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The Descent of Man (Penguin Classics) Paperback – June 29, 2004
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“[Darwin’s] second great book . . . An intellectually daring feat.” —Richard O. Prum, in The Evolution of Beauty
About the Author
Charles Darwin, a Victorian scientist and naturalist, has become one of the most famous figures of science to date. Born in 1809 to an upper-middle-class medical family, he was destined for a career in either medicine or the Anglican Church. However, he never completed his medical education and his future changed entirely in 1831 when he joined HMS Beagle as a self-financing, independent naturalist. On returning to England in 1836 he began to write up his theories and observations which culminated in a series of books, most famously On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, where he challenged and contradicted contemporary biological and religious beliefs with two decades worth of scientific investigation and theory. Darwin's theory of natural selection is now the most widely accepted scientific model of how species evolve. He died in 1882 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Damien Hirst is an internationally renowned English artist, who has dominated the art scene in England since the 1990s. Known in particular for his series of works on death, Hirst here provides a contemporary, visual take on Darwin's theory of evolution - the struggle between life and death in nature.
William Bynum is Professor Emeritus of the History of Medicine at University College, London, and was for many years Head of the Academic Unit of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. He edited the scholarly journal Medical History from 1980 to 2001, and his previous publications include Science and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century; The Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine (co-edited with Roy Porter); The Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (with Roy Porter), The Dictionary of Medical Biography (with Helen Bynum), and History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in Suffolk.
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This has heavy, loquacious prose, characteristic of 19th Century writing style which provided greater specificity in meaning, and, simultaneously instilling a greater rather than lesser wordiness in construction of logically structured thoughts, hereby occasioning some modest rereading frequency by many for clarity.
What is especially notable in Darwin's writings was his attempt to provide such completeness of theory as to insure and provide full grounds for one to contemplate his (Darwin's) possession of feelings of insecurity - or, perhaps, by a compelling fear that any understatement might provide weakness of his arguments allowing someone else gaining recognition for his theory. Nonetheless, the works by Darwin are monumental and the work of a genius - especially in the amount of material he instilled into his `proofs', all without aid of a word processor or computer. I imagine he may have used index cards. He touched only lightly on the topic of creationism, knowing controversy would erupt, but, he nonetheless reserved a room for God; Charles was, himself, a caring, sincere, sensitive person and worldly person.
The book is a slow, at times tedious, read; and, after 182 pages, the subject matter turns to "Principles of Sexual Selection" that deals with the secondary sexual characters: how those arose, became transformed and were progressively modified by sexual selection (sexual choices) rather than natural selection. This subject is taken up systematically by Orders & Classes, from lowest to highest, and finally to the Mammals, Primates, etc. to Man/Woman where virtually everything is considered: -- size, hairiness, strength, beauty, marriage customs, etc. The extensiveness of detail, often appearing minute, in diverse species or subspecies, geographic location, herd size, foods, etc. is awesome - but Darwin supported is writings with intensely scripted references to learned scholars in botany, biology, and anthropology, that, along with numerical support of his data, provides a comfortable bed for his arguments in support of his Natural Selection Theory.
Interestingly, even with DNA evidences to support Ontogeny and Phylogeny, there are those who still see only a fabrication of purposeful lies by atheists and non-God Fearing peoples.
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