Charles Darwin

May 10, 2006

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1809-1882 

British naturalist, scientist, geologist, author
Provoked a reevaluation of what it means to be human by suggesting that all living beings are related 

The Origin of Species (1859)

Originally titled "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life"
Groups of organisms naturally evolve through a process of natural selection 

Quotations:

"…there will be a constant tendency in natural selection to preserve the most divergent offspring of any one species."

"Nor ought we to marvel if all the contrivances in nature be not, as far as we can judge, absolutely perfect; and if some of them be abhorrent to our ideas of fitness.  We need not marvel at the sting of the bee causing the bee's own death…"

"The framework of bones being the same in the hand of a man, wing of a bat, fin of the porpoise, and leg of the horse, -the same number of vertebrae forming the neck of the giraffe and of the elephant,- and innumberable othe such facts, at once explain themselves ont he theory of descent with slow and slight successive modifications."

"Nature may be said to have taken pains to reveal, by rudimentary organs and by homologous structures, her scheme of modification, which it seems that we willfully will not understand."

"…we are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do nto see the intermediate steps."

"The mind cannot possibly grasp the full meaning of the term of a hundred million years; it cannot add up and perceive the full effects of many slight variations, accumulated during an almost infinite number of generations."

"It is so easy to hide our ignorance under such expressions as the "plan of creation," "unity of design," et cetera, and to think that we give an explanation when we only restate a face."

"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."

The Descent of Man (1871)

Outlines explicitly human evolution and sexual selection

Quotations:

"False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness and when thsi si done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened."

"We thus learn that man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits, and an inhabitant of the Old World."

"The higher intellectual pwoers of man, such as those of ratiocination, abstraction, self-consciousness, et cetera, probably follow from the continued improvement and exercise of the other mental faculties.  The development of the moral qualities is a more interesting problem."

"A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives- of approving of some and disapproving of others; and the fact that man is the one being who certainly deserves this designation, is the greatest of all distincitions between hima nd the lower animals."

"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."

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