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I'm a molecular biologist by profession, so I thought it would be fun to listen to what is widely considered THE foundational work of modern biology. While interesting for me from a historical standpoint—it's truly breathtaking how complete a conceptual framework the Origin provided more than a century and a half ago, and how thoroughly Darwin anticipated and refuted the possible objections to his theory—unless you really want to hear all of the examples Mr. Darwin deploys to buttress his theory of natural selection, I would recommend a more recent treatment of the topic. Or listen through an abridged edition of The Origin of Species, such as the one narrated by Richard Dawkins. The language is, in most places, exceptionally dry, and the narrator doesn't do the material any favors. However, it is one of the great achievements of human reason, so if you are patient and able to pay close attention to the dense language, this will ultimately be worth your time.
22 of 23 people found this review helpful
THE biology book, essential reading -but a but tedious. Having it read to me was perfect. The sound and extensive reasoning by Darwin really came to life.
The work is not only interesting for people interested in biology or evolution theory.
The way Darwin addresses objections that can (and still are) be raised, the way he points out difficulties and weak points in his theory and discusses those are an example of the way scientist ought to explain and defend their theories.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
Having long had a great interest in the subject at last I have now 'read' the book that started it all. And it is a great read. Darwin assembles his arguments in a logical and persuasive manner, pulling together strands for diverse disciplines to build an unassailable argument. What surprised me was how modern the version of argument being put forward is: there is none of the popular misunderstandings that still pervade the public consciousness. There is no ladder of life where evolution inevitably is driving forward towards a pre-ordained goal of complex life. There is no evolution from forms erroneously held to be more primitive (as in the common misconception that humans 'evolved from monkeys/chimps'). He has, already, a good understanding and framework of kin selection (astonishing given his lack of knowledge of genetics). Darwin is clear thinking and logical throughout. The success of the book is all the more remarkable with our post-Mendelian, post-DNA knowledge, which of course Darwin did not have. He makes profound predictions which are remarkably accurate viewed with what we now know.
Along with the science is a fascinating glimpse of the process of biological science at the time. We get a picture of a detective more than the scientist. The evidence available to Darwin ranged from rare examples of repeatable controlled experimental observations (for example bees building wax cells) to individual observations of single incidents in nature, reported by people that it is clear were not known to Darwin. Like an experienced judge, Darwin sifts the evidence giving appropriate weight to all the strands of evidence, and transparently explains his reasoning. Interestingly the evidence is presented in an anecdotal, narrative, form, reflecting his assembling evidence from accounts from a wide range of publications, from friends, and from contributors. He acknowledges his sources giving a window to his links with other natural historians of the day. We get a strong picture of an intellect putting together the story from a much less certain body of evidence that would be available to modern scientists, and recognising the limitations.
Criticisms, well in terms of the style, it may be a little verbose from some, but (no surprise given the length of this review) I like it. It is almost poetic, it is friendly, it is understated. In terms of the content, well one is almost screaming at the author as he gets so close, and yet so far, from uncovering Mendelian genetics through reason alone. The only other two problems are linked: an under estimate of the economic cost of the animal of producing physical features, and his (albeit) guarded acceptance of a degree of Lemarkian principles. So many times one can detect a reluctant acceptance that reversion to a more primitive form (eg blindness in cave animals) is through disuse of parts, when a little more weight to the costs of creating a fully developed eye would perhaps have convinced him that natural selection alone would do the job.
Regarding the production of this work, the reader was fine. An American, which was a bit odd to start with, but once one got used to that a very measured performance matching the book splendidly. My only stand-out criticism of the book and Audible is that there is no edition information. This is clearly not the first edition and I would like the chance to compare some parts to other editions but know not which this is!
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
loved it.wanted to read the book for a long time but never had the time.excellent narrator i could speed a little with ease and made a few bookmarks.I am happy I finally got acquianted with Darwin's masterpiece.