If an ignorant man went about saying that the earth was flat, the scientific man would promptly and confidently answer, “Oh, nonsense; of course it’s round.” He might even condescend to give the real reasons… But when the private citizen rushes wild-eyed down the streets… calling out “Have you heard the news? Darwin’s wrong!” the scientific man does not say, “Oh, nonsense, of course he’s right.” He says tremulously, “Not entirely wrong; surely not entirely wrong”; and we can draw our conclusions… G. K. Chesterton


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The Origin then and now : an interpretive guide to the Origin of species David N. Reznick ; with an introduction by Michael Ruse Princeton : Princeton University Press, c 2010 Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. xvi, 432 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Illustration shows an interior view of a hall in a museum with four men sitting quietly beneath a shelf of "Books of Religious Reference"; there is a small crowd gathered before them. Further along the hall is another group of four men sitting quietly beneath a shelf of "Books of Scientific Reference"; part of the display, labeled "Geography", shows an owl perched on an open book labeled "Kosmos" and a man standing next to a globe. Further still along the hall is a man lecturing to a large gathering in a section labeled "Chemistry". Portraits of Nicolaus Copernicus, Charles Darwin, Benedictus de Spinoza, and Thomas Paine hang from the vaulted archways above.

Illustration shows an interior view of a hall in a museum with four men sitting quietly beneath a shelf of “Books of Religious Reference”; there is a small crowd gathered before them. Further along the hall is another group of four men sitting quietly beneath a shelf of “Books of Scientific Reference”; part of the display, labeled “Geography”, shows an owl perched on an open book labeled “Kosmos” and a man standing next to a globe. Further still along the hall is a man lecturing to a large gathering in a section labeled “Chemistry”. Portraits of Nicolaus Copernicus, Charles Darwin, Benedictus de Spinoza, and Thomas Paine hang from the vaulted archways above.

Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species is one of the most widely cited books in modern science. Yet tackling this work can be daunting for students and general readers alike because of Darwin’s Victorian prose – the only clear part of the work – and the complexity and scope of his ideas which ranged from fantastic conjecture to wild surmise to unsustainable conclusions.

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The “Origin” Then and Now is a guide to Darwin’s work, making it accessible to a much wider audience by deconstructing and reorganizing the Origin in a way that allows for a modern explanation of its key concepts. The Origin is examined within the historical context in which it was written, and modern examples are used to reveal how – if not why – this work remains a much cited document today.

Illustration shows a number of historical figures enjoying the pleasant atmosphere of "Sheol" after suffering the flames of Hell; at left is a dejected Devil sitting beneath a sign that states "This Business is Removed to Sheol, Opposite". Among those ferried across the river by "Charon" are "Hypatia, Fanny Elssler, Voltaire, Frederick [the] Great, Socrates, J. Offenbach, Darwin, J.S. Mill, Rousseau, George Sand, Galileo, Jefferson, Th. Paine, Goethe, [and] H. Heine".

Illustration shows a number of historical figures enjoying the pleasant atmosphere of “Sheol” after suffering the flames of Hell; at left is a dejected Devil sitting beneath a sign that states “This Business is Removed to Sheol, Opposite”. Among those ferried across the river by “Charon” are “Hypatia, Fanny Elssler, Voltaire, Frederick [the] Great, Socrates, J. Offenbach, Darwin, J.S. Mill, Rousseau, George Sand, Galileo, Jefferson, Th. Paine, Goethe, [and] H. Heine”.

In this guide, Reznick shows how many peculiarities of the Origin can be explained by the state of science in 1859, helping readers to grasp the true scope of Darwin’s departure from the mainstream thinking of his day. He reconciles Darwin’s concept of species with our current concept, which has advanced in important ways since Darwin first wrote the Origin, and he demonstrates why Darwin’s theory unifies the biological sciences under a single conceptual framework much as Newton did for physics. Drawing liberally from the facsimile of the first edition of the Origin, Reznick enables readers to follow along as Darwin develops his ideas.

Caricature showing English naturalist Charles Darwin as a monkey hanging from tree of Science. A response to the 1871 publication of his book The descent of man.

Caricature showing English naturalist Charles Darwin as a monkey hanging from tree of Science. A response to the 1871 publication of his book The descent of man.

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Comments Off on If an ignorant man went about saying that the earth was flat, the scientific man would promptly and confidently answer, “Oh, nonsense; of course it’s round.” He might even condescend to give the real reasons… But when the private citizen rushes wild-eyed down the streets… calling out “Have you heard the news? Darwin’s wrong!” the scientific man does not say, “Oh, nonsense, of course he’s right.” He says tremulously, “Not entirely wrong; surely not entirely wrong”; and we can draw our conclusions… G. K. Chesterton

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