Friday, May 19, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 12 -- On the Origin of Species

by Charles Darwin

Started: April 7
Finished: May 19

Notes: I've read some of this over the years, but not the whole thing. I'm probably as familiar with the material and the notions of evolution as any average college-educated American, but I'm no scientist and definitely no expert. Still, I feel the material is worth study by me. This particular e-book edition is based upon the first edition of the printed book, so I do not expect it to be anywhere near up to date on current thinking concerning evolution, but I'm reading as much for historical interests as scientific.

Mini review: There were some surprises here. For one thing, though admittedly Darwin is writing in an age far less technical than our own, the majority of his writing is very down to earth and non-scientific, capable of understanding by the average person. The notions he proposes are done so matter-of-factly, not depending upon a bunch of scientific jargon, but are based upon common sense and his own witnessing and studies, and those of a handful of other individuals. Also, his writing style isn't bad, though my eyes did tend to glaze over towards the middle when he got into hybrids and mongrels, etc. Regarding the seemingly never-ending debate of evolution and creation, Darwin makes a good case, and those who stand against him have probably not read him and are not likely to, which doesn't bode well for their own position. This isn't some high-minded scientific theory, but ideas based upon actual evidence, and I'm not talking fossils pulled from the ground (though that is part of it). Darwin, and others, did experiments with plants and animals, growing and raising them, watching them, studying them, measuring them, and that combined with the fossil record and other sciences and reflection gave rise to his thoughts on this subject matter. "Evolution" isn't here a word Darwin used, him coining the term "natural selection" instead, but it is based upon evidence one can see with one's own eyes and experience, not just something some scientist thought up in a lab somewhere.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I was surprised too when I first read this at how approachable it was. Good, clear writing.You might enjoy the publications of his journals from his famous voyage as well, The Voyage of the Beagle. They were available on Gutenberg. Probably still are. I have tremendous respect for Darwin. I've been working for several years on a book about him and evolution. I use it in my evolutionary psych class, though it is not completely finished