Books That Changed the World: Origin of Species

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Most of us learned about Darwin's theory of evolution in grade school science class. But, you probably never read the actual book with the never ending title, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Luckily, you don't have to. Janet Browne already did, and she wrote a concise, easy to read biography of the book. If you know her name, it's probably because she's the one who wrote a two-volume biography of Charles Darwin. This is the next in our series, Books that Changed the World. And Browne will explain why she thinks "Origin of Species" is not only the greatest science book ever published, but also one of the easiest to read. Still, fortunately for all of us, the biography is much shorter than the original.

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As hugely controversial as "The Origin of Species" was when it's first published, the controversy seems to have died down in many countries with the notable exception of the United States. Can Dr. Browne comment on this?

Alex Lee
Sacramento, CA

Alex

Sent by Alex Lee | 3:24 PM | 4-3-2007

When I talk to people concerning darwinism vs. creationism I simply say why are dinosaurs extinct and why do giraffes look like they do...

Sent by Robini | 3:37 PM | 4-3-2007

I was listening to your program about the writings of Darwin while on my drive home. Even though I wasn't able to comment at the time I felt strongly enough about it to send my comments via email. I would argue that evolution and the diversity of species are divine by design. I don't believe that a god intelligent enough to create life would have so little forethought as to create all plants and animals so strictly inflexible that they would be completely incapable to evolve and adapt to the constant changing environments of Earth. What I mean by this is; that if in fact all animal and plants species were created totally unable, as some would argue, of changing from what they were at the time god created them, then all life on Earth would have been long extinct if not for the built-in flexibility of evolution. It would be either that or god would have had to have created an Earth which has a steady unchanging environment, and to this, most people would agree, has not occurred. Even then, I would still argue that such an Earth would still need evolution in order to avoid the collapse of life because evolution also acts as a delicate balancer between all things living.

Sent by Jeff Wyatt from Cincinnati | 8:24 PM | 4-3-2007

If I consume a medicine to treat a disease or rely on a technological (out of body) advancement to make me more capable of surviving in a world in which I would otherwise struggle, does it weaken the species? If so, what advancements can we optimistically refer to as "real advancements of the species"? I'm neither a scientist nor a biologist, and I'm sure this has been asked many times before, but I'd like to hear another's opinion.

Sent by Bo Powers | 9:02 PM | 4-3-2007

I caught the end of a Janet Browne interview (3 April 2007 TOTN), one rehashing the fact that Charles Darwin helped lay the foundation for doctrinaire atheism, and thus one for a genocidal totalitarianism unprecedented in human history.

Frankly, the whole 'evolution' ambit is laced with intellectual dishonesty - with disingenuity. The fossil record doesn't support the evolution theory, and indeed the fossils can be partly held responsible for 'Social Darwinism', for Earth's fossils show evidence for an ever-increasing complexity. Which is easily seen as 'progress', for didn't the supposed 'evolutionary' process lead to Man, who in 'Enlightenment' terms, is the Measure of all Things?

The author disparaged Social Darwinism, but carefully neglected to point out that any godless-Universe theory implies even worse things. Such a Universe means that such social rules as may exist are actually -and merely- human nostrums, and even then only those may exist that have either a majoritarian support -or a minority-led violence- to back them up. As in 'Might Is Right.'

A theory of such a Universe must be intolerable to any Person of the Book, and thus is yet another barrier to Muslims ever accepting the franken-fruits of the 'Enlightenment.'

Sent by Enigma | 10:05 AM | 4-4-2007

What Charles Darwin did was travel to one of the most biologically diverse places on earth, write down what he saw and suggest a mechanism to explain what he experienced. Observe, record and hypothesis. That???s all science is. Everyone is encouraged make their own examinations. Anyone is allowed to propose alternate reasoning. The reason that Origins of Species remains a definitive word on the topic is that even after 100 years, no one has come up with a better hypothesis that matches all of the observations.

Darwin was not a preacher, and Origins of Species is not a religious tomb. Science and religion have different goals. By mentioning evolution and creation in the same breath we are doing a disservice to both the search for understand of the world around us, and God who created it.

Sent by Matthew L. Parets (pronounced: per - ets) | 1:29 PM | 4-4-2007

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