Quote of the moment: Charles Darwin and the tangled bank


A tangled bank, near Sandwalk, Darwin's walking path near his home at Downe House - image by GrrlScientist

A tangled bank, near Sandwalk, Darwin's walking path near his home at Downe House - image by GrrlScientist

The final paragraph of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection:

It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

About these ads

8 Responses to Quote of the moment: Charles Darwin and the tangled bank

  1. [...] this is the tangled bank of UK nature conservation – a diversity of organisations.  And like Darwin’s tangled [...]

    Like

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Final paragraph, from the 6th (and last) edition, at Literature.org:

    It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

    Final paragraph, earlier edition, also from Literature.org:

    It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

    Final paragraph, first edition, from The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online:

    It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external con-ditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

    I have not done a MicroSoft Word comparison of each paragraph — is there any difference other than capitalization and punctuation?

    Darwin did not use “evolution” much the first time around, but I know of no one who thinks he did not write this last paragraph, as it is.

    Like

  3. Nick Kelsier says:

    Quite an interesting name, Hiramo. Or rather the latter part of it

    Like

  4. I believe this famous, final paragraph of Darwin’s Origins was not authored by Darwin. Darwin’s style is distinctive and consistent throughout his writings. He is never poetical and his paragraphs never follow the kind of flow shown here. It displays a kind of coherence lacking in Darwin’s prose. Also, for some reason, Darwin carefully avoided, throughout Origins, using the words evolution, evolutionary or evolved. It seems unlikely, then, he would break this rule and use the word evolved as the last word of his book.

    Instead, this has the feel of an interpolation put in by some editor or the publisher to add a brief summation and give a more rounded ending to the book.

    Like

  5. davidpj says:

    Oh, and Porlock Junior… apparently, the reference to the Creator was added in after the first editions, most likely to appease Christians who took issue with Darwin’s work.

    The original quote of that last passage is thus:

    “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

    No mention of a Creator – figured that since this was a history blog, we wouldn’t want to miss the historical picture!

    Like

  6. davidpj says:

    Big thumbs up for this quote; it’s a perfect example of the poetry and wonder which arises from curiosity, dedication, intelligence and understanding of the natural world!

    Like

  7. Porlock Junior says:

    How auspicious to see this. I had lunch with an old friend today, and naturally we talked of politics. I had heard a couple of teabag fans last month talking about how They were “trying to take the Declaration of Independence out of the schools”. Weird: communist atheist They, suppressing Jefferson’s work??? So, after the recent Texas infamy, I was assuming that this story was a garbled and backwards version of the plot to take Jefferson out the Texas textbooks.

    But he corrected me: it was really about people who didn’t accept the God-botherers’ precious idea that the Declaration was incorporated by reference(*) in The Constitution. And not accepting that doctrine means you don’t accept that the Constitution advocates Christianity by talking about how the Creator endowed us with rights. It is therefore an evil position, and these gentlemen were incensed about it. I’d forgotten about that.

    So I come home and read Darwin’s splendid passage, and start to kick myself because I should have remembered its important religious message! How nice it would be to read the final sentence, all by itself, slowly for effect, to people who somehow have the notion that Darwin was not a convinced Christian. Clearly the Creator in that sentence proves the guy was practically an Evangelical!

    (*) We both had to deal with Corporate Stuff once; hence his phrasing it in a way reminisicent of SEC filings and the like. But the analogy is imperfect: those filings do actually make explicit reference to other documents, quite unlike the Constitution’s handling of the Declaration, which uses a form of incorporation formally called Not Mentioning It At All. Not that that detail would bother the sort who need to make up a case for holding the Constitution up to a fun-house mirror.

    Like

  8. [...] tree won’t flower.  God’s earth doesn’t care about such falsehoods, but goes on cycling as Darwin noted.  In that cycling, warming continues faster than apace, burning our future and our [...]

    Like

Play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,370 other followers

%d bloggers like this: