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The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: or, The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life | [Charles Darwin]

The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: or, The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

“One of the most important contributions ever made to philosophic science.” (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Riegholt 04-24-12
    Riegholt 04-24-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Best way to read the classic!"

    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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aryaman Shalizi 01-11-12 Member Since 2005
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    "For aficionados only."

    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.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffery T. Harris 04-19-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Finally Got Around To It!"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard 12-26-11
    Richard 12-26-11
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    "Not exactly easy listening"

    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.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
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    Kevin SPRING, TX, United States 07-24-14
    Kevin SPRING, TX, United States 07-24-14 Member Since 2012
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    "A must read for anyone interested in lifes origins"
    Where does The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Near the top...probably in the top 5


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Um, is this a trick question...there are no characters in On the Origin of Species, but many animals...I like birds I guess...


    What does Robin Field bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He did alright.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I greatly enjoyed this book and wish I would've read it while in college.


    Any additional comments?

    After reading Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" I can see why its been noted as one of the most significant books ever written - especially when it comes to scientific literature and observation. I've come to realize that many of Darwin's ideas are over emphasized, underestimated, and way ahead of his time.

    To my point on being over emphasized, I have heard many assumptions by many people that assume Darwin wrote this book in a way that pushed evolution to being the explanation for all of life's origins. Many of his ideas and observations are either taken out of context or argued in a way that makes it seem like Darwin had all the answers. If people who openly debated evolution actually read this work, they would come to understand that many of his ideas make perfect sense within the context of his observations. He also dedicates a full chapter to problems with his theory - many of which are some of the arguments still made today.

    To my point on being underestimated, I think that when people have taken Darwin's ideas out of context they are missing a grander point in that natural selection is a means by which we can explain evolution and change through time. I think that many people also misunderstand Darwin's observations in that he was able to use empirical evidence to support his ideas, which can be easily overlooked by individuals that attack his theory as an "opinion" or theory without explanation.

    To my point on Darwin being ahead of his time, I found it extremely interesting that he was able to make predictions about tectonic plates and the movement of the earth's continents that allowed for the geographical distribution of species 50-60 years before scientists began working off of the theory of plate tectonics. I think many of his other observations have since been confirmed regarding inheritance, now that we have the technology to craft phylogentic trees and such - even to the extent of using mitochondrial DNA and rRNA to track ancestry.

    Altogether I found this book fascinating and look forward to reading it again. I'll also look forward to checking out his other writings at some point. Part of me wishes I would've read this book in college when I would've had more opportunities to explore his ideas as well as take advantage of professors that could have spoken at great lengths on the subject.

    Pros: Truly a classic when it comes to scientific observations and how science should be performed.
    Cons: The chapter on hybrids was a bit dry and hard to follow.
    Bottom line: Excellent read for anyone interested in life's origins or how there is commonality among life forms.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Konrad
    Hinckley, United Kingdom
    7/13/13
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    "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!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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