The Origin of Species/The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
To say that Origin of the Species might be slightly interesting is to make a monumental error in degree. Obviously. And no other work of literature... nee, science, has been as contentious.
This is the extremely readable work that provides us a step-by-step accounting of the theory of Evolution, after all.
I mean, what's the big deal? Indeed, what IS the big deal? This just the work of a Naturalist, after all. He made detailed descriptions of things he saw on his journeys, making a fascinating travelogue in Voyage of the Beagle, giving us a frankly FUN accounting of the adventure. And then, after several decades of working out the facts and combining the other works of other naturalists and regular breeders, from dogs to sheep to all kinds of plants in the agricultural fields.
In this particular edition of Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle and Origins of the Species, narrated by and specially abridged by Richard Dawkins, a lot of the detailed extras are boiled down to an easy to read and fully explained middle section that includes background information, concurrent debates of Darwin's time, and the circumstances that catapulted this work to the forefront of science.
Dawkins also boils down the major insights into the modern full theory of Evolution as we know it. The highlights? Well, if you're really interested, I TOTALLY recommend that you do yourself a big favor and just read this wonderful work for yourself. It's one thing to get a simple digest and it's another thing to get the step-by-step logical ascension for yourself.
Natural selection has been an idea that has been around longer than Darwin, but Darwin took the idea a bit farther and he gave us the strong idea that it is both universal and reproducible from a simple beginning. There are not a pre-formed plethora of species. We have what we have from the natural progression of optimization, die-offs, and improvements based on variation. The fact that plants, insects, and animals all predate on one another is not nearly as interesting as the fact that they also learn to COOPERATE.
It is the most interesting aspect to see emergent intelligence arise from evolution. And make no mistake, the intelligence is everywhere in nature. It is not limited to us. :)
I suspect that anyone who poo-poos Darwin does it without having read him. There's really nothing contentious about the text. He just applies observation and realism to what he sees all around us.
Of course, anyone can quote scripture to further their own ends, right?
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