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On the Origen of Species Complete Book Summary

Essay by   •  June 4, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  7,467 Words (30 Pages)  •  1,941 Views

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Preface Summary

Charles Darwin remarked that, until recently, his views on the origin of species were definitely only those of a minority of naturalists. Many authors viewed species as "immutable productions that had been separately created." Darwin was certainly not alone in his ideas and they have been repeated in part by influential scientists ever since Aristotle, although scientists of that time still didn't have a good understanding of it. Lamarck was the first man to really give the topic the much-need attention it deserved with his famous use and disuse hypothesis. He knew that species must be descended from other species because of the difficulty of distinguishing species, the almost perfect progression of certain structures in a species and by the analogous products and structures within different groups. Even before Lamarck, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire observed that species are variations of the same general pattern. In 1813, Dr. W. C. Wells greatly applied these views to members of the human species and saw that humans that continued to the next generation were better equipped while weaker ones died off because they simply couldn't compete - ideas that are remarkably related to those of Darwin. In the subsequent 40 years, many other scientists, such as Patrick Matthew, Rafinesque, and N. J. d'Omalius d'Halloy, shared similar views about the modification of plants, animals and a driving force of nature due to a change in circumstances . In the 1850s, Professor Owen proposed that his research on many groups of species shook people's confidence in the idea that species were distinct creations. Darwin was surprised at the rumors that Owen really proposed the idea of natural selection before him, but says that he was also happy that someone else shared his views and that whoever was first doesn't really matter because the general concept was "long ago preceded by Dr. Wells and Mr. Matthews." In 1853, celebrated geologist Count Keyserling stated that species must arise from other species because new diseases are caused by new forms of bacteria that previously weren't present, but show resemblance to other pathogens. Dr. Schaaffhausen also stated that "living plants and animals are not separated from the extinct by new creations, but are to be regarded as their descendants through continued reproduction." The introduction of new species, as in the words of Von Baer, Rev. Baden Powell and Professor Huxley, is a regular phenomenon, grounded on the laws of geographical distribution, as a result of the gradual modification of pre-existing species.

Darwin in this preface cites many examples where scientist share his views on natural selection to provide basis for his theory. I found these examples to be interesting, but the shear amount of them and the way they are presented makes it slightly long-winded for just a preface. However, this long summary of his process in the book shows a good historical background for the theory of natural selection and opened my mind to see what a hot topic natural selection was even 150 years ago.

Introduction Summary

As a naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Beagle, Darwin realized many facts about the distribution of organisms and the relations to past and present organisms. This shed some light on the Origen of Species. After that he thought for years about what he saw and was very careful to not come to a hasty decision. Now his work is nearly finished, but he is in declining health. Mr. Wallace, his long-time colleague, along with many others, including the remarkable Dr. Hooker, have worked with him on the novel to make it immaculate and completely agree with its findings. Darwin wishes he could have more space to explain in detail about the specific findings, give thanks to all the people that assisted him, provide information countering his own, and many other things, but there is no room in this abstract. Instead, he will focus on countering the idea that species were created separately. However, it is more complicated than each species descending, like varieties, from other species. There is a reason why the species diverged. Most naturalists simply think that only external factors influence this, but it is preposterous to say that biotic factors are not involved. Coadaptation is a huge factor in the causing modification of species. Therefore, because knowledge on the variation under domestication provides the best clues to the reasons for modifying, it is the first chapter's subject, followed by a chapter on the variability of species in nature. Next comes the struggle of existence as stated by the doctrine of Malthus and then the fundamental principles of Natural Selection. Then, the Divergence of Character and four chapters devoted to the difficulties of the theory. After that, geological succession, geological distribution, and classification and mutual affinities of species. Finally, the last chapter sums up the book, emphasizing how sure Darwin is that, even though any theory comes with doubt, species are not immutable and Natural Selection is the main, but not exclusive means of modification.

I found this introduction to be very insightful. It was easy to understand and made me realize exactly where Darwin was coming from when he invented this theory. I never realized how passionate Darwin must have been until I read this. He really wanted to explain every aspect of his theory and make people fully understood his views. Even though this introduction was brief, it encompassed a wide range of subjects in the book. The abstract made me think about specification is a new way and it really made me much more excited about reading the rest of the book.

Chapter One Summary

Individuals within a domesticated species generally differ much more from each other than the individuals of a species in nature. The greater variability is a result of humans raising the organisms under conditions that are not similar to that which the parent-species was exposed to under nature. Darwin suspects the most frequent cause of variability is caused by the male and female reproductive tract being affected prior to conception because of the remarkable effect that confinement has on the functions of the reproductive system. Often it is very challenging to get organisms to reproduce in captivity and even when they do, offspring are often abnormal. However, it is not simply the conditions that the organisms are living in, but how the organisms are raised and how these factors affect the laws of inheritance that causes variation. People cultivating a species often don't provide proper care and continually augment certain characteristics without knowing how they affect other characteristics. But, the damage is

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