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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index D > Charles Darwin Quotes

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Charles Darwin
(12 Feb 1809 - 19 Apr 1882)

English naturalist who presented facts to support his theory of the mode of evolution whereby favourable variations would survive which he called 'Natural Selection' or 'Survival of the Fittest.'


Science Quotes by Charles Darwin (141 quotes)

Charles Darwin in color with quote Improving…a young naturalist on Background HMS Beagle in seaways of Tierra del Fuego
HMS Beagle in the seaways of Terra del Fuego, painting by Conrad Martens. (source)

...conscience looks backwards and judges past actions, inducing that kind of dissatisfaction, which if weak we call regret, and if severe remorse.
— Charles Darwin
Descent of Man
Science quotes on:  |  Conscience (16)

...he who remains passive when over-whelmed with grief loses his best chance of recovering his elasticity of mind.
— Charles Darwin
The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals
Science quotes on:  |  Grief (3)

...I believe there exists, & I feel within me, an instinct for the truth, or knowledge or discovery, of something of the same nature as the instinct of virtue, & that our having such an instinct is reason enough for scientific researches without any practical results ever ensuing from them.
— Charles Darwin
The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Vol. 4. (1847-50)
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (198)  |  Discovery (354)  |  Knowledge (662)  |  Truth (440)

...I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work; and I still think there is an eminently important difference.
— Charles Darwin
letter cit. R. Pearson (1914-1930) in The Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton
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[On seeing the marsupials in Australia for the first time and comparing them to placental mammals:] An unbeliever … might exclaim “Surely two distinct Creators must have been at work.”
— Charles Darwin
In Diary (19 Jan 1836). In Richard D. Keynes (ed.), The Beagle Record: Selections from the Original Pictorial Records and Written Accounts of the Voyage of HMS Beagle (1979), 345.
Science quotes on:  |  Australia (4)  |  Mammal (16)  |  Marsupial (2)

A bad earthquake at once destroys the oldest associations: the world, the very emblem of all that is solid, has moved beneath our feet like a crust over a fluid; one second of time has conveyed to the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflection would never have created.
— Charles Darwin
Journal of Researches: Into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. BeagIe Round the World (1839), ch. XVI, 369.
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A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, a mere heart of stone.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to T. H. Huxley (9 Jul 1857). In Charles Darwin, Francis Darwin (ed.), Albert Charles Seward (ed.), More letters of Charles Darwin (1903), Vol. 1, 98.
Science quotes on:  |  Scientist (224)

A surprising number [of novels] have been read aloud to me, and I like all if moderately good, and if they do not end unhappily—against which a law ought to be passed.
— Charles Darwin
F. Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol. 1, 101.
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (198)

A young man once asked [Erasmus Darwin] in, as he thought, an offensive manner, whether he did not find stammering very inconvenient. He answered, 'No, Sir, it gives me time for reflection, and saves me from asking impertinent questions.'
— Charles Darwin
C. Darwin, The Life of Erasmus Darwin (1887), 40.
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About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Henry Fawcett (18 Sep 1861). In Charles Darwin, Francis Darwin, Albert Charles Seward, More Letters of Charles Darwin (1903), Vol. 1, 195.
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About weak points [of the Origin] I agree. The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer the cold shudder.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Asa Gray, 8 or 9 February 1860. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1860 (1993), Vol. 8, 75.
Science quotes on:  |  Eye (61)  |  Origin Of Species (35)

After five years' work I allowed myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions, which then seemed to me probable: from that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object. I hope that I may be excused for entering on these personal details, as I give them to show that I have not been hasty in coming to a decision.‎
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 9.
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All that we can do, is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life, and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 76.
Science quotes on:  |  Natural Selection (55)  |  Origin Of Species (35)

Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of man; whether those of Brazil, where the powers of Life are predominant, or those of Tierra del Fuego, where Death and Decay prevail. Both are temples filled with the varied productions of the God of Nature: no one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body.
— Charles Darwin
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XXIII, 604-5.
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Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval [tropical] forests, ... temples filled with the varied productions of the God of Nature. No one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body.
— Charles Darwin
In What Mr. Darwin Saw in His Voyage Round the World in the Ship “Beagle” 1879, 170.
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Animals manifestly enjoy excitement, and suffer from annul and may exhibit curiosity.
— Charles Darwin
Descent of Man
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (138)

Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.
— Charles Darwin
Notebook B, (1837-38)
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (138)

Any one whose disposition leads him to attach more weight to unexplained difficulties than to the explanation of facts will certainly reject my theory.
— Charles Darwin
The Origin of Species (1859), 482.
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As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 119.
Science quotes on:  |  Natural Selection (55)  |  Origin Of Species (35)  |  Tree Of Life (4)

As natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.
— Charles Darwin
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1866), 577.
Science quotes on:  |  Natural Selection (55)

As the sense of smell is so intimately connected with that of taste, it is not surprising that an excessively bad odour should excite wretching or vomitting in some persons.
— Charles Darwin
The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals
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At last gleams of light have come, and I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable. Heaven forfend me from Lamarck nonsense of a 'tendency to progression', 'adaptations from the slow willing of animals', &c! But the conclusions I am led to are not widely different from his; though the means of change are wholly so. I think I have found out (here's presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Sir Joseph Hooker (11 Jan 1844). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 173-174.
Science quotes on:  |  Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (23)  |  Origin Of Species (35)

Blushing is the most peculiar and most human of all expressions. Monkeys redden from passion but it would take an overwhelming amount of evidence to make us believe that any animal can blush.
— Charles Darwin
The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), 310.
Science quotes on:  |  Human Nature (34)

But as my conclusions have lately been much misrepresented, and it has been stated that I attribute the modification of species exclusively to natural selection, I may be permitted to remark that in the first edition of this work, and subsequently, I placed in a most conspicuous position—namely, at the close of the Introduction—the following words: 'I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification.' This has been of no avail. Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure.
— Charles Darwin
In The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection with additions and corrections from sixth and last English edition (1899), Vol. 2, 293.
Science quotes on:  |  Attribute (12)  |  Conclusion (73)  |  Endure (5)  |  History Of Science (30)  |  Modification (21)  |  Natural Selection (55)  |  Origin Of Species (35)  |  Remark (9)  |  Species (91)  |  State (42)

But Geology carries the day: it is like the pleasure of gambling, speculating, on first arriving, what the rocks may be; I often mentally cry out 3 to 1 Tertiary against primitive; but the latter have hitherto won all the bets.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to W. D. Fox, May 1832. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1821-1836 (1985), Vol. 1, 232.

But no pursuit at Cambridge was followed with nearly so much eagerness or gave me so much pleasure as collecting beetles. It was the mere passion for collecting, for I did not dissect them, and rarely compared their external characters with published descriptions, but got them named anyhow. I will give a proof of my zeal: one day, on tearing off some old bark, I saw two rare beetles, and seized one in each hand; then I saw a third and new kind, which I could not bear to lose, so that I popped the one which I held in my right hand into my mouth. Alas! it ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as was the third one.
— Charles Darwin
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 20.
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But when on shore, and wandering in the sublime forests, surrounded by views more gorgeous than even Claude ever imagined, I enjoy a delight which none but those who have experienced it can understand. If it is to be done, it must be by studying Humboldt.
— Charles Darwin
From letter to W.D. Fox (May 1832), in Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin: Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1887), Vol. 1, 207.
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By considering the embryological structure of man - the homologies which he presents with the lower animals - the rudiments which he retains - and the reversions to which he is liable, we can partly recall in imagination the former condition of our early progenitors; and we can approximately place them in their proper position in the zoological series. We thus learnt that man is descended from a hairy quadruped, furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in its habit, and an inhabitant of the Old World. This creature, if its whole structure had been examined by a naturalist, would have been classed among the Quadrumana, as surely as would be the common and still more ancient progenitor of the Old and New World monkeys.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 389.
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Describing laughter: The sound is produced by a deep inspiration followed by short, interrupted, spasmodic contractions of the chest, and especially the diaphragm... the mouth is open more or less widely, with the corners drawn much backwards, as well as a little upwards; and the upper lip is somewhat raised.
— Charles Darwin
The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals
Science quotes on:  |  Laughter (11)

During my second year at Edinburgh [1826-27] I attended Jameson's lectures on Geology and Zoology, but they were incredible dull. The sole effect they produced on me was the determination never as long as I lived to read a book on Geology.
— Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin, His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter and a Selected Series of his Published Letters (1892), 15. In Patrick Wyse Jackson, Four Centuries of Geological Travel (2007), 32.
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Extinction has only separated groups: it has by no means made them; for if every form which has ever lived on this earth were suddenly to reappear, though it would be quite impossible to give definitions by which each group could be distinguished from other groups, as all would blend together by steps as fine as those between the finest existing varieties, nevertheless a natural classification, or at least a natural arrangement, would be possible.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1860), 431.
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False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often long endure; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, as every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 385.
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For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs—as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 404-5.
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Formerly Milton's Paradise Lost had been my chief favourite, and in my excursions during the voyage of the Beagle, when I could take only a single small volume, I always chose Milton.
— Charles Darwin
Nora Barlow (ed.), The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882 (1958), 85.
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Free will is to mind what chance is to matter.
— Charles Darwin
Notebook M (begun July 1838). In Charles Darwin, Paul H. Barrett and Peter J. Gautrey, Charles Darwin's Notebooks, 1836-1844 (1987, 2009), 536. Darwin inserted a note “M. Le Comte,” perhaps (thinks the Webmaster) as a reference to the latter's philosophy.
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Great is the power of steady misrepresentation - but the history of science shows how, fortunately, this power does not endure long.
— Charles Darwin
Origin of Species (1878), 421.
Science quotes on:  |  Error (150)

He [Erasmus Darwin] used to say that 'unitarianism was a feather-bed to catch a falling Christian.'
— Charles Darwin
C. Darwin, The Life of Erasmus Darwin (1887), 44-5.
Science quotes on:  |  Erasmus Darwin (35)

Hence, a traveller should be a botanist, for in all views plants form the chief embellishment.
— Charles Darwin
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XXIII, 604.
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Hereafter we shall be compelled to acknowledge that the only distinction between species and well-marked varieties is, that the latter are known, or believed to be connected at the present day by intermediate gradations whereas species were formerly thus connected.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 421.
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I always feel as if my books came half out of Lyell's brain... & therefore that when seeing a thing never seen by Lyell, one yet saw it partially through his eyes.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Leonard Horner, 29 August 1844. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1844-1846 (1987), Vol. 3, 55.
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I am a firm believer, that without speculation there is no good and original observation.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to A. R. Wallace (22 Dec 1857). In Alfred Russel Wallace and Sir James Marchant (ed.), Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters and Reminiscences (1916), 109.
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I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to E.B. Aveling (13 Oct 1880).
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I am turned into a sort of machine for observing facts and grinding out conclusions.
— Charles Darwin
As quoted in Adrian J. Desmond and James Richard Moore, Darwin (1994), 644. Described by the authors as a remark Darwin was heard to sigh, suspecting that his largest botany book, the 600-page Movement in Plants, was as dull as ditchwater.
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I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Asa Gray (22 May 1860). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 236.
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I conclude that the musical notes and rhythms were first acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the sake of charming the opposite sex.
— Charles Darwin
Descent of Man
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I find in Geology a never failing interest, as [it] has been remarked, it creates the same gran[d] ideas respecting this world, which Astronomy do[es] for the universe.—We have seen much fine scenery that of the Tropics in its glory & luxuriance, exceeds even the language of Humboldt to describe. A Persian writer could alone do justice to it, & if he succeeded he would in England, be called the 'grandfather of all liars'.— But I have seen nothing, which more completely astonished me, than the first sight of a Savage; It was a naked Fuegian his long hair blowing about, his face besmeared with paint. There is in their countenances, an expression, which I believe to those who have not seen it, must be inconceivably wild. Standing on a rock he uttered tones & made gesticulations than which, the cries of domestic animals are far more intelligible.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Charles Whitley, 23 July 1834. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1821-1836 (1985), Vol. I, 397.
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I find in the domestic duck that the bones of the wing weigh less and the bones of the leg more, in proportion to the whole skeleton, than do the same bones in the wild duck; and this change may be safely attributed to the domestic duck flying much less, and walking more, than its wild parents.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 17.
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I fully agree with all that you say on the advantages of H. Spencer's excellent expression of 'the survival of the fittest.' This, however, had not occurred to me till reading your letter. It is, however, a great objection to this term that it cannot be used as a substantive governing a verb; and that this is a real objection I infer from H. Spencer continually using the words, natural selection.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to A. R. Wallace July 1866. In F. Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1887), Vol. 3, 45-6.
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I have been speculating last night what makes a man a discoverer of undiscovered things; and a most perplexing problem it is. Many men who are very clever - much cleverer than the discoverers - never originate anything.
— Charles Darwin
A Century of Family Letters, 1792-1896
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I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man's power of selection. But the expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer of the Survival of the Fittest is more accurate, and is sometimes equally convenient.
— Charles Darwin
from Origin of Species (1859, 1888), 49.
Science quotes on:  |  Natural Selection (55)

I have heard by round about channel that Herschel says my book “is the law of higgledy-pigglety.”
— Charles Darwin
Letter to C. Lyell, 10 December 1859. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1858-1859 (1991), Vol. 7, 423.
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I have just finished my sketch of my species theory. If as I believe that my theory is true & if it be accepted even by one competent judge, it will be a considerable step in science. I therefore write this, in case of my sudden death, as my most solemn & last request, which I am sure you will consider the same as if legally entered in my will, that you will devote 400£ to its publication & further will yourself, or through Hensleigh [Wedgwood], take trouble in promoting it.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Emma Darwin, 5 July 1844. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1844-1846 (1987), Vol. 3, 43.
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I have not [a] metaphysical Head.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to C. Lyell, 23 February 1860. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1860 (1993), Vol. 8, 103.
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I have stated, that in the thirteen species of ground-finches [in the Galapagos Islands], a nearly perfect gradation may be traced, from a beak extraordinarily thick, to one so fine, that it may be compared to that of a warbler. I very much suspect, that certain members of the series are confined to different islands; therefore, if the collection had been made on any one island, it would not have presented so perfect a gradation. It is clear, that if several islands have each their peculiar species of the same genera, when these are placed together, they will have a wide range of character. But there is not space in this work, to enter on this curious subject.
— Charles Darwin
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XIX, 475.
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I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.
— Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of his Published Letters, edited by Francis Darwin (1892), 50.
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I hope you have not murdered too completely your own and my child.
Referring to their independently conceived ideas on the origin of species.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to A. R. Wallace, March 1869. In J. Marchant, Alfred Russel Wallace: Letters and Reminiscences (1916), Vol. 1, 240.
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I love fools' experiments. I am always making them.
— Charles Darwin
cit. Francis Darwin, The Life of Charles Darwin, 1902.
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I see no good reason why the views given this volume [The Origin of Species] should shock the religious feelings of any one. It is satisfactory, as showing how transient such impressions are, to remember that the greatest discovery ever made by man, namely, the law of attraction of gravity, was also attacked by Leibnitz, 'as subversive of natural, and inferentially of revealed, religion.'
— Charles Darwin
The Origin of Species (1909), 520.
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I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone.
— Charles Darwin
from Origin of Species quoted in The Harvest of a Quiet Eye by Alan L. Mackay
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I shall always feel respect for every one who has written a book, let it be what it may, for I had no idea of the trouble which trying to write common English could cost one—And alas there yet remains the worst part of all correcting the press.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to W. D. Fox, 7 July 1837, referring to his Journal of Researches. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1837-1843 (1986), Vol. 2, 29.
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I trust and believe that the time spent in this voyage … will produce its full worth in Natural History; and it appears to me the doing what little we can to increase the general stock of knowledge is as respectable an object of life, as one can in any likelihood pursue.
— Charles Darwin
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1888), 245.
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I worked on true Baconian principles, and without any theory collected facts.
— Charles Darwin
cit. Gavin de Beer in Autobiographies: Charles Darwin, Thomas Henry Huxley, 1974
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If every one were cast in the same mould, there would be no such thing as beauty.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 354.
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If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 171.
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If Mozart, instead of playing the pianoforte at three years old with wonderfully little practice, had played a tune with no practice at all, he might truly have been said to have done so instinctively.
— Charles Darwin
Origin of Species
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If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.
— Charles Darwin
Journal of Researches
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If we thus go very far back to the source of the Mammalian type of organisation; it is extremely improbable that any of [his relatives shall likewise] the successors of his relations now exist,—In same manner, if we take [a man from] any large family of 12 brothers & sisters [in a state which does not increase] it will be chances against anyone [of them] having progeny living ten thousand years hence; because at present day many are relatives so that tracing back the [descen] fathers would be reduced to small percentage.—& [in] therefore the chances are excessively great against, any two of the 12, having progeny, after that distant period.
— Charles Darwin
P. H. Barrett et al. (eds.), Charles Darwin's Notebooks, 1836-1844: Geology, Transmutation of the Species and Metaphysical Enquiries (1987), Notebook B, 40-1.
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If worms have the power of acquiring some notion, however rude, of the shape of an object and over their burrows, as seems the case, they deserve to be called intelligent; for they act in nearly the same manner as would man under similar circumstances.
— Charles Darwin
Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms
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Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 1, 3.
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In July [1837] opened first note-book on Transmutation of Species. Had been greatly struck from about the month of previous March on character of South American fossils, and species on Galapagos Archipelago. These facts (especially latter), origin of all my views.
— Charles Darwin
F. Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol. 1, 276.
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In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be, preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work; but I was so anxious to avoid prejudice, that I determined not for some time to write even the briefest sketch of it.
— Charles Darwin
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 40.
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In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.
— Charles Darwin
On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859, 1882), 428 .
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In the future I see open fields for more important researches. Psychology will be securely based on the foundation already laid by Mr. Herbert Spencer, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by graduation.
— Charles Darwin
Origin of Species
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In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment. [Modern paraphrase; Darwin never wrote with these words.]
— Charles Darwin
Although this is not an original Darwin quote, and is just a modern paraphrase seen around the web, it is provided here so that this caution can be included.
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It has been a bitter mortification for me to digest the conclusion that the “race is for the strong” and that I shall probably do little more but be content to admire the strides others made in science.
— Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin's Works (1896), Vol. 1, 243.
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It has sometimes been said that the success of the Origin proved “that the subject was in the air,” or “that men's minds were prepared for it.” I do not think that this is strictly true, for I occasionally sounded not a few naturalists, and never happened to come across a single one who seemed to doubt about the permanence of species.
— Charles Darwin
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 42.
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It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length. But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide.
[Replying to query about his religious views]
— Charles Darwin
Letter to a Dutch student (2 Apr 1873), in Charles Darwin and Sir Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1896), 276.
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It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
— Charles Darwin
Concluding remarks in final chapter, The Origin of Species (1859), Penguin edn, J. W. Burrow (ed.) (1968), 459-60.
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It is mere rubbish thinking, at present, of origin of life; one might as well think of origin of matter.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to J. D. Hooker, 29 March 1863. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1863 (1999), Vol. 11, 278.
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It is no valid objection that science as yet throws no light on the far higher problem of the essence or origin of life. Who can explain gravity? No one now objects to following out the results consequent on this unknown element of attraction...
— Charles Darwin
The Origin of Species (1909), 519-520.
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It is not the conscience which raises a blush, for a man may sincerely regret some slight fault committed in solitude, or he may suffer the deepest remorse for an undetected crime, but he will not blush... It is not the sense of guilt, but the thought that others think or know us to be guilty which crimsons the face.
— Charles Darwin
The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals
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It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are now present, which could have ever been present. But if (and oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, &c., present, that a proteine compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.
— Charles Darwin
Letter; as quoted in The Origin of Life by J.D. Bernal (1967) publ.Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London
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It is really laughable to see what different ideas are prominent in various naturalists' minds, when they speak of 'species'; in some, resemblance is everything and descent of little weight—in some, resemblance seems to go for nothing, and Creation the reigning idea—in some, descent is the key,—in some, sterility an unfailing test, with others it is not worth a farthing. It all comes, I believe, from trying to define the undefinable.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to J. D. Hooker (24 Dec 1856). In Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1888), 446.
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It is well-known that those who have charge of young infants, that it is difficult to feel sure when certain movements about their mouths are really expressive; that is when they really smile. Hence I carefully watched my own infants. One of them at the age of forty-five days, and being in a happy frame of mind, smiled... I observed the same thing on the following day: but on the third day the child was not quite well and there was no trace of a smile, and this renders it probable that the previous smiles were real.
— Charles Darwin
The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals
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It may be conceit, but I believe the subject will interest the public, and I am sure that the views are original.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to his publisher, John Murray (5 Apr 1959). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887), Vol. 2, 155.
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It may metaphorically be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the lapse of ages...
— Charles Darwin
The Origin of Species (1870), 80.
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Jealousy was plainly exhibited when I fondled a large doll, and when I weighed his infant sister, he being then 15? months old. Seeing how strong a feeling of jealousy is in dogs, it would probably be exhibited by infants at any earlier age than just specified if they were tried in a fitting manner
— Charles Darwin
Mind
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Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods, though in very different ways, but they were mere schoolboys to old Aristotle.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to W. Ogle (22 Feb 1882). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1896), 427.
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Man is developed from an ovule, about 125th of an inch in diameter, which differs in no respect from the ovules of other animals.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871, 1902), 25.
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Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hopes for a still higher destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason allows us to discover it. I have given the evidence to the best of my ability; and we must acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system—with all these exalted powers—Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.
— Charles Darwin
Concluding remarks. The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 405.
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Many kinds of monkeys have a strong taste for tea, coffee and spirituous liqueurs.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 1, 12.
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May we not suspect that the vague but very real fears of children, which are quite independent of experience, are the inherited effects of real dangers and abject superstitions during ancient savage times?
— Charles Darwin
Mind, 1877
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My books have sold largely in England, have been translated into many languages, and passed through several editions in foreign countries. I have heard it said that the success of a work abroad is the best test of its enduring value. I doubt whether this is at all trustworthy; but judged by this standard my name ought to last for a few years.
— Charles Darwin
The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1896), 81-82.
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My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain that alone on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine would not, I suppose, have thus suffered, and if I had to live my life over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept alive through use.
— Charles Darwin
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 51.
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Nothing before had ever made me thoroughly realise, though I had read various scientific books, that science consists in grouping facts so that general laws or conclusions may be drawn from them.
— Charles Darwin
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Chap. 2, 'Autobiography', The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin: Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1887), Vol. 1, 48.
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Nothing can be more improving to a young naturalist, than a journey in a distant country.
— Charles Darwin
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XXIII, 607.
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Nothing could have been worse for the development of my mind than Dr. Butler's school, as it was strictly classical, nothing else being taught, except a little ancient geography and history. The school as a means of education to me was simply a blank. During my whole life I have been singularly incapable of mastering any language. Especial attention was paid to versemaking, and this I could never do well. I had many friends, and got together a good collection of old verses, which by patching together, sometimes aided by other boys, I could work into any subject.
— Charles Darwin
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 8.
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On becoming very intimate with Fitz-Roy, I heard that I had run a very narrow risk of being rejected, on account of the shape of my nose! He was an ardent disciple of Lavater, and was convinced that he could judge a man's character by the outline of his features. He doubted whether anyone with my nose could possess sufficient energy and determination for the voyage. I think he was well-satisfied that my nose had spoken falsely.
— Charles Darwin
The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1896), 50.
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On the theory of natural selection we can clearly understand the full meaning of that old canon in natural history, “Natura non facit saltum.” This canon, if we look only to the present inhabitants of the world, is not strictly correct, but if we include all those of past times, it must by my theory be strictly true.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 183.
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One more word on “designed laws” and “undesigned results.” - I see a bird which I want for food, take my gun and kill it, I do this designedly.—An innocent and good man stands under a tree and is killed by a flash of lightning. Do you believe (& I really should like to hear) that God designedly killed this man? Many or most persons do believe this; I can't and don't.—If you believe so, do you believe that when a swallow snaps up a gnat that God designed that that particular swallow should snap up that particular gnat at that particular instant? I believe that the man and the gnat are in the same predicament. If the death of neither man nor gnat are designed, I see no good reason to believe that their first birth or production should be necessarily designed.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Asa Gray, 3 July 1860. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1860 (1993), Vol. 8, 275.
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Origin of man now proved.— Metaphysics must flourish.—He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.
— Charles Darwin
In a notebook not intended for publication, Notebook M (1838), 84. Reproduced in P. H. Barrett et al. (eds.), Charles Darwin's Notebooks, 1836-1844: Geology, Transmutation of the Species and Metaphysical Enquiries (1987), 539. Also reproduced at the Darwin Online website.
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Our ancestor was an animal which breathed water, had a swim-bladder, a great swimming tail, an imperfect skull & undoubtedly was an hermaphrodite! Here is a pleasant genealogy for mankind.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to C. Lyell, 10 January 1860. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1860 (1993), Vol. 8, 29.
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Physiological experiment on animals is justifiable for real investigation, but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity.
— Charles Darwin
letter to E. Ray Lankester
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Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.
[Comment added to the second edition (1845) of Voyage of the Beagle (1839) concerning the variations he found of finches in the Galapagos Islands. In the first edition (p.461) he had merely described the thirteen allied species of finch but without further commentary.]
— Charles Darwin
Voyage of the Beagle, 2nd ed., (1845), 380.
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So in regard to mental qualities, their transmission is manifest in our dogs, horses and other domestic animals. Besides special tastes and habits, general intelligence, courage, bad and good tempers. etc., are certainly transmitted.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man
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Some few, & I am one, even wish to God, though at the loss of millions of lives, that the North would proclaim a crusade against Slavery. In the long run, a million horrid deaths would be amply repaid in the cause of humanity. ... Great God how I shd like to see that greatest curse on Earth Slavery abolished.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Asa Gray (5 Jun 1861). In Charles Darwin, Frederick Burkhardt, Sydney Smith, The Correspondence of Charles Darwin: Vol. 9, 1861 (1994), xx. An attack by Confederate forces at Fort Sumter on 12 Apr 1861 marked the beginning of the American Civil war. In Sep 1862, President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation made ending slavery in the South a goal of the war. (Lincoln and Darwin were born on the same day.)
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The Times is getting more detestable (but that is too weak word) than ever.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Asa Gray, 23 February 1863. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1863 (1999), Vol. 11, 167.
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The expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer of the Survival of the Fittest is more accurate, and is sometimes equally convenient
— Charles Darwin
Origin of Species, Ch. 3.
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The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.
— Charles Darwin
Descent of Man
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The main conclusion arrived at in this work, namely that man is descended from some lowly-organised form, will, I regret to think, be highly distasteful to many persons. But there can hardly be a doubt that we are descended from barbarians.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 404.
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The man who walks with Henslow.
— Charles Darwin
'Recollections of the Development of my mind and Character' (written 1876). In Autobiographies, (eds.) Michael Neve and Sharon Messenger (2002), Penguin edn., 34.
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The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions are aboriginal creations, found nowhere else; there is even a difference between the inhabitants of the different islands; yet all show a marked relationship with those of America, though separated from that continent by an open space of ocean, between 500 and 600 miles in width. The archipelago is a little world within itself, or rather a satellite attached to America, whence it has derived a few stray colonists, and has received the general character of its indigenous productions. Considering the small size of these islands, we feel the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings, and at their confined range. Seeing every height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a period, geologically recent, the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhere near to that great fact—that mystery of mysteries—the first appearance of new beings on this earth.
— Charles Darwin
Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World, 2nd edn. (1845), 377-8.
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The noble science of Geology loses glory from the extreme imperfection of the record. The crust of the earth with its embedded remains must not be looked at as a well-filled museum, but as a poor collection made at hazard and at rare intervals.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 423.
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The number of humble-bees in any district depends in a great degree on the number of field-mice, which destroy their combs and nests; and Mr. H. Newman, who has long attended to the habits of humble-bees, ... says “Near villages and small towns I have found the nests of humble-bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the number of cats that destroy the mice.” Hence it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district!
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 72.
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The Struggle for Existence amongst all organic beings throughout the world, which inevitably follows from their high geometrical powers of increase ... This is the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms. As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.
— Charles Darwin
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1861), 12.
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The theory which I would offer, is simply, that as the land with the attached reefs subsides very gradually from the action of subterranean causes, the coral-building polypi soon raise again their solid masses to the level of the water: but not so with the land; each inch lost is irreclaimably gone; as the whole gradually sinks, the water gains foot by foot on the shore, till the last and highest peak is finally submerged.
— Charles Darwin
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XXll, 557.
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The tree of life should perhaps be called the coral of life, base of branches dead; so that passages cannot be seen—this again offers contradiction to constant succession of germs in progress.
— Charles Darwin
P. H. Barrett et al. (eds.), Charles Darwin's Notebooks1836-1844: Geology, Transmutation of the Species, Metaphysical Enquiries, (1987), Notebook B, 25-6.
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The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life and has determined my whole career; yet it depended on so small a circumstance as my uncle offering to drive me 30 miles to Shrewsbury, which few uncles would have done, and on such a trifle as the shape of my nose.
— Charles Darwin
'Recollections of the Development of my mind and Character' (written 1876). In Autobiographies, (eds.) Michael Neve and Sharon Messenger (2002), Penguin edn., 42.
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The young blush much more freely than the old but not during infancy, which is remarkable, as we know that infants at a very early age redden from passion.
— Charles Darwin
Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals
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There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Asa Gray (22 May 1860). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 236.
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This is the question
Marry
Children—(if it Please God)—Constant companion (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one—object to be beloved and played with—better than a dog anyhow. Home, & someone to take care of house—Charms of music and female chit-chat.—These things good for one's health.—but terrible loss of time.—
My God, it is Intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working—& nothing after all.—No, no, won't do. Imagine living all one's day solitary in smoky dirty London House.—Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps-—Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro' Street.
Not Marry
Freedom to go where one liked—choice of Society and little of it. —Conversation of clever men at clubs—Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. —to have the expense and anxiety of children—perhaps quarreling—Loss of time. —cannot read in the Evenings—fatness & idleness—Anxiety & responsibility—less money for books &c—if many children forced to gain one's bread. —(but then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)
Perhaps my wife won’t like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool.
Marry—Marry—Marry Q.E.D.
It being proved necessary to Marry When? Soon or late?
— Charles Darwin
Notes on Marriage, July 1838. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1837-1843 (1986), Vol. 2, 444.
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This preservation of favourable variations and the destruction of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection and would be left a fluctuating element.
— Charles Darwin
From Origin of Species (fifth edition, 1869), 81. The phrase “survival of the fittest” was not added until the fifth edition (1869), and is absent from earlier editions. Also in the fifth edition, the word “destruction” replaced “rejection” used in the earlier editions (1859, 1860, 1861, 1866) to the fourth edition.
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This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection and would be left a fluctuating element.
— Charles Darwin
From Origin of Species (first edition, 1859), 81. The phrase “survival of the fittest” was not added until the fifth edition (1869), when also “rejection” was replaced with “destruction.”
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Thus we have given to man a pedigree of prodigious length, but not, it may be said, of noble quality.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 1, 213.
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Till facts be grouped and called there can be no prediction. The only advantage of discovering laws is to foretell what will happen and to see the bearing of scattered facts.
— Charles Darwin
Species Notebook
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To my deep mortification my father once said to me, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”
— Charles Darwin
'Recollections of the Development of my mind and Character' (written 1876). In Autobiographies, (eds.) Michael Neve and Sharon Messenger (2002), Penguin edn., 10.
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To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.
— Charles Darwin
On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859, 1882), 143-144.
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We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universe[s,] to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.
— Charles Darwin
In Notebook N (1838), 36. Excerpted in Charles Darwin, Thomas F. Glick (ed.) and David Kohn (ed.) On Evolution: The Development of the Theory of Natural Selection (1996), 80.
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We may confidently come to the conclusion, that the forces which slowly and by little starts uplift continents, and that those which at successive periods pour forth volcanic matter from open orifices, are identical.
— Charles Darwin
Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World, 2nd edn. (1845), ch. XIV, 311.
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We thus learn that man is descended from a hairy quadruped, furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in its habits, and an inhabitant of the Old World.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 389.
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We will now discuss in a little more detail the Struggle for Existence.
— Charles Darwin
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859, 1902), 57.
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What a book a Devil's chaplin might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low & horridly cruel works of nature!
— Charles Darwin
Letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 July 1856. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1844-1846 (1987), Vol. 6, 178.
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What a scale of improvement is comprehended between the faculties of a Fuegian savage and a Sir Isaac Newton.
— Charles Darwin
R. D. Keynes, Darwin's Beagle Diary (1988), 223.
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When the sexes differ in beauty, in the power of singing, or in producing what I have called instrumental music, it is almost invariably the male which excels the female.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 99.
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When the views entertained in this volume on the origin of species, or when analogous views are generally admitted, we can dimly forsee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history.
— Charles Darwin
The Origin of Species (1859), Penguin edn , J. W. Burrow (ed.) (1968), 455.
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When we no longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship, as something wholly beyond his comprehension; when we regard every production of nature as one which has had a long history; when we contemplate every complex structure and instinct as the summing up of many contrivances, each useful to the possessor, in the same way as any great mechanical invention is the summing up of the labour, the experience, the reason, and even the blunders of numerous workmen; when we thus view each organic being, how far more interesting, I speak from experience, does the study of natural history become!
— Charles Darwin
From the Conclusion of Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (3rd. ed., 1861), 521.
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Why does man regret, even though he may endeavour to banish any such regret, that he has followed the one natural impulse, rather than the other; and why does he further feel that he ought to regret his conduct? Man in this respect differs profoundly from the lower animals.
— Charles Darwin
Descent of Man
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With mammals the male appears to win the female much more through the law of battle than through the display of his charms.
— Charles Darwin
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 239.
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You will be astonished to find how the whole mental disposition of your children changes with advancing years. A young child and the same when nearly grown, sometimes differ almost as much as do a caterpillar and butterfly.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to E. Haeckel (19 Nov 1868). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887), 104.
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Your words have come true with a vengeance that I shd [should] be forestalled ... I never saw a more striking coincidence. If Wallace had my M.S. sketch written out in 1842 he could not have made a better short abstract! Even his terms now stand as Heads of my Chapters.
— Charles Darwin
Letter to Charles Lyell, 18 June 1858. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1858-1859, Supplement 1821-1857 (1991), Vol. 7, 107.
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[Herschel and Humboldt] stirred up in me a burning zeal to add even the most humble contribution to the noble structure of Natural Science. No one or a dozen other books influenced me nearly so much as these two. I copied out from Humboldt long passages about Teneriffe and read them aloud on one of [my walking excursions].
— Charles Darwin
Autobiographies, (eds.) Michael Neve and Sharon Messenger (2002), Penguin edn., 36.
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Quotes by others about Charles Darwin (70)

The office of science is not to record possibilities; but to ascertain what nature does ... As far as Darwinism deals with mere arguments of possibilities or even probabilities, without a basis of fact, it departs from the true scientific method and injures science, as most of the devotees of the new ism have already done.
'Professor Agassiz on the Darwinian Theory ... Interesting Facsimile Letter from the Great Naturalist', Scientific American, 1874, 30, 85.
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The year which has passed ... has not been unproductive in contributions of interest and value, in those sciences to which we are professedly more particularly addicted, as well as in every other walk of scientific research. It has not, indeed, been marked by any of those striking discoveries which at once revolutionize, so as to speak, the department of science on which they bear.
Summary of the year in which the Darwin-Wallace communication was read. 'Presidential Address', Proceedings of the Linnean Society, 24 May (1859), viii.
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Science is being daily more and more personified and anthromorphized into a god. By and by they will say that science took our nature upon him, and sent down his only begotten son, Charles Darwin, or Huxley, into the world so that those who believe in him, &c.; and they will burn people for saying that science, after all, is only an expression for our ignorance of our own ignorance.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 32.
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[Coleridge] selected an instance of what was called the sublime, in DARWIN, who imagined the creation of the universe to have taken place in a moment, by the explosion of a mass of matter in the womb, or centre of space. In one and the same instant of time, suns and planets shot into systems in every direction, and filled and spangled the illimitable void! He asserted this to be an intolerable degradation -referring, as it were, all the beauty and harmony of nature to something like the bursting of a barrel of gunpowder! that spit its combustible materials into a pock-freckled creation!
Report from Lectures (1812). In (1987), Vol. 5, 1, R. A. Foakes (ed.), 401.
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What! Did Sir W[alter] R[aleigh] believe that a male and female ounce (and, if so, why not two tigers and lions, etc?) would have produced, in a course of generations, a cat, or a cat a lion? This is Darwinizing with a vengeance.
'Notes on Stillingfleet by S. T. Coleridge', The Athenaeum, no. 2474, 27 March 1875, 423.
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All fossil anthropoids found hitherto have been known only from mandibular or maxillary fragments, so far as crania are concerned, and so the general appearance of the types they represented had been unknown; consequently, a condition of affairs where virtually the whole face and lower jaw, replete with teeth, together with the major portion of the brain pattern, have been preserved, constitutes a specimen of unusual value in fossil anthropoid discovery. Here, as in Homo rhodesiensis, Southern Africa has provided documents of higher primate evolution that are amongst the most complete extant. Apart from this evidential completeness, the specimen is of importance because it exhibits an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids and man ... Whether our present fossil is to be correlated with the discoveries made in India is not yet apparent; that question can only be solved by a careful comparison of the permanent molar teeth from both localities. It is obvious, meanwhile, that it represents a fossil group distinctly advanced beyond living anthropoids in those two dominantly human characters of facial and dental recession on one hand, and improved quality of the brain on the other. Unlike Pithecanthropus, it does not represent an ape-like man, a caricature of precocious hominid failure, but a creature well advanced beyond modern anthropoids in just those characters, facial and cerebral, which are to be anticipated in an extinct link between man and his simian ancestor. At the same time, it is equally evident that a creature with anthropoid brain capacity and lacking the distinctive, localised temporal expansions which appear to be concomitant with and necessary to articulate man, is no true man. It is therefore logically regarded as a man-like ape. I propose tentatively, then, that a new family of Homo-simidæ be created for the reception of the group of individuals which it represents, and that the first known species of the group be designated Australopithecus africanus, in commemoration, first, of the extreme southern and unexpected horizon of its discovery, and secondly, of the continent in which so many new and important discoveries connected with the early history of man have recently been made, thus vindicating the Darwinian claim that Africa would prove to be the cradle of mankind.
'Australopithicus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa', Nature, 1925, 115, 195.
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All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.
The Blind Watchmaker (1986), 5.
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[O]ur own existence once presented the greatest of all mysteries, but … it is a mystery no longer because it is solved. Darwin and Wallace solved it … I was surprised that so many people seemed not only unaware of the elegant and beautiful solution to this deepest of problems but, incredibly, in many cases actually unaware that there was a problem in the first place!
The Blind Watchmaker (1996), front matter.
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This monkey mythology of Darwin is the cause of permissiveness, promiscuity, pills, prophylactics, perversions, abortions, pornography, pollution, poisoning, and proliferation of crimes of all types.
Georgia Court of Appeals, 1981. Quoted in K. M. Pierce, 'Putting Darwin back in the Dock', Time, 16 March 1981, 51-2.
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The Javanese Anthropopithecus, which in its skull is more human than any other known anthropoid ape, already had an upright, erect posture, which has always been considered to be the exclusive privilege of humans. Thus this ancient
Report of 1892, quoted in Pat Shipman, The Man Who Found the Missing Link: The Extraordinary Life of Eugene Dubois (2001), 186.
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Just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution in human history; he discovered the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of idealogy [sic], that mankind must first of all eat and drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, religion, art etc.
Engels' Speech over the Grave of Karl Marx, delivered at Highgate Cemetery, London, 17 Mar 1883. Quoted in Karl Marx 1818-1883, for the Anniversary of his Death (1942), 27.
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The publication in 1859 of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin made a marked epoch in my own mental development, as it did in that of human thought generally. Its effect was to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and to arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science.
Memories of My Life (1908), 287.
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You must not say that this cannot be, or that that is contrary to nature. You do not know what Nature is, or what she can do; and nobody knows; not even Sir Roderick Murchison, or Professor Huxley, or Mr. Darwin, or Professor Faraday, or Mr. Grove, or any other of the great men whom good boys are taught to respect. They are very wise men; and you must listen respectfully to all they say: but even if they should say, which I am sure they never would, 'That cannot exist. That is contrary to nature,' you must wait a little, and see; for perhaps even they may be wrong.
The Water-babies (1886), 81.
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In consequence of Darwin's reformed Theory of Descent, we are now in a position to establish scientifically the groundwork of a non-miraculous history of the development of the human race. ... If any person feels the necessity of conceiving the coming into existence of this matter as the work of a supernatural creative power, of the creative force of something outside of matter, we have nothing to say against it. But we must remark, that thereby not even the smallest advantage is gained for a scientific knowledge of nature. Such a conception of an immaterial force, which as the first creates matter, is an article of faith which has nothing whatever to do with human science.
In Ernst Haeckel and E. Ray Lankester (trans.), The History of Creation (1880), Vol. 1, 6-9.
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Quantitative work shows clearly that natural selection is a reality, and that, among other things, it selects Mendelian genes, which are known to be distributed at random through wild populations, and to follow the laws of chance in their distribution to offspring. In other words, they are an agency producing variation of the kind which Darwin postulated as the raw material on which selection acts.
'Natural Selection', Nature, 1929, 124, 444.
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The fittest survive.
What is meant by the fittest?
Not the strongest; not the cleverest—
Weakness and stupidity everywhere survive.
There is no way of determining fitness except in that a thing does survive.
'Fitness,' then, is only another name for 'survival.'
Darwinism:
That survivors survive.
The Book of the Damned (1932). In The Complete Books of Charles Fort (1975), 24.
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The Christians who engaged in infamous persecutions and shameful inquisitions were not evil men but misguided men. The churchmen who felt they had an edict from God to withstand the progress of science, whether in the form of a Copernican revolution or a Darwinian theory of natural selection, were not mischievous men but misinformed men. And so Christ's words from the cross are written in sharp-edged terms across some of the most inexpressible tragedies of history: 'They know not what they do'.
'Love in Action', Strength To Love (1963, 1981), 43.
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Darwin's characteristic perspicacity is nowhere better illustrated than in his prophecy of the reaction of the world of science. He admitted at once that it would be impossible to convince those older men '...whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts, all viewed ... from a point of view directly opposite to mine ... A few naturalists endowed with much flexibility of mind and who have already begun to doubt the immutability of species, may be influenced by this volume; but I look with confidence to the young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides with equal impartiality.
'The Reaction of American scientists to Darwinism', American Historical Review 1932), 38, 687. Quoted in David L. Hull, Science as Process (), 379.
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I expect to think that I would rather be author of your book [The Origin of Species] than of any other on Nat. Hist. Science.
Letter to Darwin (12 Dec 1859). Quoted in Leonard Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1918), Vol. 1, 511.
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Those who think 'Science is Measurement' should search Darwin's works for numbers and equations.
'David H. Hubel', in Larry R. Squire (ed.), The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography (1996), Vol. 1, 313.
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Very few, even among those who have taken the keenest interest in the progress of the revolution in natural knowledge set afoot by the publication of the 'Origin of Species'; and who have watched, not without astonishment, the rapid and complete change which has been effected both inside and outside the boundaries of the scientific world in the attitude of men's minds towards the doctrines which are expounded in that great work, can have been prepared for the extraordinary manifestation of affectionate regard for the man, and of profound reverence for the philosopher, which followed the announcement, on Thursday last, of the death of Mr Darwin.
'Obituary [of Charles Darwin]' (1882). In Collected Essays (1893), Vol. 2, 244.
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The publication of the Darwin and Wallace papers in 1858, and still more that of the 'Origin' in 1859, had the effect upon them of the flash of light, which to a man who has lost himself in a dark night, suddenly reveals a road which, whether it takes him straight home or not, certainly goes his way. That which we were looking for, and could not find, was a hypothesis respecting the origin of known organic forms, which assumed the operation of no causes but such as could be proved to be actually at work. We wanted, not to pin our faith to that or any other speculation, but to get hold of clear and definite conceptions which could be brought face to face with facts and have their validity tested. The 'Origin' provided us with the working hypothesis we sought.
'On the Reception of the Origin of Species'. In F. Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol 2, 197.
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It was badly received by the generation to which it was first addressed, and the outpouring of angry nonsense to which it gave rise is sad to think upon. But the present generation will probably behave just as badly if another Darwin should arise, and inflict upon them that which the generality of mankind most hate—the necessity of revising their convictions. Let them, then, be charitable to us ancients; and if they behave no better than the men of my day to some new benefactor, let them recollect that, after all, our wrath did not come to much, and vented itself chiefly in the bad language of sanctimonious scolds. Let them as speedily perform a strategic right-about-face, and follow the truth wherever it leads.
'On the Reception of the Origin of Species'. In F. Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol. 2, 204.
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No hypothesis concerning the nature of this 'something' shall be advanced thereby or based thereon. Therefore it appears as most simple to use the last syllable 'gen' taken from Darwin's well-known word pangene since it alone is of interest to use, in order thereby to replace the poor, more ambiguous word, 'Anlage'. Thus, we will say for 'das pangene' and 'die pangene' simply 'Das Gen' and 'Die Gene,' The word Gen is fully free from every hypothesis; it expresses only the safely proved fact that in any case many properties of organisms are conditioned by separable and hence independent 'Zustiinde,' 'Grundlagen,' 'Anlagen'—in short what we will call 'just genes'—which occur specifically in the gametes.
Elemente der Exakten Erblichkeitslehre (1909), 124. Trans. G. E. Allen and quoted in G. E. Allen, Thomas Hunt Morgan: The Man and His Science (1978), 209-10 (Footnote 79).
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Darwin's theory was received in Russia with profound sympathy. While in Western Europe it met firmly established old traditions which it had first to overcome, in Russia its appearance coincided with the awakening of our society after the Crimean War and here it immediately received the status of full citizenship and ever since has enjoyed widespread popularity.
Quoted in Thomas F. Glick (ed.), The Comparative Reception of Darwinism (1988), 229-30.
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In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of species live in societies, and that they find in association the best arms for the struggle for life: understood, of course, in its wide Darwinian sense—not as a struggle for the sheer means of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress. The mutual protection which is obtained in this case, the possibility of attaining old age and of accumulating experience, the higher intellectual development, and the further growth of sociable habits, secure the maintenance of the species, its extension, and its further progressive evolution. The unsociable species, on the contrary, are doomed to decay.
Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902), 293.
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Scientific development depends in part on a process of non-incremental or revolutionary change. Some revolutions are large, like those associated with the names of Copernicus, Newton, or Darwin, but most are much smaller, like the discovery of oxygen or the planet Uranus. The usual prelude to changes of this sort is, I believed, the awareness of anomaly, of an occurrence or set of occurrences that does not fit existing ways of ordering phenomena. The changes that result therefore require 'putting on a different kind of thinking-cap', one that renders the anomalous lawlike but that, in the process, also transforms the order exhibited by some other phenomena, previously unproblematic.
The Essential Tension (1977), xvii.
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On consideration, it is not surprising that Darwin's finches should recognize their own kind primarily by beak characters. The beak is the only prominent specific distinction, and it features conspicuously both in attacking behaviour, when the birds face each other and grip beaks, and also in courtship, when food is passed from the beak of the male to the beak of the female. Hence though the beak differences are primarily correlated with differences in food, secondarily they serve as specific recognition marks, and the birds have evolved behaviour patterns to this end.
Darwin's Finches (1947), 54.
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Darwin was a biological evolutionist, because he was first a uniformitarian geologist. Biology is pre-eminent to-day among the natural sciences, because its younger sister, Geology, gave it the means.
Presidential Address to the Geology Section, Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1892), 696.
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For the pre-Darwinian age had come to be regarded as a Dark Age in which men still believed that the book of Genesis was a standard scientific treatise, and that the only additions to it were Galileo'a demonstration of Leonardo da Vinci's simple remark that the earth is a moon of the sun, Sir Humphrey Davy's invention of the safety lamp, the discovery of electricity, the application of steam to industrial purposes, and the penny post.
Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch‎ (1921), viii.
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I have no patience whatever with these gorilla damnifications of humanity.
[Referring to Charles Darwin.]
In William Howie Wylie , Thomas Carlyle: The Man and his Books (1881), 330.
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Contrary to the legend, Darwin's finches do not appear to have inspired his earliest theoretical views on evolution, even after he finally became an evolutionist in 1837; rather it was his evolutionary views that allowed him, retrospectively, to understand the complex case of the finches.
Quoted in Stephen Gould, The Flamingo's Smile (1987), 356. From Frank J. Sulloway, 'Darwin's Conversion: The Beagle Voyage and its Aftermath'. Journal of the History of Biology (1982), 15, 327-398.
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Species do not grow more perfect: the weaker dominate the strong, again and again— the reason being that they are the great majority, and they are also cleverer. Darwin forgot the mind (—that is English!): the weak possess more mind. ... To acquire mind, one must need mind—one loses it when one no longer needs it.
[Criticism of Darwin's Origin of Species.]
The Twilight of the Idols (1888), translated by R. J. Hollingdale, Twilight of the Idols and the Anti Christ (1990), 67. Also see alternate translations.
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The species does not grow in perfection: the weak again and again get the upper hand of the strong,—and their large number and their greater cunning are the cause of it. Darwin forgot the intellect (that was English!); the weak have more intellect. ... One must need intellect in order to acquire it; one loses it when it is no longer necessary.
[Criticism of Darwin's Origin of Species.]
The Twilight of the Idols (1888) collected in The Case of Wagner: Nietzsche Contra Wagner, The Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, translated by Thomas Common (1896), 177. Also see alternate translations.
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Species do not evolve towards perfection: the weak always prevail over the strong—simply because they are the majority, and because they are also the more crafty. Darwin forgot the intellect (that is English!), the weak have more intellect. In order to acquire intellect, one must be in need of it. One loses it when one no longer needs it.
[Criticism of Darwin's Origin of Species.]
The Twilight of the Idols (1888) collected in Twilight of the Idols, with The Antichrist and Ecce Homo, translated by Anthony M. Ludovici (2007), 56. Also see alternate translations.
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What Galileo and Newton were to the seventeenth century, Darwin was to the nineteenth.
A History of Western Philosophy (1945), 725.
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This survival of the fittest implies multiplication of the fittest.
[The phrase “survival of the fittest” was not originated by Charles Darwin, though he discussed Spencer's “excellent expression” in a letter to A. R. Wallace (Jul 1866).]
Principles of Biology (1865, 1872), Vol. 1, 444.
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I never know whether to be more surprised at Darwin himself for making so much of natural selection, or at his opponents for making so little of it.
Selections from His Notebook. Reprinted in Memories and Portraits, Memoirs of Himself and Selections from His Notebook (1924, 2003), 184.
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For these two years I have been gravitating towards your doctrines, and since the publication of your primula paper with accelerated velocity. By about this time next year I expect to have shot past you, and to find you pitching into me for being more Darwinian than yourself. However, you have set me going, and must just take the consequences, for I warn you I will stop at no point so long as clear reasoning will take me further.
Thomas Henry Huxley, Leonard Huxley, Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1901), 211.
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Indeed, not all attacks—especially the bitter and ridiculing kind leveled at Darwin—are offered in good faith, but for practical purposes it is good policy to assume that they are.
From Dream to Discovery: On Being a Scientist (1964), 157
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This survival of the fittest which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called “natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.”
Principles of Biology (1865, 1872), Vol. 1, 444-445.
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Evolution is the law of policies: Darwin said it, Socrates endorsed it, Cuvier proved it and established it for all time in his paper on 'The Survival of the Fittest.' These are illustrious names, this is a mighty doctrine: nothing can ever remove it from its firm base, nothing dissolve it, but evolution.
'Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes', Which Was the Dream? (1967), Chap. 8. In Mark Twain and Brian Collins (ed.), When in Doubt, Tell the Truth: and Other Quotations from Mark Twain (1996), 47.
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None of Darwin's particular doctrines will necessarily endure the test of time and trial. Into the melting-pot must they go as often as any man of science deems it fitting. But Darwinism as the touch of nature that makes the whole world kin can hardly pass away.
Anthropology (1912), 11.
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Darwin's book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history. One has to put up with the crude English method of development, of course. Despite all deficiencies not only is the death-blow dealt here for the first time to 'teleology' in the natural sciences, but their rational meaning is empirically explained.
Karl Marx
Marx to Lasalle, 16 Jan 1861. In Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, 1846-95, trans. Donna Torr (1934), 125.
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Peer reviewers go for orthodoxy ... Many of the great 19th-century discoveries were made by men who had independent wealth—Charles Darwin is the prototype. They trusted themselves.
[Commenting that the anonymous peer review process is the enemy of scientific creativity]
Quoted in Andrew Jack, "An Acute Talent for Innovation", Financial Times (1 Feb 2009).
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Although [Charles Darwin] would patiently go on repeating experiments where there was any good to be gained, he could not endure having to repeat an experiment which ought, if complete care had been taken, to have told its story at first—and this gave him a continual anxiety that the experiment should not be wasted; he felt the experiment to be sacred, however slight a one it was. He wished to learn as much as possible from an experiment, so that he did not confine himself to observing the single point to which the experiment was directed, and his power of seeing a number of other things was wonderful. ... Any experiment done was to be of some use, and ... strongly he urged the necessity of keeping the notes of experiments which failed, and to this rule he always adhered.
In Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of his Published Letters (1908), 92.
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For books [Charles Darwin] had no respect, but merely considered them as tools to be worked with. ... he would cut a heavy book in half, to make it more convenient to hold. He used to boast that he had made Lyell publish the second edition of one of his books in two volumes, instead of in one, by telling him how ho had been obliged to cut it in half. ... his library was not ornamental, but was striking from being so evidently a working collection of books.
In Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of his Published Letters (1908), 96.
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The love of experiment was very strong in him [Charles Darwin], and I can remember the way he would say, “I shan't be easy till I have tried it,” as if an outside force were driving him. He enjoyed experimenting much more than work which only entailed reasoning, and when he was engaged on one of his books which required argument and the marshalling of facts, he felt experimental work to be a rest or holiday.
In Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of his Published Letters (1908), 95.
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There was one quality of mind which seemed to be of special and extreme advantage in leading him [Charles Darwin] to make discoveries. It was the power of never letting exceptions pass unnoticed. Everybody notices a fact as an exception when it is striking or frequent, but he had a special instinct for arresting an exception. A point apparently slight and unconnected with his present work is passed over by many a man almost unconsciously with some half-considered explanation, which is in fact no explanation. It was just these things that he seized on to make a start from. In a certain sense there is nothing special in this procedure, many discoveries being made by means of it. I only mention it because, as I watched him at work, the value of this power to an experimenter was so strongly impressed upon me.
In Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of his Published Letters (1908), 94-95.
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The world has arisen in some way or another. How it originated is the great question, and Darwin's theory, like all other attempts, to explain the origin of life, is thus far merely conjectural. I believe he has not even made the best conjecture possible in the present state of our knowledge.
In Evolution and Permanence of Type (1874), 12.
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Quite recently the human descent theory has been stigmatized as the “gorilla theory of human ancestry.” All this despite the fact that Darwin himself, in the days when not a single bit of evidence regarding the fossil ancestors of man was recognized, distinctly stated that none of the known anthropoid apes, much less any of the known monkeys, should be considered in any way as ancestral to the human stock.
In Henry Fairfield Osborn, 'Osborn States the Case For Evolution', New York Times (12 Jul 1925), XX1. Written at the time of the Scopes Monkey Trial, in rebuttal of the anti-evolution position publicized by William Jennings Bryan.
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The first objection to Darwinism is that it is only a guess and was never anything more. It is called a “hypothesis,” but the word “hypothesis,” though euphonioous, dignified and high-sounding, is merely a scientific synonym for the old-fashioned word “guess.” If Darwin had advanced his views as a guess they would not have survived for a year, but they have floated for half a century, buoyed up by the inflated word “hypothesis.” When it is understood that “hypothesis” means “guess,” people will inspect it more carefully before accepting it.
'God and Evolution', New York Times (26 Feb 1922), 84. Rebuttals were printed a few days later from Henry Fairfield Osborn and Edwin Grant Conklin.
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One of Darwin's reviewers put the alternative strongly by asking ‘whether we are to believe that man is modified mud or modified monkey&rsquo.;
[The mud is a reference to the Bible's description in Genesis (2:7) that God formed man of the dust of the ground.]
In Letter to Thomas S. Spedding (19 May 1863), Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell (1881), Vol. 2, 376
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The doctrine of Darwinism had been tritely summed up in the saying, “from mud to monkey, from monkey up to man.”
Anonymous
Quoted by J.J. Morse in a lecture at Cardiff, reported by A.J. Smith in 'Spiritualism in the Principality: Mr Morse at Cardiff', The Medium and Daybreak (17 May 1878), 307.
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I have been scientifically studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so-called,) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result profoundly humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that that theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.
'Man's Place in the Animal World' (1896) in What is Man?: and Other Philosophical Writings (1973), 81.
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Darwin abolished special creations, contributed the Origin of Species and hitched all life together in one unbroken procession of Siamese Twins, the whole evolved by natural and orderly processes from one microscopic parent germ.
'The Secret History of Eddypus', in Mark Twain and David Ketterer (ed.), Tales of Wonder (2003), 223.
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Adam is fading out. It is on account of Darwin and that crowd. I can see that he is not going to last much longer. There's a plenty of signs. He is getting belittled to a germ—a little bit of a speck that you can't see without a microscope powerful enough to raise a gnat to the size of a church. They take that speck and breed from it: first a flea; then a fly, then a bug, then cross these and get a fish, then a raft of fishes, all kinds, then cross the whole lot and get a reptile, then work up the reptiles till you've got a supply of lizards and spiders and toads and alligators and Congressmen and so on, then cross the entire lot again and get a plant of amphibiums, which are half-breeds and do business both wet and dry, such as turtles and frogs and ornithorhyncuses and so on, and cross-up again and get a mongrel bird, sired by a snake and dam'd by a bat, resulting in a pterodactyl, then they develop him, and water his stock till they've got the air filled with a million things that wear feathers, then they cross-up all the accumulated animal life to date and fetch out a mammal, and start-in diluting again till there's cows and tigers and rats and elephants and monkeys and everything you want down to the Missing Link, and out of him and a mermaid they propagate Man, and there you are! Everything ship-shape and finished-up, and nothing to do but lay low and wait and see if it was worth the time and expense.
'The Refuge of the Derelicts' collected in Mark Twain and John Sutton Tuckey, The Devil's Race-Track: Mark Twain's Great Dark Writings (1980), 340-41. - 1980
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Paris ... On this side of the ocean it is difficult to understand the susceptibility of American citizens on the subject and precisely why they should so stubbornly cling to the biblical version. It is said in Genesis the first man came from mud and mud is not anything very clean. In any case if the Darwinian hypothesis should irritate any one it should only be the monkey. The monkey is an innocent animal—a vegetarian by birth. He never placed God on a cross, knows nothing of the art of war, does not practice lynch law and never dreams of assassinating his fellow beings. The day when science definitely recognizes him as the father of the human race the monkey will have no occasion to be proud of his descendants. That is why it must be concluded that the American Association which is prosecuting the teacher of evolution can be no other than the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
[A cynical article in the French press on the Scopes Monkey Trial, whether it will decide “a monkey or Adam was the grandfather of Uncle Sam.”]
Newspaper
Article from a French daily newspaper on the day hearings at the Scopes Monkey Trial began, Paris Soir (13 Jul 1925), quoted in 'French Satirize the Case', New York Times (14 Jul 1925), 3.
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The starting point of Darwin's theory of evolution is precisely the existence of those differences between individual members of a race or species which morphologists for the most part rightly neglect. The first condition necessary, in order that any process of Natural Selection may begin among a race, or species, is the existence of differences among its members; and the first step in an enquiry into the possible effect of a selective process upon any character of a race must be an estimate of the frequency with which individuals, exhibiting any given degree of abnormality with respect to that, character, occur. The unit, with which such an enquiry must deal, is not an individual but a race, or a statistically representative sample of a race; and the result must take the form of a numerical statement, showing the relative frequency with which the various kinds of individuals composing the race occur.
Biometrika: A Joumal for the Statistical Study of Biological Problems (1901), 1, 1-2.
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The sense that the meaning of the universe had evaporated was what seemed to escape those who welcomed Darwin as a benefactor of mankind. Nietzsche considered that evolution presented a correct picture of the world, but that it was a disastrous picture. His philosophy was an attempt to produce a new world-picture which took Darwinism into account but was not nullified by it.
In Nietzsche: the Man and his Philosophy (1965), 90.
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You can be a thorough-going Neo-Darwinian without imagination, metaphysics, poetry, conscience, or decency. For 'Natural Selection' has no moral significance: it deals with that part of evolution which has no purpose, no intelligence, and might more appropriately be called accidental selection, or better still, Unnatural Selection, since nothing is more unnatural than an accident. If it could be proved that the whole universe had been produced by such Selection, only fools and rascals could bear to live.
Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), Penguin edition (1939), xlii.
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The pre-Darwinian age had come to be regarded as a Dark Age in which men still believed that the book of Genesis was a standard scientific treatise, and that the only additions to it were Galileo's demonstration of Leonardo da Vinci's simple remark that the earth is a moon of the sun, Newton's theory of gravitation, Sir Humphry Davy's invention of the safety-lamp, the discovery of electricity, the application of steam to industrial purposes, and the penny post.
Back to Methuselah: a Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), viii.
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In the Life of Darwin by his son, there is related an incident of how the great naturalist once studied long as to just what a certain spore was. Finally he said, “It is this, for if it is n't, then what is it?” And all during his life he was never able to forget that he had been guilty of this unscientific attitude, for science is founded on certitude, not assumption.
In Elbert Hubbard (ed. and publ.), The Philistine (May 1908), 26, No. 6, 172.
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The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can't solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.
[Answer to question: What is the value in knowing "Why are we here?"]
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
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Much of the geographical work of the past hundred years... has either explicitly or implicitly taken its inspiration from biology, and in particular Darwin. Many of the original Darwinians, such as Hooker, Wallace, Huxley, Bates, and Darwin himself, were actively concerned with geographical exploration, and it was largely facts of geographical distribution in a spatial setting which provided Darwin with the germ of his theory.
'Darwin's Impact on Geography', Annals of the Association of American Geographers (1966), 56, 683.
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Darwin was as much of an emancipator as was Lincoln.
Attributed.
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Charles Darwin, the Abraham of scientific men—a searcher as obedient to the command of truth as was the patriarch to the command of God.
In 'Science and Man', Fragments of Science (1879), Vol. 2, 370. Pesidential Address to the Birmingham and Midland Institute, 1877, in 'Science and Man', Fragments of Science for Unscientific People: A Series of Detached Essays, Addresses, and Reviews (1879), Vol. 2, 370.
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I was aware of Darwin's views fourteen years before I adopted them and I have done so solely and entirely from an independent study of the plants themselves.
Letter to W.H. Harvey (c. 1860), in L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1918), Vol. 1, 520. As cited in Charles Coulston Gillispie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1972), 490, footnote 3.
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Contrary to popular parlance, Darwin didn't discover evolution. He uncovered one (most would say the) essential mechanism by which it operates: natural selection. Even then, his brainstorm was incomplete until the Modern Synthesis of the early/mid-20th century when (among other things) the complementary role of genetic heredity was fully realized. Thousands upon thousands of studies have followed, providing millions of data points that support this understanding of how life on Earth has come to be as it is.
In online article, 'The Day That Botany Took on Bobby Jindal by Just Being Itself', Huffington Post (5 Aug 2013).
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Why it is that animals, instead of developing in a simple and straightforward way, undergo in the course of their growth a series of complicated changes, during which they often acquire organs which have no function, and which, after remaining visible for a short time, disappear without leaving a trace ... To the Darwinian, the explanation of such facts is obvious. The stage when the tadpole breathes by gills is a repetition of the stage when the ancestors of the frog had not advanced in the scale of development beyond a fish.
In The Works of Francis Maitland Balfour (1885), Vol. 1, 702.
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See also:
  • todayinsci icon 12 Feb - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Darwin's birth.
  • todayinsci icon Charles Darwin - Earthquake observation on 20 Feb 1835, during the voyage of the Beagle.
  • todayinsci icon Charles Darwin - context of quote “If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature…” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • todayinsci icon Charles Darwin - context of quote “If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature…” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • todayinsci icon Charles Darwin - context of quote “Improving…a young naturalist” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • todayinsci icon Charles Darwin - context of quote “Improving…a young naturalist” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • todayinsci icon Charles Darwin - context of quote “Great is the power of steady misrepresentation” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • todayinsci icon Charles Darwin - context of quote “Great is the power of steady misrepresentation” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • todayinsci icon Charles Darwin - context of quote “This…I call Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • todayinsci icon Charles Darwin - context of quote “This…I call Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • book icon From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books, by Charles Darwin, Edward O. Wilson. - book suggestion.
  • booklist icon Booklist for Charles Darwin.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
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Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
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Bible
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Louis Pasteur
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Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
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John Wheeler
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Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
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William Shakespeare
- 50 -
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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