Darwin – Origin of Species – Notes #1: Introduction

darwin bust

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Notes #1: Introduction

*For purpose of these posts please see my note at the end of this article. There you will also find the edition of the book I am reading. All quotes are from this work.

At the beginning of this work is a very interesting section titled, “Biographical Note, Charles Darwin, 1809-1852” followed by a brief “Contents: The Origin of Species” section which is an entire chapter by chapter book overview.

Now I know many people skip reading these introductional type sections, but I am not one of those people. There can be a wealth of information in these sections. I would suggest reading these sections in this work by Darwin as a background to the work itself.

I found reading this first section and learning a little about the life of Darwin very interesting. The fact that as a youth he “…to his schoolmates he boasted that he could produce variously colored flowers of the same plant by watering them with certain colored fluids.” was cool to think about.

Here is a young boy who preforming science experiments that we now think of as common place. Who of us hasn’t taken a stalk of celery and placed it in a glass of red colored water to watch the red food coloring travel up the veins of the celery? Or looked at the many different colored daisy’s at the grocery store or florist and been unsurprised by the perfect color match to a graduation dress.

We find this idea of coloring flowers normal, everyday type stuff. We think “Everyone should know that.” But during the time when Darwin was a young boy these ideas were new and he was one of the young people willing to test them out and try them.

Darwin’s dad was a doctor so it is no surprise that young Darwin was interested in the study of medicine and science in general. BUT he switched gears and studied to be a country clergyman at Cambridge for a while. Darwin’s love of science won out though and a professor of Botany named J. S. Henslow got Darwin a job as a naturalist on a government ship named the H. M. S. Beagle.

Darwin spent 1831 to 1836 on this ship. He traveled the “Southern waters” which included the Cape Verde Islands. I had to look this area up. It is the area west of northern Africa. Here is a map with notes I made from: Google Maps

darwins ship travels

During Darwin’s travels he “…made extensive examinations of coral reefs and noted the relations of animals on the mainland to those of the adjacent islands, as well as the relation of living animals to the fossil remains of the same species.”

My thoughts on this so far? Here is a very bright student. He starts out studying to be a doctor, then a clergyman, and then a person who studies nature on a ship. It seems at this point that he doesn’t know what he wants to do but Darwin describes that voyage on the ship as “by far the most important event in my life.”

This young man has studied science since a very young boy. He conducted lots of experiments. He has gone to school at Dr. Butler’s day school which used a classical curriculum, he has been to Edinburgh to study medicine, and to Cambridge to study for the clergy, and then on a 5 year ship ride. This young man has had a very exciting life even if you don’t look at all the studying he accomplished also. From the reading it seems as though Darwin had not that great an experience at his “elementary school”. The text states that he had an “undistinguished career” at that day school. Maybe he was too bright, who knows, but the text also states that Darwin had “singular interests”.

Relating this to our family I would say it would be like someone 🙂 who constantly thinks about flying. A young boy who thought that he could actually physically fly. This young man has wanted to fly since he could talk. The day he found out that pilots got paid to fly he was the happiest boy alive, “They get paid to just fly?” This same young boy a year later played the goose in an on stage production. He puts his costume on and states quietly, “Now I have wings I really can fly.” This young boy regularly designs airplanes and builds them out of wood, k’nex, legos, paper, whatever. This boy will fly someday. He has a “singular interest” in flying.

Darwin’s dad saw this interest and switched his son from that day school to the Edinburgh school. This young boy was looked after and his love of science was nurtured. But to him that voyage on the ship where he could take the time to study nature for 5 years, that was what he felt was the most important event in his life. Can you see the excitement in his eyes as he says that? Can you sense the pure joy of a person who has found and been able to do what he enjoys?

If you would like to read more about the life timeline of Darwin here is a great site: Darwin Timeline

darwin site

From that site I learned that Darwin’s life was not as “great” as the book I am ready says or leaves out… I guess he went to one school before that day school but during that time his mother dies. Terrible just terrible. Take the time to read some of his life story at that link above. Very interesting. As I have told my children many times make sure you know who is writing what you are reading. The views of the writer come through in the writing even if they don’t mean them to. The edition I am reading finds it important to tell me that Darwin married his cousin (no note on how close a cousin) but does not tell me that he had 10 children or that his mama had died when he was young. Anyway, if you get a chance, take the time to read through the information at that site.

Did you know that Darwin wrote many others works? Most people figured he must have but don’t realize how many. That link above also lists these works with links to where you can read them.

Now back to the book…

Darwin lived in London after that voyage and wrote about his studies on that voyage. He got married and had lots of kids. During those years he became quite ill and moved to Down where “he lived in seclusion for the rest of his days”. He also had many friend who where scientists. While he lived in Down he spent 8 years working on his four volumes of the “classification of barnacles”. Wow, he sure was dedicated.

After that work studying a specific species he started the work of figuring out the “modification of species which he had been pondering for many years.” He continued to read other works from notable scientists. During his reading he decided he had figured something out and his scientific friends told him he should write it down. So he started to. But while he was doing this he got halfway through and found out that someone else had written an essay that stated the exact same thing Darwin was writing about.

What to do, what to do. He again talked with his scientist friends and they said to write a work that was a combination of both. But it seems like Darwin decided to write his own work anyway and there was a huge uproar because Darwin was saying it was his own idea and this other guy was saying that he came up with it first. On that first day the book Origins by Darwin was published “the entire first edition of 1,250 copies sold”. Pretty amazing.

During the next 40 years of his life he lived on a strict schedule. He was sick a lot and used this schedule to make sure that he had time for different things. He was only able to work on his scientific studies for about 4 hours a day. An interesting comment he made about how he used his time “‘a law ought to be passed’ against unhappy endings to novels.” He made time for reading other things besides scientific stuff.

He died in 1882 and is interred next to Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.

Here is a picture of where he is interred: Darwin in Westminster Abbey

darwin grave

Next comes the table of contents which is rather interesting in that is gives a short synopsis of each chapter. Following the table of contents are a few more section before the meat of the book starts. Both of these sections are written by Darwin. This post is long enough so I will begin my next post with the next section titled: “An Historical Sketch: of the progress of opinion on the origin of species, previously to the publication of the first edition of this work”.

Thoughtful Questions:

1) What are your feelings on reading this work by Darwin?

2) Christians: Do you feel as a Christian it is wrong or evil to read this work? If so, think about why you would feel this way.

3) Do you have a better understanding who Darwin is as a person when he was writing this work? If so, what impresses you most?

4) What do you find most interesting in his life leading up to the writing of this work?

5) Based on what you know now, if you had lived the life that Darwin lived, do you feel you would have done the same things he has done? Why or why not? Try and use specific parts of his life as examples.

6) Take the time right now and write down what you believe the theory of evolution to be. Writing it now before we study this work will be useful when doing the readings. Lets see if what you think you “know” now lives up to what is really in this book.

I have answered all these questions myself.

Ending thoughts:

Now, as a creationist I do not believe that the theory of evolution, as many state it, is factual. I also do not believe that all the information I have heard about Darwin’s theory of evolution is factual either. So I will enjoy reading about the life and studies of Darwin’s work as a textbook, as a work of a man who is excited to show what he has found out, as a work to be read not hidden or thought of as evil by some Christians. I have always wanted to know what this book says and that is why I am reading it. I want to know what it is I am against. I do not believe in evolution as others have told me. But I want to read for myself and say, “Yes, I know what evolution and I do not believe in it,” and really know what I am talking about. Not just regurgitate what others have told me that Darwin says. This is not a search to check on my beliefs, this is just me reading a book. I am and will always be a Christian who is a Creationist who believes that God created all things by just saying the words. Amen

* As a Bible believing creationist I am in the process of reading through Charles Darwin’s work “The Origin of Species”. I will be making notes here as I read through. These notes are just thoughts I have when I am reading. They are to help me remember and understand as I am reading. But they are also written as a review and summary of my thoughts in case my children ever  decide to read it they will know what their mama thought while reading each chapter.  I believe I am reading this work as a textbook and so will also include thoughtful questions for myself and others at the end of each section. When speaking with my children about my ideas they agreed that others may find this information useful so I am writing them here on my blog.

EDITION: Darwin, Charles.  “The Origin of Species.” The Great Books, Volume 40, 1952: pages v-252. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. and The University of Chicago

Feel free to post any useful thoughts. Please be careful to be kind in your words. This is not a debate. These are just my words to my children that I am sharing with you.