times politically incorrect, and at times scientifically off-base. But, despite its numerous flaws, it is one of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind. Even if you are among the few who refuse to accept Darwin's ideas, you cannot deny their impact. The theory is the cornerstone--if not the very foundation--of modern biology. Whatever your preconceptions, you will likely be surprised by this work. Darwin was the consummate naturalist and scientist, as well as a refined and articulate gentleman. "Origin" is a delight and an epiphany to read. It's amazing how much Darwin got right, despite the fact that he had essentially no idea of how inheritance worked. It's amazing how much data Darwin carefully assembled, analyzed, and described. It's amazing how meticulously Darwin weighed the evidence, noting when competing theories made different predictions, when the available evidence was not what he would have expected, and what future evidence could completely discredit (falsify) his theory. It's amazing in its honesty.

    The misconceptions about "Origin of Species" are not merely rampant, they are effectively universal, fueled (largely in the US) by the rise of creationism, which seeks first and foremost to vilify the theory of evolution as well as Darwin (often failing to distinguish between the two). It's worth the time to read this enormous but meticulously crafted volume, if only to allow you to form your own opinions about such an influential book. Once you have, take the little quiz again. You may need 600 pages to answer the last question....more info

  • Content: 5 stars, Typography: 1 star
    This edition (Modern Library Paperback) has several distracting typos. I had to refer to project gutenberg editions to find the correct text in several places. Other reviewers have done justice to the content....more info