This passage is found in Chapter IV called “Natural Selection,” part 1 called “Natural Selection: Its Power Compared with Man’s Selection” of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species1. The work was first published in 1859 in the United Kingdom and gained much attention from the scientific world and non-specialist public2. The arguments presented by Darwin in this book became the foundation of the evolutionary biology.
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The ideas expressed in On the Origin of Species were groundbreaking and shocking for the scientists of XIX century. Natural history of the times when Darwin worked was largely affected by church naturalists. They believed that the main aim of science was to reveal God’s plan and interpreted science from a clerical perspective. However, an intense conflict over religious morality and the development of professionalism in science have led to the possibility of the evolvement of such revolutionary theories as the ones proposed by Darwin in On the Origin of Species.
The book is divided into fourteen chapters. The first chapter explores the origins of different breeds, selective breeding, and kinds of variations related to it. In the second chapter, the author presents the footage to his claim that variation in nature is ubiquitous. The third chapter introduces the basics of natural selection. The first three chapters prepare the reader to accept the ground-breaking information about natural selection presented in the fourth chapter. Darwin’s reflection of the perfection of natural selection compared to the artificial selection conducted by a man leads to the discussed paragraph. The passage is followed by explicit examples illustrating the assumptions made by the author about the ubiquity of natural selection in the life of every creature on the Earth.
The discussed passage is considered one of the most colorful and important claims of the book. It demonstrates the author’s talent for revealing the relation of the phenomenon to all spheres of our life. Darwin masterly uses the personification to convince the reader of the omnipresence of natural selection. This powerful passage plays a vital role in ensuring a strong persuading effect of the book by giving a portrait of the driving force behind the evolution in a succinct and coherent statement.
Both the passage and the book as a whole present an example of Darwin’s genius expressed on paper. The innovative character of literary style, valid arguments, and the topic made the book an example of exquisite scientific reading that caused revolutionary changes in the scientific world and attitudes of common people. The “clear and lively” literary style used by Darwin in On the Origin of Species made it readable for a wide publicity and contributed to its popularity3. The author used an everyday language to make the complex scientific information comprehensible for common people4. The work does not contain graphs, maths, and abundance of specialized language. Such approach to writing a scientific work was innovative and did not fit the stereotypes of what the science had to be5. The arguments presented in the book comprise another key to its enormous success.
Darwin made his best to make each of the claims convincing and backed up them with explicit examples and scientific evidence. Such approach enabled him to find the way to persuade both non-specialist readers and fastidious scientists in the righteousness of his statements. The innovative character of the topic is another component of the success of the book, as Darwin explored the topic that had been studied throughout the history of the mankind from the totally new perspective. His interpretation of the origins of Earthly creatures presented in the book was significantly different from any scientific work available on that time and revolutionized the course of science. Darwin managed to highlight the gaps in scientific knowledge and explained the importance of filling them6. Moreover, the topic explored by Darwin remains actual and nowadays and continue to transform our views.
The passage presents a perfect example of using literary devices to present scientific information to the wide public. Darwin masterly used personification to reflect purely scientific ideas in a lively and comprehensible manner. Such approach makes the passage significantly different from most of the scientific texts, as exploring dry facts through a prism of everyday life is not typical for scientific literature. Darwin also used contrast for opposing the omnipresent and eternal natural laws to the ignorant human mind and its limited capabilities. Darwin’s ability to craft strong argumentation enabled him to express the crucial idea serving as the basis of the whole book in one small passage written in a simple everyday language. The author managed to explain the fundamental idea about the driving force of the evolution in several succinct sentences that serve as a metaphorical explanation for scientific facts explicitly investigated by Darwin in the rest of the text. I think, this passage serves as a perfect proof of the fact that ingenious things are simple, as Darwin has managed to transform the complicated structure of argumentation related to natural selection into one concise paragraph full of profound meaning.
Browne, Jannet. Darwin’s Origin of Species: A Biography. London: Atlantic Books, 2007.
Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species. London: John Murrey, 1859. Web.
Francis, Keith. Charles Darwin and The Origin of Species. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2007.
Reznick, David, and Michael Ruse. The Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010.
Ruse, Michael, and Robert Richards. The Cambridge Companion to the Origin of Species. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Wilberforce, Samuel. “Review of Darwin’s The Origin of Species, 1860.” Creation Ministries International. 2015. Web.
- Darwin, Charles, On the Origin of Species (London: John Murrey, 1859), Web.
- Ruse, Michael, and Robert Richards, The Cambridge Companion to the Origin of Species (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 1.
- Wilberforce, Samuel, “Review of Darwin’s The Origin of Species, 1860,” Creation Ministries International, Web.
- Francis, Keith, Charles Darwin and The Origin of Species (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2007), 52.
- Browne, Jannet, Darwin’s Origin of Species: A Biography (London: Atlantic Books, 2007), 2.
- Reznick, David, and Michael Ruse, The Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010). 9.