29 November 2011

Notes on Darwin's On the Origin of Species


The first thing I feel like saying is that Charles Darwin isn't a good writer. I had to reread the initial first paragraph at least three times before discerning some point of understanding from which to continue forth from. The impression I'm drawing from what I've read so far, is that

One: Darwin wrote this publication in a hurry, due to years of sitting on the idea and witnessing others releasing similar works on the same subject. There's almost a rushed pressure present from paragraph to paragraph.

Two: This study on evolution, based on naturalist observation, is mainly written for colleagues, peers, and future naturalists & biologists. On the Origin of Species is somewhat of an isolated work. From the time it was written to the writing style, I feel like I'm reading a book that wasn't meant for my eyes. And finally

Three: (During his time writing this book) Darwin's ideas had not yet been tested and thus not fully established, creating a curiosity in his words that confuse me as I find myself having trouble noting when something is being stated, implied, or proposed. Darwin sounds at times, like an excited storyteller who runs in all sorts of direction of detail; who loses his audience in his overzealousness.

I'm in the middle of the second chapter, so pay no mind to this note. In all likelihood, I'm just too dumb to read On the Origin of Species. I know the basic idea of evolution and understand that natural selection is the mechanism Darwin proposes which moves evolution in all of earth's living organisms. Rather than living things being created in their present form, perfectly sustaining that original design since the dawn of life, Darwin's evolution, hypothesizes that all life is more or less variations of species, all related, tapering backward from complex to the simplest designs as time and opportunity act upon them. I live in a world where that idea has existed from more than a hundred years before I was born; where scholars and scientists have learned, taught, extended, tested, and interpreted Darwin's essential contribution to modern science and thought for decades before I learned to read or write. By the time I learned about evolution it was from multiple sources whose works would surely not be possible if not for Darwin, he and his work were always constant references. Therefore, I've had, much like many others, an indirect exposure to the contents of On the Origin of Species. Still, its been long overdue, that I read for myself what Darwin put down and even if I have to reread this book twenty more times, researching every concept individually until it sticks plain-as-day on my mind--it'll be worth it.

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