Illustration of Origin of species

1859 Origin of species

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Charles Darwin evolution Illustration of Origin of species

Origin of species

Old man Darwin. Everybody knows him but nobody talks to him anymore. He shuffles around town with his head down and everybody knows what he’s muttering about. Naturally he’s upset that his great ideas have been taken for the kind of dogma that they should have displaced, so that every young evolutionist thinks he’s better than the original. Naturally the old man is annoyed that invention has superseded interpretation and science has merged with technology. Devoting years to the field or lab isn’t respected as it once was. Important discoveries these days are not backed by observation of the shape of bird beaks on the Galapagos. If one were to get too close to old Darwin, which is less likely in recent decades, one might hear grumbled phrases— . . . instant science . . . monkey fixation . . . unnatural selection

The individual

Each specie diverged from a previous as subtle individual differences preferred new ways to compete. The textbook on evolution doesn’t mention the physiology of change or the corrosive desire for freedom or the commonness of failure and the rarity of success. The individual has no guarantee of immortality.


Someday kids will never have seen long division or the second hand of a clock. A rotary dial phone is already as quaint as the switchboards operated by women in uniforms in movies from the fifties. Last year, pagers were more necessary than modesty. This year, everyone has a cell phone and internet access and wonders why one would ever write a personal letter. Next year, some will wonder what life was like when we didn’t have personal digital assistants to remember things for us. Meanwhile, hearts are healed and hearts are broken as we struggle to make and break attachments ameliorating the pain of striving toward our individual destinies much the same as we were doing when we invented time.

It took modern science nearly a hundred years to fully accept Darwin’s theory of natural selection, and it is not fully accepted in modern society today. Darwin himself was hesitant to publish The Origin of Species because the principle of natural selection is so completely materialistic. As it was, he did not use the term “evolution” and did not broach the idea that natural selection could be responsible for the origin of humans.

Nevertheless, Darwin is one of the ten most influential scientists of all time.

See also in The book of science:

Readings in wikipedia: