Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Darwin's Struggle - The Evolution of the Origin of Species

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

--Charles Darwin, On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray. [1st edition] published November 24, 1859

Today on Cosmic Visions we commemorate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s landmark book “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” with the wonderful BBC documentary “Darwin's Struggle - The Evolution of the Origin of Species.”

This stunning documentary tells the little-known story of how Darwin came to write his great masterpiece.

On the Origin of Species, is a book which explains the wonderful variety of life as emerging out of death and the struggle of existence by means of a process he called Natural Selection.

Natural selection is the processes by which heritable traits that make it more likely for an organism to survive and successfully reproduce to become more common in a population over successive generations. It is a key mechanism of evolution.

In the twenty years he took to develop this brilliant idea into a revolutionary book, Darwin went through a personal struggle every bit as turbulent as that of the natural world he observed. Fortunately, he left us an extraordinary record of his brilliant insights, observations of nature, and touching expressions of love and affection for those around him.

Darwin also wrote frank accounts of family tragedies, physical illnesses and moments of self-doubt, as he laboured towards publication of the book that would change the way we see the world. The story is told with the benefit of Darwin's secret notes and correspondence, enhanced by natural history filming, powerful imagery from the time and contributions from leading contemporary biographers and scientists.

Author's Note: The complete works of Charles Darwin, including the first edition of On the Origin of Species, are available online for your reading pleasure.

Darwin's Struggle - The Evolution of the Origin of Species