Charles Darwin changed the world when he wrote this book.
I mean if you think about it logically, no other book has had such a powerful impact on the way humanity views the earth; yes, we have countless religious doctrine, but never before had there been a book that so drastically alternated our perceptions of the mechanisms that are behind our existence. I’m not talking about on a spiritual level, a level of ideas that cannot be scientifically proven or unproven, but on an actual physical level.
These ideas weren’t accepted overnight, few things are, but over time they began to be more and more accepted. Even today we still refer to Darwin’s ideas as “the theory of Evolution” despite the fact that it is now empirically proven as to how we got where we are. It is, generally speaking, a culturally accepted idea. The fact that we still refer to something most accept to be fact as a theory is a phenomenon. It’s unusual.
Contrary to popular belief, Darwin did not seek to debunk any religious beliefs. In fact, the research he carried out put him in constant confusion about his own Christianity. For a time he believed religion and science could work together; he believed that science helped to explain some of the ideas in creation stories, but eventually he stopped believing. He lost his faith and embraced the logical mind of the scientist; again, he didn’t seek to counter religion. It was just a simple case that over time he could no longer personally and logically believe in it: it could not be proved rationally. As a student of literature, as a lover of stories, history, nature and narrative, I find myself drawn to ideas of religion and science. For anybody to call religion groundless (I say this from my own agnostically driven perspective) is to divulge a massive lack of judgment. Without wanting to offend any atheists, or anybody of faith, we will never know either way which is ultimately right. But, I do most ardently think that we can only begin to understand what it is to be human by reading and exploring the ideas of both religion and science. They have both been perpetuated by man, so I think we owe it to ourselves to try and understand why.
Some of you may have noticed how eclectic my reading tastes have become. I pretty much read anything. I have many reading lists-both shortlists and longlists- but four works I simply need to read in my lifetime are The Qur'an (I have a beautiful edition I picked up from a used book store- a late 19th Century edition), The King James Bible (I’ve recently finished genesis), Relativity: The Special and the General Theory by Einstein and A Brief History of Time by Hawkins. The point is, I think in today’s world we need to understand both religion and science. Both parts form a larger part of our society.
Well, anyway, that was a rather large digression. I read the origin of species back in 2013 for the first time. My second reading was more of a gloss over of certain key ideas, and a revisit of passages that I flagged down before. The ideas in the book are obviously ground-breaking, though not the first historical example of them. But, for me, this book is more of a slog than leisure driven reading. The writing isn’t great and it is terribly repetitive at times, but I suppose that’s what comes with observing the natural world in such scientific detail. From the findings here Darwin would eventually go on to lay down his full arguments in The Decent of Man, a read that sounds more compelling and all encompassing. So it’s another one to add to my list!