Origin of Species 150th Anniversary Edition [ABRIDGED] Paperback – Jan 9 2009
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It's hard to talk about The Origin of Species without making statements that seem overwrought and fulsome. But it's true: this is indeed one of the most important and influential books ever written, and it is one of the very few groundbreaking works of science that is truly readable.
To a certain extent it suffers from the Hamlet problem--it's full of clichés! Or what are now clichés, but which Darwin was the first to pen. Natural selection, variation, the struggle for existence, survival of the fittest: it's all in here.
Darwin's friend and "bulldog" T.H. Huxley said upon reading the Origin, "How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that." Alfred Russel Wallace had thought of the same theory of evolution Darwin did, but it was Darwin who gathered the mass of supporting evidence--on domestic animals and plants, on variability, on sexual selection, on dispersal--that swept most scientists before it. It's hardly necessary to mention that the book is still controversial: Darwin's remark in his conclusion that "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history" is surely the pinnacle of British understatement. --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
"Veteran narrator David Case...provides an authentic English accent that suits the material well; his diction is precise, making his narration easy to follow." ---Library Journal Starred Audio Review --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I was surprised to find how readable it really was. Think about this: what we are taught in high school biology is way more than Darwin knew when he wrote this book. Accordingly, the science described in this book is quite easy to understand for anyone who has previously taken a biology class.
Probably the most interesting thing about this book were the few times that Darwin threw in a little philosophical/theological side comment. I'll leave these juicy tidbits for you to find, but look for them as they add a little "kick" to an otherwise fairly "scientific" book. Though a bit lengthy, this accountant enjoyed ORIGIN OF SPECIES.
As a sidenote: I find the funniest thing about those "Jesus fish" eating the "Darwin fish" car decals is that the base idea is that the stronger fish wins- a.k.a. surival of the fittest. The ensuing contradiction of unwittingly using one of Darwin's base tenets to attack Darwinian evolution is priceless.
However, the publisher's puff says: "Written for the general public of the 1850s, The Origin of Species ... challenged contemporary beliefs about divine providence and the fixity of species. [Darwin] also set forth the results of his pioneering work on the interdependence of species: The Ecology of Animals and Plants.... William Bynum and Janet Brown will provide a new introduction and full scholarly references."
I would greatly welcome commentary by Ms Brown, author of the leading current biography of Darwin. However, the advertising here is misleading: the "Look Inside" teaser is for the Cambridge U edition, the editor of which is Jim Endersby. This Penguin edition has only an introduction by Mr Bynum, with no mention of Ms Brown.
Concerning the publisher's puff: Coming out in November 1859, the Origin was directed to the scientific community of the 1860s, not the general public, though the latter had ready access through circulating libraries of the day. Darwin did not set out to challenge 'Divine Providence,' but rather to present evidence for his theory of Natural Selection. He certainly did not write about "Ecology" of plants and animals: the word Ecology was not invented until 1879. I hope the publisher has not gleaned these bits from Mr Bynum's commentary, which would raise serious doubt about its value for the general reader.
In general, the best recommendation remains the paperback Harvard University Press facsimile of the first edition, newly reprinted for the 150th and 200th anniversaries. The illustrated facsimile also receives good reviews.
Amazon will want to correct the misleading advertising.
This is an abridged edition which has a 50 page introdution from creationist Ray Comfort and the book is intended to be used as an "evangelical tool" as per the publisher's website. Since an original edition of the OotS runs over 300 pages of fine print, this abridged edition at 280 pages, may have had several key points removed from it and as such would be worthless as an eductational resource or as a guide to understanding the original theory.
If, on the other hand you are after creationist theory, then this may be just the book for you.
Taking in account that recent pieces of knowledge were not available to Charles Darwin this book could have been written last week. Having to look from the outside without the knowledge of DNA or Plate Tectonics, he pretty much nailed how the environment and crossbreeding would have an effect on natural selection. Speaking of natural selection, I thought his was going to be some great insight to a new concept. All it means is that species are not being mucked around by man (artificial selection).
If you picked up Time magazine today you would find all the things that Charles said would be near impossible to find or do. Yet he predicted that it is doable in theory. With an imperfect geological record many things he was not able to find at the writing of this book have been found (according to the possibilities described in the book.)
The only draw back to the book was his constant apologizing. If he had more time and space he could prove this and that. Or it looks like this but who can say at this time. Or the same evidence can be interpreted 180 degrees different.
In the end it is worth reading and you will never look at life the same way again.
Most recent customer reviews
Wow, this guy was smart. The scientific technology, and evidence available at his time was scant... and yet he managed to piece together the puzzle pieces almost perfectly.Published 4 months ago by Sheldon Nicholson
never received it... love to receive it and give 5 starsPublished 12 months ago by Tim J Mehlenbacher
Easy reading, brings an understanding other than creationist concepts.Published 15 months ago by Adrian de Jong
This is a nicely bound book, well stitched into the bookbinding, but has one or two drawbacks for me. Read morePublished 16 months ago by E. R. Wootton
Ray Comfort stuffs a far too long introduction into the book in the hope of passing on his own message of religion. See [... Read morePublished on March 25 2012 by Antony Burt