Thursday, February 12, 2004

Darwin's birthday quotes

On learning from Pharyngula that it was Darwin's birthday today I immediately set out to find an online copy of the Origin of Species. It was my sincere intention to find the most ridiculous quotes possible in order to counter the over-proliferation of profound Darwin quotes that I'm sure will circulate today.

Sadly, I quickly came upon the following quote which I found far too profound to ignore:
In the first place it should always be borne in mind what sort of intermediate forms must, on my theory, have formerly existed. I have found it difficult, when looking at any two species, to avoid picturing to myself, forms directly intermediate between them. But this is a wholly false view; we should always look for forms intermediate between each species and a common but unknown progenitor; and the progenitor will generally have differed in some respects from all its modified descendants. Chapter 9
In the conclusion I also found another excellent quote:
Nothing at first can appear more difficult to believe than that the more complex organs and instincts should have been perfected not by means superior to, though analogous with, human reason, but by the accumulation of innumerable slight variations, each good for the individual possessor. Chapter 14
And, then, sadly, I found yet another good one:
It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the long lapses of ages, and then so imperfect is our view into long past geological ages, that we only see that the forms of life are now different from what they formerly were. Chapter 4
Finally, after more reading, my SO found a, well, less-profound quote (note: the exceptionally mature should probably skip this):
After this interval, I felt sure that the aphides would want to excrete. I watched them for some time through a lens, but not one excreted; I then tickled and stroked them with a hair in the same manner, as well as I could, as the ants do with their antennae; but not one excreted. Chapter 7
Of course he does go on to make more profound observations based on this, but it's still wonderful taken out of context.

Unfortunately I need to get some sleep tonight, so here ends my valiant (and, admittedly, brief) attempt to find the ridiculous quotes of Darwin. Final score? Darwin: 3, Radagast's SO: 0.5, Radagast, 0. Sadly, I think Radagast won't be gaining any ground soon.

1 comment:

Radagast said...

Importing comments:

I'll be interested to read the later editions ... haven't ever seen them to my knowledge.

You're definitely right, though, about how darn good he was. Reading portions of the text again reminds me just how well written and well thought out the work is. However, it's hard to get that across to students or others without sounding like we're all just "Darwin Worshippers." Hmm, now I'm getting tempted to rant on about ID ...
February 14, 2004, 5:46:52 PM PST – Like – Reply

PZ Myers
The link on my page is to a downloadable, html-formatted copy of the Origin.

When I browse through it, I'm always amazed at how darn good it is -- Darwin really was a remarkable scientist who thought things through, and most of it stands the test of time fairly well. If you want 'ridiculous' quotes, though, you need to read some of the later editions, where Darwin did a little backpedaling in response to critics. He shouldn't have -- his first instincts were better than the considered opinions of many of his contemporaries.
February 12, 2004, 5:37:34 AM PST