The Origin of Species (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Origin of Species (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593080778
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 01/01/2004
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 28,604
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Date of Birth:

February 12, 1809

Date of Death:

April 19, 1882

Place of Birth:

Shrewsbury, England

Place of Death:

London, England


B.A. in Theology, Christ¿s College, Cambridge University, 1831

Read an Excerpt

From George Levine's Introduction to On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859)1 is one of the major books of Western civilization, and possibly the last major scientific text fully readable by nonscientists. It was written before the full force of scientific specialization had created the division we are used to today: science written for scientists, and intelligible only to them, or popular science aimed not at being science but at explaining it, and (usually) making otherwise too difficult scientific ideas attractive to the nonexpert.

Darwin was certainly writing for scientists, but he knew that his book would be read by many nonprofessionals, and by many who were deeply invested in the religious and cultural implications of his ideas. The book is thus a work of real science, offering the strongest possible technical arguments for its ideas, while at that same time it does much of the work of popular science. But Darwin was never a popularizer like his "bulldog" and partisan, T. H. Huxley (also a distinguished scientist), who took upon himself the job of fighting all the fights, particularly the cultural ones, that Darwin's ideas were to arouse. More than a hundred years later, and despite the triumph of his ideas in the world of science, Darwin continues to need his bulldogs, for the very availability of his text to lay readers makes it particularly susceptible to critique from the whole spectrum of cultural and religious critics, many of whom do not seem really to understand its arguments. The upside of this condition is that the book has survived longer than virtually all other scientific texts—whose usual life span is necessarily very short because science moves so quickly. Its ideas remain important, and they are well and lucidly argued. Evolution, the dominant idea with which Darwin's name is permanently associated (though he didn't actually use the word), was promulgated and firmly established in The Origin of Species. And we can still read the book now, even without the help of Huxley or the modern polymath popularizer and scientist Stephen Jay Gould.

This is not to say it is an "easy" book, or one that prima facie will thrill lay readers out for a good read. It really is a good read, despite (or, one might say, because of) the rigor of its argument and the almost overwhelming accumulation of details deployed in support; but it is deceptively simple. No book with so clear and well argued a position has been so variously interpreted and so widely misunderstood; few have been as difficult for its readers fully to absorb. The simple argument is so fundamentally anti-intuitive that even now, after 150 years, it has been difficult not to distort it in directions more comfortably consistent with readers' assumptions about the way the world is. Reading the book remains an adventure, and the activity of imagining Darwin's prolific, diverse, and often very beautiful world continues to be an exciting challenge to one's tacit assumptions about the way the world works.

The Origin of Species is not only a fundamental work in the history of science; it is a unique book in the history of English literature. There are few as important. That Darwin was a great scientist everyone knows, but it is not immediately obvious that he was a great writer as well. Yet no writer of the nineteenth century had to struggle more strenuously with the limits of language, none was more imaginatively and creatively metaphorical, few were more influential in shaping other writers' imagination of the world: none had a more significant and lasting effect on Western culture.

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The Origin of Species (Enriched Classics Series) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 95 reviews.
Piers More than 1 year ago
Most people are at least familiar with the theory of natural selection, but that is not to say that they are familiar with what Darwin actually said in Origin and how he said it. Thus I agree with the reviewers who say this is essential reading. Although Darwin says it is "one long argument", it is in fact two: that the diversity of life shares a common ancestry, and second that this divergence came about primarily as a result of natural selection. One other reviewer said it was hard to keep focussed on the argument, if this is the case I recommend you start with Darwin's intro, chapters 3, 4, 6 and 14. This gives the basic argument. You might then go back and fill in. There are a number of re-editions of Origin out there, especially given the recent 150th anniversary of its publication, so why choose this one? Above all it is an ideal student edition (and I include here anyone who reads critically): it is cheap, has abundant margins for notes, and is as lightweight a paperback as you will find for a 400 page book. The type is large and accessible, and the introduction by George Levine is, at 20 pages, short enough to hold one's interest while with enough content to warrant its inclusion. Also, given all the recent re-editions available there are few that provide the 1859 text of the first edition. This one does. This is important if you want to know how Darwin originally presented his ideas. Later editions (there were six in total, the last published in 1876) included clarifications and answers to specific later objections. As a result the first edition reads better and is a more straightforward argument. If you are a Darwin scholar you will probably want to engage with these later editions - the sixth is widely available, for the others you can find them in specialist libraries (the University of Oklahoma has the lot!), or now also in beautifully scanned editions through the Darwin online website. This is not the place to go into the detail of what gets added to the later editions, but if this book gets you hooked you might want to take your Darwin studies further. Perhaps the most notable and certainly the most famous addition is the insertion from the second edition onwards of the words "by the Creator" into the poetic last paragraph of the book (There is grandeur in this view of life... ) This is interesting stuff: was Darwin seeking to clarify that he saw evolution as God's mechanism for creating the awesome diversity of life that we see around us? Or, was this a judicious attempt to allay theological concerns that distracted his readers from the science? The jury is still out on this. Darwin certainly wrote to his friend and confidante Joseph Hooker that he later regretted "truckling to public opinion", but he did not remove the insertion from later editions. In his autobiography, written towards the end of his life, he confided that while he had gradually lost his faith in a personal God, he recognized that others had found natural selection quite compatible with religious belief, most notably the Anglican theologian Charles Kingsley and the American botanist and Presbyterian, Asa Gray. There is so much in this book that it will keep you coming back. You might also want to take this further: Although Darwin only hinted at human evolution in Origin, he addressed that hot potato explicitly in Descent of Man.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Darwin's Origin of Species needs no critical review in a forum like this. However, students of Darwinian evolutionary thought should take notice of this $6 clothbound hard cover edition. This is, as far as I can tell, the original 1859 first edition of the Origin. It is also a handy size, perfect for reading in bed, on a plane or on the beach. Why would you want a copy of the 1st edition rather than the author's own later revised editions? Because the 1st is the most honest, naive, and straightforward statement of Darwin's ideas, undiluted by later defensive responses to the heavy criticism of his contemporaries. The 1st edition contains the passage about the bear as ancestor to the whale, which he removed from all later editions because it was a point of scorn and ridicule from the scientific community of the day. Obviously he was wrong in detail (whales evolved from a carnivorous common ancestor with cows, not bears), but as the fossils of Pakistan show, he was precisely right in the broad idea of macroevolutionary change, which was really his point anyway. Another notable difference between the 1st and later editions of The Origin is the term 'survival of the fittest.' Darwin didn't coin the phrase, nor did he use it in the 1st edition, though he added it to later editions. In fact, it was invented by Herbert Spencer in reference to his atrocious ideas of Social Darwinism. And like a weak pawn on a chessboard, the phrase has been the subject of repeated attacks by creationsists for many years (the implication being that it is a circular argument). Though Spencer's arguments may have been circular, Darwin's never are. Nevertheless, the book probably reads better without the reference. There are several nice new omnibus editions of Darwin's important works edited by great modern scientists. I don't know whether those editors chose the 1st edition or not. In any case those are large expensive copies of the book, possibly better suited for library shelves than for sitting down and reading. If you want a copy to read, this Barnes & Noble edition is a great one, especially considering that a mass market paperback costs about 3 dollars more than this edition!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's not a matter of opinion. Evolution occurs. Denying it won't make it go away. Start here to understand the basics.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a long-time agnostic, I personally don't think humans will ever discover our origins. That being said, I love this book. It's interesting and well-written. It goes beyond being a classic - it's a work of art. On a seperate note, I snorted ginger ale out my nose when I read the April 10 review. I really, really, REALLY hope that person was joking...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a devout Catholic with a strong interest in biology and genetics so I must say that this is one of the greatest and influential books of all time. Thanks to Darwin's well-thought out theory, we have been allowed to advance our understanding of life and find cures for human diseases that would have been impossible to discover with out this knowledge. Biology is useless without evolution. I believe everyone should read this book regardless of their faith. I'm a believer but I certainly don't believe in a God that gave us a beautiful and wonderous world for us to not explore and learn about. I also don't think Darwin would like us to still be fighting over this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the most important works in the scientific literature, The Origin renains indispensible reading for those wishing to understand the evolution of species as well as the evolution of Reason. A perfect work? No. But cannonical texts are the sphere of religion, not of science. Still, there is much here to amaze and delight --- and to astound the reader as to the range and depth of Darwin's thinking on this subject.
NewZealander More than 1 year ago
If you want the essentials of Darwin's twin hypotheses of descent with modification and of natural selection then you are probably better off with an abridgment of about 100 pages. Such an abridgment is most suitable for students whose time is strictly limited. On the other hand if you already have an understanding of Darwin's arguments then the full treatment makes for rewarding reading, particularly for those with an interest in the history and sociology of science. Darwin was fully aware of the revolutionary nature of his ideas and it is instructive to see how he developed his arguments based upon the perceived strengths and weaknesses in their 19th century contexts. He was preternatural in developing his arguments in the absence of known mechanisms relating modified descent with natural selection. Of course the "modern synthesis" via later understandings of population and molecular genetics provide those linkages. It is ironic that Mendel's work was nearly contemporaneous with that of Darwin but he wasn't rediscovered until the beginning of the 20th century--too late to be of any use to Charles Darwin.
songcatchers More than 1 year ago
*I'm rating this book on how important I think it is....not how much I enjoyed it It has taken me all of the summer thus far to complete The Origin of Species. It is a very tedious and analytical read. I found my mind wandering while I was reading this and I don't think I retained half of what I read. I do understand Darwin's main ideas though. Charles Darwin was a very insightful man who has had such a great impact on science and society as a whole. Did I enjoy this book? Not really. Do I think this is an important and valuable book? Absolutely!
Alyssa_M More than 1 year ago
Aptly called the "book that shook the world," Darwin's On the Origin of Species should be required reading for all, regardless of academic background or ideological stripe. Darwin tempers his strong conviction in "evolution by means of natural selection" with tact and a keen awareness of the prevailing belief in independent creation. The first part of the book (chapters 1-5) establishes the central premises behind the theory of natural selection: 1) There is variation in the wild (analogous to domestic variation); 2) Because of scarcity, all organisms are engaged in a constant "struggle for existence"; 3) Those individuals with favorable variations - or adaptations - will be preserved while those with injurious variations will become extinct; 4) Natural selection links creatures through the gradual, cumulative process of descent, thereby invalidating independent creation. The rest of the book deals with potential objections to the theory, indicating the extent to which Darwin was on the defensive and needed to robustly undermine his opponents' arguments in order to gain credibility. Darwin's painstaking account is both cautious and forceful, presenting the first cohesive case for evolution by means of natural selection. On the Origin of Species demonstrates in an accessible manner the power of scientific inquiry and unfettered thought over orthodoxy and dogma.
Chroniseur More than 1 year ago
There is a lot of confusion still lingering, like some ineffable cloud of ignorance, around the topic of evolution and the real support and arguments made on its behalf. This book does very well to wave much of that cloud away. I had a feeling when beginning this book that it would somehow be so technical as to be overly difficult, or written in such a way as to be inaccessible. This is, I am happy to say, not the case. This book is straight forward, easy to read, well laid out, and dare I say, quite enjoyable. A better authority on the subject you cannot find, and to hear the arguments straight from the finch's beak (as it were), is certainly recommended. It becomes clear how such ideas originated, and after hearing the arguments the theory becomes even easier to understand and defend. I would like to point out at this point that this book contains, nor does it claim to contain, any explanation with regard to the origin of life, it merely goes about proving quite definitively how we have come to have as many species as we do currently in the world. I believe that this book is an essential edition to the reading pile, and library of every person who claims to have knowledge of the way things work in the world, or who wishes to. This book does not contain all the knowledge one needs to go on claiming to be intelligent, but it is a great start.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Talk about the book,not your bullcrap.the book is just a tad dry.
Donald Mendelson More than 1 year ago
Darwin leads you to inescapable conclusions by powers of deduction. He was led to his understanding of nature through careful observation and logic, in contrast to our own age dominated by anti-intellectuals. He understood patterns of inheritance without knowing the physical mechanism. I had the urge to reach across the ages to explain DNA. I was not prepared for the high quality of the writing. If you want to understand a subject, go right to the original thinkers, Darwin for biology, Einstein for physics.
TEST NOOKUSER More than 1 year ago
On the origin of the species is perhaps one of the most important books ever written, as well as being an excellent read. It is beautifully written, and easy to understand. Darwin presents his findings with eloquence, thoughtfulness and clairty. The discoveries that Darwin made pushed forward science and understanding of the natural world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great Book, sometimes it was hard to read but its great for all those who want to understand Darwin's concepts in depth.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing 20 hours ago
This is a wonderful and very readable book that truly changed the way we look at the world. It sold out on the day it was published in 1859 and created both friends and enemies of the theories discussed still to this day. There have been modifications of Darwin's theory of the origin of species (notably the Mendellian synthesis that incorporated genetics into the theory), but it stands to this day as the foundation of our understanding of the evolution. Surprisingly the only time evolution is mentioned is in the last paragraph of the book.This is a good book for anyone who once to read a classic text of science.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Zaebic' ya4ital ee
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im an atheist. This is so much better in my opinion. But I understand religion. There is such thing ti believe in science AND religion. So people, shut the up and go away if you were just going to ay somethung useless on this review in the first place..
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