The Origin of Species: Overview

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Editor: D. L. Kirkpatrick
Date: 1991
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Work overview; Critical essay
Length: 825 words

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This book may have taken the longest to write and may be the most influential work since the Bible. Further, since Charles Darwin himself is such an exemplary product of the programs for the gradual accumulation of knowledge stemming from the British Royal Society, the European Enlightenment, and the Protestant ethic of working hard with the raw material of this world (what Bacon called ``The Book of Nature'') one can hardly say that only he wrote it in the usual sense of authorship. Nevertheless, Darwin was the author—there at the right time and the right place. It was his vision of non-speciation and his data, from years of gathering and evaluating observations from the Beagle voyage, from his memberships in domestic breeding clubs, and from his studies of barnacles, earthworms, and small birds, that dramatically brought into focus the final attack on the ancient Aristotelian notions of genre and fixed speciation. From the scientific revolution onwards, thinkers had been uneasy with ancient ideas about ``classes,'' or permanent and ordained types, that somehow governed nature without changing. No observations seemed to support this traditional human hope for fixity. When Darwin's massive and yet humble book appeared, the evidence and the articulation were persuasive enough to give the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420002082