Darwin's On the Origin of Species
A Modern Rendition
Publication Year: 2014
Charles Darwin’s most famous book On the Origin of Species is without question, one of the most important books ever written. While even the grandest works of Victorian English can prove difficult to modern readers, Darwin wrote his text in haste and under intense pressure. For an era in which Darwin is more talked about than read, Daniel Duzdevich offers a clear, modern English rendering of Darwin’s first edition. Neither an abridgement nor a summary, this version might best be described as a "translation" for contemporary English readers. A monument to reasoned insight, the Origin illustrates the value of extensive reflection, carefully gathered evidence, and sound scientific reasoning. By removing the linguistic barriers to understanding and appreciating the Origin, this edition aims to bring 21st-century readers into closer contact with Darwin’s revolutionary ideas.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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Why read On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin? After all, it was first published more than 150 years ago, and much of the science is out of date. When Darwin was writing, for example, the rules of genetic inheritance had not been figured out, the causes of genetic...
A Note to the Reader
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Biology of the very small is what fascinates me. This small world is jostled by the motions of water molecules and crisscrossed by intricate chemical reactions. It is a world over which DNA and protein have dominion. And it is a world that unifies life. At the scale of biological...
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Many people contributed to the development of this project, and I am indebted to all of them. A series of conversations with Walter Bock were formative. Two anonymous reviewers critiqued an early draft and helped me improve the text. Ashley Hennen made insightful...
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When on board HMS Beagle as naturalist, I was struck by the distribution of South America’s organisms and the geological relationships between its past and present inhabitants. These observations seemed to me to illuminate that mystery of mysteries: the origin...
1. Variation under Domestication
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In considering the individuals of a domesticated plant or animal variety, it is striking that they are generally more diverse than those belonging to varieties or species in the wild. The vast diversity of domesticated organisms, which have varied under many different climates...
2. Variation in Nature
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Before applying the principles from the last chapter to living things in the wild, we need to establish whether or not they too are subject to variation. A proper treatment of this topic would involve a long catalog of dry facts, but I will reserve this for my future work...
3. The Struggle for Existence
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Before discussing the struggle for existence, I need to show how it is relevant to natural selection. As mentioned in the previous chapter, individual organisms in the wild vary from one another. (I am not aware that this has ever been disputed.) It is not important...
4. Natural Selection
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How does the struggle for existence influence variation? Does selection – so potent in human hands – apply in nature? I think it does, most effectively. Recall the strength of heredity and the endless peculiarities in domesticated organisms, and to a lesser extent in...
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In earlier chapters I sometimes implied that variations are due to chance. Of course this is completely incorrect, but it illustrates our ignorance of the causes of variation. Some authors believe that the reproductive system functions in creating offspring that are...
6. Difficulties with the Theory
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Long before arriving at this point in my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader. Some are so grave that they stagger me to this day, but most are only apparent, and even the real ones are not fatal to my theory. These difficulties and objections can be...
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Instinct could have been worked into previous chapters, but I thought it would be better to treat it separately, especially because an instinct as wonderful as that of the honeybee making the cells of its hive may have occurred to many readers as sufficiently challenging to...
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Naturalists generally maintain that the offspring of crosses from between different species are specially endowed with sterility to prevent the confusion of all organisms. At first this seems probable, because species within a region would hardly remain distinct if they...
9. The Imperfection of the Geological Record
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In chapter 6 I listed the main objections to the ideas presented in this book. Most of them have now been discussed. One – the distinctness of species and the fact that they do not blend together via countless transitional links – is an obvious difficulty. I have given reasons...
10. The Succession of Organisms in the Geological Record
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New species have appeared very slowly, one after another, both on the land and in the waters. Sir Charles Lyell shows that evidence for this in Tertiary stages is compelling, and every year tends to fill up the blanks. In some of the most recent beds, only one or two...
11. The Geographical Distribution of Life
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The similarities and differences among organisms across the earth cannot be explained by climate or other physical conditions. Almost every author who has recently studied the subject comes to this conclusion. The American continent alone would suffice to prove...
12. The Geographical Distribution of Life, Continued
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Lakes and river systems are separated from one another by barriers of land, so it might seem obvious that freshwater species do not range across many bodies of water and that because the sea is an even greater barrier, they would never spread to distant regions. But...
13. Affinities between Organisms: Morphology, Embryology, and Rudimentary Organs
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From the first dawn of life, all organisms have resembled one another in descending degrees, so they can be classed into groups subordinate to groups. This classification is not arbitrary like the grouping of stars into constellations. Its meaning would have...
14. Summary and Conclusion
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As this entire book is one long argument, it may be convenient to briefly review the main observations and inferences. I do not deny that many and serious objections can be advanced against the theory of descent with modification by means of natural selection...
Recommended Further Reading
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About the Author
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Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 1 b&w illus
Publication Year: 2014