View Full Version : Some thoughts

04-24-2012, 10:43 AM
My father gave me this book as a Christmas present two years ago. It took me quite a while to read through as it's not ideal bedtime reading. These are some of my observations:

It's a curious type of book. It's half like a modern pop science like Richard Dawkins might write, half like an academic text.

Charles Darwin was very hard working. He may have had the idea twenty years before publishing, but he was not being idle in that time. I think he was trying to answer all the objections to his theory before going public. I doubt he wanted to risk being shot down by a glaring weakness in his theory, especially when it was going to be so controversial. He was very lucky not to be scooped IMO.

It is surprising how much he got right, especially on geology. He apparently knew about continental drift and why the process of rock formation would lead to incompleteness in the fossil record.

The chapter I had most difficulty with was on crosses and hybrids, some of which are more fertile and some less. He thought that the reason that some distantly related species could cross and produce fertile offspring, while others crosses resulted in infertile offspring (e.g. mules), while others could not cross at all was to do with an incompatibility in their 'organs of reproduction'. This puzzled me. I wondered, "Does he mean the sexual organs don't fit?" Then I remembered that at the time of writing, genes and chromosones had not actually been discovered.

There obviously were not as many academics around then, because he often refers to the work of amateur enthusiasts and naturalists.

It amused me that even 150 years ago Darwin referred to Malthus, the early economist who predicted that over-population would lead to famine. Every time you read a book about resource depletion, economics or sustainability it refers to Malthus.

I was beginning to think that perhaps Darwin wasn't so long ago, but then he referred to an animal called a Quagga. "What's a Quagga?" I thought, and looked it up on the internet. It turned out to be a long extinct relative of the zebra.

I was surprised to discover that were a few people who nearly discovered the theory before him. In fact, I am not sure what exactly was the new bit he discovered.

One of the final chapters contains what could be described as a literature review. If you ever have to write a literature review at university, I would recommend reading this chapter.

Conner White
04-24-2012, 10:48 AM
Sounds interesting. And hellow. I think your storie is pretty good.