Darwin on species Notes for November 1

Main points

First, we put the parts of Darwin’s story on the board. Then we assembled the theory of the origin of species using those parts.

Second, we talked about whether evolution by natural selection is a story of increasing perfection or one of imperfection. As Anna put it, the correct answer is “both”.


Here are some of the trickier bits.

Why does Darwin begin by writing about the gap between the number of organisms there could be and the number that there actually are?

Remember that he was tremendously impressed by the lessons from the selective breeding of plants and animals by human beings. This is critical evidence for the natural variability of organisms as well as for the inheritability of traits.

Strictly speaking, it’s reproduction that matters. Survival is relevant insofar as it contributes to reproduction.

Not that this is the way that you should think of it. Don’t try to impress the girls by acting too stupid, in other words.

By the way, could someone burn a disc of the bird of paradise? Or stop by my office to show me how to use the network. Warning, I have a mac.


Showing that a dumb process like evolution by natural selection can produce wonderful results is important. That’s something that those who believe that species originate from intelligent design deny.

But it’s also important that plants and animals bear traces of their dumb history. Imperfections, parts that are useless or function poorly, say, serve as evidence that organisms weren’t designed but were instead formed by a slow, dumb, process.

This page was written by Michael Green for The Image of God, ID-1, Fall 2007. It was posted November 1, 2007.
The Image of God