Charles Darwin explains Natural Selection

Darwin worm

“Caricature of Darwin’s theory in the Punch almanac for 1882, published at the end of 1881 when Charles Darwin had recently published his last book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms.–Via Wikipedia.

After more than 150 years of its publication, Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species draws a lot of debate. More often than not these debates are unfortunate; many of them should not even exist, especially if we take into account that Darwin cleared many of its nuances in a few passages at the beginning of his now classic book. The following is a short passage that accounts for Darwin’s response to the remarks that were very common in regards to his theory; remarks that are still common today, and show an utter disregard to scientific literacy:

“This preservation of favourable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection, and would be left either a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in certain polymorphic species, or would ultimately become fixed, owing to the nature of the organisms and the nature of the conditions.

Several writers have misapprehended or objected to the term Natural Selection. Some have even imagined that natural selection induces variability, whereas it implies only the preservation of such variations as arise and are beneficial to the being under its conditions of life. No one objects to agriculturists speaking of the potent effects of man’s selection; and in this case the individual differences given by nature, which man for some object selects, must of first necessity occur. Others have objected that the term selection implies conscious choice in the animals which become modified; and it has even been urged that,as plants have no volition, natural selection is not applicable to them! In the literal sense of the word, no doubt, natural selection is a false term;¬†but whoever objected to chemists speaking of the elective affinities of the various elements?–and yet an acid cannot strictly be said to elect the base with which it in preference combines. It has been said that I speak of natural selection as an active power or Deity; but who objects to an author speaking of the attraction of gravity as as ruling the movements of the planets? Everyone knows what is meant and is implied by such metaphorical expressions; and they are almost necessary for brevity. So again it is difficult to avoid personifying the word Nature, only the aggregate ¬†action and product of many natural laws, and by laws the sequence of events as ascertained by us. With a little familiarity such superficial objections will be forgotten.”–[Pages 94-95 of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life]