A survival guide to reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species. There are many things that you must understand in order to get through On the Origins of Species, by Charles Darwin so that you can understand the main focus and be able to get through easily without frustration or confusion. First it would be in your best interest to understand Darwin as a person, you don’t need to be able to write a biography on his life but a simple understanding of the man will be useful. Second it’s probably best if you look into doing background reading to assist you, and it is always helpful if you have others discuss what you have read. Third is to note the style in which Darwin is writing. Finally you have to be your own judge and decide for yourself if you agree what Darwin is trying to say.
The first thing that will help guide you through Origins is having a small understanding of who Darwin was. You have to understand that Darwin switched his studies of education many times, and hated learning in class rooms. He loved natural history and this would be the dive that brought him to join the second journey of the Beagle to South America which would carry him to his theories of transmutation and natural history.
Second you have to do a little background reading on Origins. It’s not the hardest book to read or understand but Darwin was an educated man so most likely it was intended for people who were educated. It’s best if you don’t take the journey alone, but have one or more people to discuss what is going on. If you go into Origins by yourself you are probably going to become lost and confused which will lead to misunderstanding and frustration on your part.
Third you might want to note on Darwin’s style. I find that most of the book he tends to be modest and cautious about his work. He does raise the question and addresses the objections that one may present with his ideas and it’s clear in the way he writes. If you are familiar with the writing styles of today’s scientists you will be in for a very big difference from Darwin.
Finally you have to look at what Darwin got write and wrong. It’s easy to get caught up in how much Darwin gets right and at times it sounds as if Darwin is writing a modern study on the subject, but don’t let that confuse you or drift you into wrong directions. The best thing to do would be to be your own judge and think for yourself. You can go into Origins thinking your own point of view or you can go into it with an open mind and decide for yourself.
I think if you stick to these four simple points you will breeze through Origins, and have a better understanding of Darwin’s work and will less confused by the small details and focus more on the main point.
Part 2 I would say one of the most import letter’s that we have of Charles Darwin are the letter to his father, and Josiah Wedgewood’s letter to Darwin’s father pleading for him to go on this journey. This letters are addressed August 31st . From Darwin’s point its one last plead to allow him to go on this journey, and for Josiah it’s giving answers to the doubts that this journey will only hinder Charles of getting on with his life and starting a career as a clergyman. Why these letters are some import is they must have been persuasive enough as Darwin was granted permission to go on the voyage and was financed by his father. What if R.W. Darwin would have forbid Charles to go on this journey, would there still be an On the Origins of Species, certainly but it would have probably been called by another name and the research and written material would have been from someone else. I would have to say that my favorite on the list would be #7) “That you [i.e. Dr. Darwin] should consider it as again changing my profession.” I feel that Darwin is only trying to tell his father, “Hey this is like a once in a lifetime chance and if I don’t go now, I’ll never be able to do something like this again.” Josiah even has a clever response…