The Origin of Species sold out on the first day of its publication in 1859. It is the major book of the 19th century and one of the most readable and accessible of the great revolutionary works of the scientific imagination. Though, in fact, little read, most people know what it says—at least they think they do.
The Origin of Species was the first mature and persuasive work to explain how species change through the process of natural selection. Upon its publication, the book began to transform attitudes about society and religion and was soon used to justify the philosophies of communists, socialists, capitalists, and even Germany’s National Socialists. But the most quoted response came from Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwin’s friend and also a renowned naturalist, who exclaimed, “How extremely stupid not to have thought of that!"
Public Domain (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“One of the most important contributions ever made to philosophic science.” (The New York Times)
THE biology book, essential reading -but a but tedious. Having it read to me was perfect. The sound and extensive reasoning by Darwin really came to life.
The work is not only interesting for people interested in biology or evolution theory.
The way Darwin addresses objections that can (and still are) be raised, the way he points out difficulties and weak points in his theory and discusses those are an example of the way scientist ought to explain and defend their theories.
I'm a molecular biologist by profession, so I thought it would be fun to listen to what is widely considered THE foundational work of modern biology. While interesting for me from a historical standpoint—it's truly breathtaking how complete a conceptual framework the Origin provided more than a century and a half ago, and how thoroughly Darwin anticipated and refuted the possible objections to his theory—unless you really want to hear all of the examples Mr. Darwin deploys to buttress his theory of natural selection, I would recommend a more recent treatment of the topic. Or listen through an abridged edition of The Origin of Species, such as the one narrated by Richard Dawkins. The language is, in most places, exceptionally dry, and the narrator doesn't do the material any favors. However, it is one of the great achievements of human reason, so if you are patient and able to pay close attention to the dense language, this will ultimately be worth your time.
Being fascinated by evolution and actively studying it, Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection is simply a must-listen. Remind yourself of the time at which Darwin published this book and it becomes even more astounding. I would not recommend this book for anyone who is curious about evolution and natural selection as this can get very dry, very quickly. I would try an abridged version if you don't want to hear every little detail about the book.
The narrator left a lot to be desired and seemed to have to force his way through the book and did not at least sound like there was an interest on his part in the subject matter.
I'm sure this historically groundbreaking work is essential listening for people studying the subject, but as an interested layperson I should have gone with a more recent work studying the work of Darwin and its impact on our understanding of evolution.
This work is quite a repetitive overview of his research which though interesting, was not exactly easy to listen to and I found my attention wandering during the narration.
"A fantastically interesting 'read'"
Having long had a great interest in the subject at last I have now 'read' the book that started it all. And it is a great read. Darwin assembles his arguments in a logical and persuasive manner, pulling together strands for diverse disciplines to build an unassailable argument. What surprised me was how modern the version of argument being put forward is: there is none of the popular misunderstandings that still pervade the public consciousness. There is no ladder of life where evolution inevitably is driving forward towards a pre-ordained goal of complex life. There is no evolution from forms erroneously held to be more primitive (as in the common misconception that humans 'evolved from monkeys/chimps'). He has, already, a good understanding and framework of kin selection (astonishing given his lack of knowledge of genetics). Darwin is clear thinking and logical throughout. The success of the book is all the more remarkable with our post-Mendelian, post-DNA knowledge, which of course Darwin did not have. He makes profound predictions which are remarkably accurate viewed with what we now know.
Along with the science is a fascinating glimpse of the process of biological science at the time. We get a picture of a detective more than the scientist. The evidence available to Darwin ranged from rare examples of repeatable controlled experimental observations (for example bees building wax cells) to individual observations of single incidents in nature, reported by people that it is clear were not known to Darwin. Like an experienced judge, Darwin sifts the evidence giving appropriate weight to all the strands of evidence, and transparently explains his reasoning. Interestingly the evidence is presented in an anecdotal, narrative, form, reflecting his assembling evidence from accounts from a wide range of publications, from friends, and from contributors. He acknowledges his sources giving a window to his links with other natural historians of the day. We get a strong picture of an intellect putting together the story from a much less certain body of evidence that would be available to modern scientists, and recognising the limitations.
Criticisms, well in terms of the style, it may be a little verbose from some, but (no surprise given the length of this review) I like it. It is almost poetic, it is friendly, it is understated. In terms of the content, well one is almost screaming at the author as he gets so close, and yet so far, from uncovering Mendelian genetics through reason alone. The only other two problems are linked: an under estimate of the economic cost of the animal of producing physical features, and his (albeit) guarded acceptance of a degree of Lemarkian principles. So many times one can detect a reluctant acceptance that reversion to a more primitive form (eg blindness in cave animals) is through disuse of parts, when a little more weight to the costs of creating a fully developed eye would perhaps have convinced him that natural selection alone would do the job.
Regarding the production of this work, the reader was fine. An American, which was a bit odd to start with, but once one got used to that a very measured performance matching the book splendidly. My only stand-out criticism of the book and Audible is that there is no edition information. This is clearly not the first edition and I would like the chance to compare some parts to other editions but know not which this is!
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