Book Reviews Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

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He wrote what can arguably be considered one of the most controversial books ever written. I am referring of Course, to Robert, Charles, Darwin, and the book he authored: "On The Origin Of Species by Means of Natural Selection." And yet, he was a reserved and quiet man with a civil demeanor. Actually, he authored several books, but is was this one which would secure his mention in history books, perhaps for all time to come. He referred to himself as a "naturalist" and that he was a well credentialed scientist is without question. He professed a resolute belief in God, and there is a degree of irony, that so many in the religious community who have condemned him, are unaware of the fact that he was also an ordained minister.

Today, the very mention of Charles Darwin evokes an association with the Theory of Evolution. Ironically the word "Evolution" never appears in The Origin of Species, not once, and if you want to be totally technical about it, the "Theory of Evolution" can't really be solely attributed to Darwin. There was, coincidentally, another naturalist, Alfred R. Wallace, who came to the same conclusions as Darwin, independently of but concurrent to Darwin's. Wallace did use the word evolution in his treatise on the subject. The Theory of Evolution, was therefore, much bigger then Darwin, and for that matter, any of the ideas he brought forth in the Origin of Species. But it would be this book that would convoke what might arguably be described as the greatest debate of all time.

The basis for the book was of course the scientific evidence gleamed by Darwin during a five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle; where he served as naturalist. During the voyage, Darwin cataloged thousands of species and collected a storehouse of evidence. From his observations, Darwin came to some unique conclusions that are wrapped up in his postulates relating to variation and natural selection, the processes through which evolution takes place. In Origin of Species, Darwin lays out in laborious and meticulous detail, a body of evidence so compelling, so comprehensive, that it could not in his time, and still not today be dismissed, although there is certainly a contingent of evolution nay-sayers who continue to attempt the dismantling of Darwin's thesis with rhetorical banter, any evidence to support their own assertions sadly lacking.

Darwin was not right in all of his speculations. He made mistakes, because he did not have all of the pieces of the puzzle he was trying to assemble, but he had enough to get a general idea of the process of biological evolution. Darwin himself would refrain from the public debate of his book, but others would take on its' advocacy. Thomas H. Huxley, in particular, himself an eminent scientist, championed Darwin's thesis, establishing Origin of Species as being tantamount to being the bible on evolution. Huxley would take on in debate an outraged contingent of theologians and religious leaders who viewed the Origin of Species as blasphemy and its' author a heretic. Here was a book, in their minds, which questioned the fundamental precept of monotheist religious belief, that of the divine creation. Thus the Origin of Species and Charles Darwin would become ground zero in an all out, no holds barred, assault by religiosity to disparage the Theory of Evolution and more generally the pursuit of scientific discovery itself.

Origin of Species is certainly no easy read, the minutia of detail set forth in it quickly leading to tedium. As a scientific documentary, Origin of Species is thorough and comprehensive, and Darwin's ability to descriptively present his arguments no less than brilliant. That new editions of this book continue to be printed 150 years later, stands as testament to the importance of the work, and to the validity of its premise. The vast majority of those who continue a contemporary attack on the Theory of Evolution and the book that became center stage in defining it, are sadly uninformed. Captive to the tutelage of of religiosity they are devoid of the salvation of enlightenment. Few of them have ever bothered to actually read the book they hold in condemnation, let alone any more recent works like "DNA - the Secret of Life" by James D. Watson. If they should turn a few pages in this and other contemporary offerings, they might come face to face with the evidence which establishes, with certainty, the principles of variation and natural selection which Darwin first theorized and expounded upon in his book.

In Origin of Species, Darwin presents his evidence and conclusions with lucid rational and plain vernacular; you need not subscribe to any supernatural doctrines, buy into any superstitions or lend your mind to any mystical; magical; notions to comprehend it. It becomes readily apparent why this book was quickly added to the banned book list by the religious establishment, for those who venture to turn its pages soon become cognizant of questions for which religiosity has no answers and science does. If you want to understand what evolution is all about, then Origin of Species is an excellent place to start, and a prerequisite to any comprehensive understanding of it, and the ensuing debate of evolution versus creationism which spawned from it.

More about this author: John Traveler

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