I’m holding off on any sort of critique right now. That will come when we deal with the fossil section. I am currently using the Great Books edition. In terms of prose style, it’s quite good. Much of Darwin, himself schooled on Milton, is reminiscent of W.G.T. Shedd. It is wordy at times, but that was a 19th century affectation.
Chapter 1: Variation under Domestication
The mechanism of evolution is natural selection. Interestingly, Darwin is still using causal language, in noting that there must be some “efficient cause” (Darwin 9).
Key point: “A much more important rule….is that, at whatever period of life a peculiarity first appeared, it tends to reappear in the offspring at a corresponding age” (11).
Darwin gives a running commentary on different changes in microevolution. Most of this is true, but illustrates a point left unsaid: all of these variations are evidence of design (by humans), not of random selection.
Humor: “On the other hand, cats from the nocturnal rambling habits cannot be easily matched, and, although so much valued by women and children, we rarely see a distinct breed long kept up” (22). He means that because cats are wild and mate promiscuously, you won’t find identifiable cat strains. This, of course, is false.
Conclusion: “Changed conditions of life are of the highest importance in causing variability” and “Over all these causes of Change, the accumulative action of Selection….seems to have been predominant Power” (23).
Chapter 2: Variation Under Nature
Darwin admits no one has come up with a good definition of species (24). This point shouldn’t be overlooked. If specieses aren’t locked in stone, then we need to acknowledge the possibility that a critter could be “80% dog.” Or even more alarming, 75% human.
Question: is there a universal of fishness? If there is, then Darwininism is in an odd place.
He admits that varieties cannot be distinguished from species except only if we have the intermediate links (31). This is the Holy Grail of Darwinism.