Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Book Review - The Ilustrated Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (Abridged & Introduced by Richard E. Leakey)

Always wanted to read The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. I've never had Creationist tendencies and this book is supposed to explain it all. One of the fellow taekwondo fathers saw me with it and said that he'd read it many years ago and that it was "very dry". How right he was.

The 6th edition of this book was written in about 1870 and the abridging and introduction by Richard E. Leakey is included in this printing from 1979. Dr Leakey was very insightful and his clarifications throughout the book are most helpful. It assists in bringing Darwin's findings to light as science understood them some 30 years ago. The pictures and photos made the book much more reader friendly than otherwise would have been.

The language that Darwin used was scientific and dated. Many terms are not used any more such as animalcule (a minute animal). He refers to the bumble bee as the humble bee. Fossiliferous was another of my favourites.

Darwin covers variation under domestication, variation under nature, struggle for existence, natural selection or the survival of the fittest, laws of variation, difficulties of the theory, miscellaneous objections to the theory, instinct, hybridism, imperfection of the geological record, geological succession of organic beings, geographical distribution and mutual affinities of organic beings: morphology, embryology and rudimentary organs.

His sections on hybridism and rudimentary organs made most interesting readings. I could extrapolate much of that to humans today and why we have reproductive problems just from the point of nature. Our understanding of change is very limited as we can't grasp geological time and the changes that it will bring.

Did you know that the bone structure and features of bats, porpoises, whales, horses and humans are very similar? You would have great difficulty in determining whether an embryo was that of a dog, bat, rabbit or human due to the similarities? Or that hybrids are often sterile and that comes down to genetic makeup?

Pretty much everything can be explained by genetics today. With that in mind the book was easier to understand. What we know now was touched upon by Darwin but had not been discovered in his time. He was one smart man.

For reading I'd give this book 3/10 but for content we're looking at 8/10. More examples to explain would have been of much greater assistance. Darwin repeated himself too much and that surprised me seeing as there were six editions during his lifetime. As such, the book could have been reduced to half its length without losing any of its message. There were many convincing arguments to debunk the debunkers. I did find that the justified text made it more difficult to read though.

P.S. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect was in the four weeks that it took me to read I never had the opportunity to sit next to a particular God-botherer who occasionally takes the same bus. Three days after completing my reading I happened to sit alongside him. Bugger. I don't mind a bit of a stir.

The Ilustrated Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (Abridged & Introduced by Richard E. Leakey)


Catherine said...

I too tried to make my way through The Illustrated Origin of Species, but it defeated me.

My preference is The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins. Sometimes dry, often not. But I was confident that old facts and theories wouldn't crowd out my already cluttered grey matter.

Before I go... I just wanted to make the mention that fossiliferous is a common word used in geology today.

Anonymous said...

We were all once fish people in the ocean don't you think? I read that years ago. It is a good read. Gil

Hammy said...

I thank you for your comment Catherine. Especially fossiliferous. I'll have to study up on my geology then. Perhaps it's just not used enough in todays society. Need to add it to one sentence at least per day.

Hammy said...

Some people drink like fish so they haven't developed as much as they'd hoped.