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1) Which name is most closely associated with the theory of evolution?
2) Which book did this person write on evolution?
3) What claims are made in that book?
4) What else is contained in that book?
With astonishing regularity, the average literate adult will respond as follows: 1) Darwin, 2) Origin of Species, 3) Humans descended from apes, and 4) I have no idea. The first two are correct, the third is absolutely false, and the fourth is an admission of complete ignorance. Considering that Origin of Species is long, and took nearly two decades to write, one would expect it to contain something more than the four simple words Humans descended from apes, which, in fact, it neither contains nor implies. So, what DOES it contain? There is one word that best summarizes the bulk of Darwins magnum opus: observation.
It is a lengthy book; at times it is tedious, at times politically incorrect, and at times scientifically off-base. But, despite its numerous flaws, it is one of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind. Even if you are among the few who refuse to accept Darwins ideas, you cannot deny their impact. The theory is the cornerstone--if not the very foundation--of modern biology. Whatever your preconceptions, you will likely be surprised by this work. Darwin was the consummate naturalist and scientist, as well as a refined and articulate gentleman. Origin is a delight and an epiphany to read. Its amazing how much Darwin got right, despite the fact that he had essentially no idea of how inheritance worked. Its amazing how much data Darwin carefully assembled, analyzed, and described. Its amazing how meticulously Darwin weighed the evidence, noting when competing theories made different predictions, when the available evidence was not what he would have expected, and what future evidence could completely discredit (falsify) his theory. Its amazing in its honesty.
The misconceptions about Origin of Species are not merely rampant, they are effectively universal, fueled (largely in the US) by the rise of creationism, which seeks first and foremost to vilify the theory of evolution as well as Darwin (often failing to distinguish between the two). Its worth the time to read this enormous but meticulously crafted volume, if only to allow you to form your own opinions about such an influential book. Once you have, take the little quiz again. You may need all the pages to answer the last question.