Tuesday, September 11, 2018

From Darwin's own thoughts. Part II.

This is part two, a continuation of my annotated selection of quotes from Charles Darwin's autobiography (my comments in blue):

"In July I opened my first note-book for facts in relation to the Origin of Species, about which I had long reflected, and never ceased working for the next twenty years."

Again, evidence of such patience!  And the result shows why one need not, perhaps should not, rush to publish.

(By Charles Lyell, the distinguished senior geologist and close Darwin friend): ""What a good thing it would be if every scientific man was to die when sixty years old, as afterwards he would be sure to oppose all new doctrines." But he hoped that now he might be allowed to live."

Keeping new and fresh while getting old?  Rarely!  Make your mark while you can....

"Our fixing ourselves here has answered admirably in one way, which we did not anticipate, namely, by being very convenient for frequent visits from our children."

Keeping priorities about what means most in life.

"I have therefore nothing to record during the rest of my life, except the publication of my several books."

On his very extensive many-years' work on barnacles:  
"Nevertheless,  I doubt whether the work was worth the consumption of so much time."

The question and how he mused about it:
"It was evident that such facts as these, as well as many others, could only be explained on the supposition that species gradually become modified; and the subject haunted me. But it was equally evident that neither the action of the surrounding conditions, nor the will of the organisms (especially in the case of plants) could account for the innumerable cases in which organisms of every kind are beautifully adapted to their habits of life— for instance, a woodpecker or a tree-frog to climb trees, or a seed for dispersal by hooks or plumes. I had always been much struck by such adaptations, and until these could be explained it seemed to me almost useless to endeavour to prove by indirect evidence that species have been modified.

I worked on true Baconian principles, and without any theory collected facts on a wholesale scale, more especially with respect to domesticated productions."

Darwin the observer, not the rusher to conclusions!

"I soon perceived that selection was the keystone of man's success in making useful races of animals and plants. But how selection could be applied to organisms living in a state of nature remained for some time a mystery to me."

Yes, agriculture has done it--changed species' traits--but how does it happen in Nature?

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