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On The Origin of Species (A CSA Word Classic) Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook, CD

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From the Back Cover

The publication of Darwin's The Origin of Species in 1859 marked a dramatic turning point in scientific thought.

The volume had taken Darwin more than twenty years to publish, in part because he envisioned the storm of controversy it was certain to unleash. Indeed, selling out its first edition on its first day, The Origin of Species revolutionized science, philosophy, and theology.

Darwin's reasoned, documented arguments carefully advance his theory of natural selection and assertion that species were not created all at once by a divine hand but started with a few simple forms that mutated and adapted over time. Whether commenting on his own ill health, discussing his experiments to test instinct in bees, or relating a conversation about a South American burrowing rodent, Darwin's monumental achievement is surprisingly personal and delightfully readable. Its ideas remain extremely profound even today, making it the most influential book in the natural sciences ever written -- a work not just important to its time, but to the history of humankind. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One


Variation Under Domestication


Causes of Variability—Effects of Habit—Correlation of Growth—Inheritance—Character of Domestic Varieties—Difficulty of distinguishing between Varieties and Species—Origin of Domestic Varieties from one or more Species—Domestic Pigeons, their Differences and Origin—Principle of Selection anciently followed, its Effects—Methodical and Unconscious Selection—Unknown Origin of our Domestic Productions—Circumstances favourable to Man's power of Selection


WHEN WE look to the individuals of the same variety or sub-variety of our older cultivated plants and animals, one of the first points which strikes us, is, that they generally differ much more from each other, than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature. When we reflect on the vast diversity of the plants and animals which have been cultivated, and which have varied during all ages under the most different climates and treatment, I think we are driven to conclude that this greater variability is simply due to our domestic productions having been raised under conditions of life not so uniform as, and somewhat different from, those to which the parent species have been exposed under nature. There is, also, I think, some probability in the view propounded by Andrew Knight, that this variability may be partly connected with excess of food. It seems pretty clear that organic beings must be exposed during several generations to the new conditions of life to cause any appreciable amount of variation; and that when the organisation has once begun to vary, it generally continues to vary for many generations. No case is on record of a variable being ceasing to be variable under cultivation. Our oldest cultivated plants, such as wheat, still often yield new varieties: our oldest domesticated animals are still capable of rapid improvement or modification.
It has been disputed at what period of life the causes of variability, whatever they may be, generally act; whether during the early or late period of development of the embryo, or at the instant of conception. Geoffroy St Hilaire's experiments show that unnatural treatment of the embryo causes monstrosities; and monstrosities cannot be separated by any clear line of distinction from mere variations. But I am strongly inclined to suspect that the most frequent cause of variability may be attributed to the male and female reproductive elements having been affected prior to the act of conception. Several reasons make me believe in this; but the chief one is the remarkable effect which confinement or cultivation has on the functions of the reproductive system; this system appearing to be far more susceptible than any other part of the organization, to the action of any change in the conditions of life. Nothing is more easy than to tame an animal, and few things more difficult than to get it to breed freely under confinement, even in the many cases when the male and female unite. How many animals there are which will not breed, though living long under not very close confinement in their native country! This is generally attributed to vitiated instincts; but how many cultivated plants display the utmost vigour, and yet rarely or never seed! In some few such cases it has been found out that very trifling changes, such as a little more or less water at some particular period of growth, will determine whether or not the plant sets a seed. I cannot here enter on the copious details which I have collected on this curious subject; but to show how singular the laws are which determine the reproduction of animals under confinement, I may just mention that carnivorous animals, even from the tropics, breed in this country pretty freely under confinement, with the exception of the plantigrades or bear family; whereas, carnivorous birds, with the rarest exceptions, hardly ever lay fertile eggs. Many exotic plants have pollen utterly worthless, in the same exact condition as in the most sterile hybrids. When, on the one hand, we see domesticated animals and plants, though often weak and sickly, yet breeding quite freely under confinement; and when, on the other hand, we see individuals, though taken young from a state of nature, perfectly tamed, long-lived, and healthy (of which I could give numerous instances), yet having their reproductive system so seriously affected by unperceived causes as to fail in acting, we need not be surprised at this system, when it does act under confinement, acting not quite regularly, and producing offspring not perfectly like their parents or variable.

Sterility has been said to be the bane of horticulture; but on this view we owe variability to the same cause which produces sterility; and variability is the source of all the choicest productions of the garden. I may add, that as some organisms will breed most freely under the most unnatural conditions (for instance, the rabbit and ferret kept in hutches), showing that their reproductive system has not been thus affected; so will some animals and plants withstand domestication or cultivation, and vary very slightly—perhaps hardly more than in a state of nature.

A long list could easily be given of 'sporting plants;' by this term gardeners mean a single bud or offset, which suddenly assumes a new and sometimes very different character from that of the rest of the plant. Such buds can be propagated by grafting, &c., and sometimes by seed. These 'sports' are extremely rare under nature, but far from rare under cultivation; and in this case we see that the treatment of the parent has affected a bud or offset, and not the ovules or pollen. But it is the opinion of most physiologists that there is no essential difference between a bud and an ovule in their earliest stages of formation; so that, in fact, 'sports' support my view, that variability may be largely attributed to the ovules or pollen, or to both, having been affected by the treatment of the parent prior to the act of conception. These cases anyhow show that variation is not necessarily connected, as some authors have supposed, with the act of generation.

Seedlings from the same fruit, and the young of the same litter, sometimes differ considerably from each other, though both the young and the parents, as Mxller has remarked, have apparently been exposed to exactly the same conditions of life; and this shows how unimportant the direct effects of the conditions of life are in comparison with the laws of reproduction, and of growth, and of inheritance; for had the action of the conditions been direct, if any of the young had varied, all would probably have varied in the same manner. To judge how much, in the case of any variation, we should attribute to the direct action of heat, moisture, light, food, &c., is most difficult: my impression is, that with animals such agencies have produced very little direct effect, though apparently more in the case of plants. Under this point of view, Mr Buckman's recent experiments on plants seem extremely valuable. When all or nearly all the individuals exposed to certain conditions are affected in the same way, the change at first appears to be directly due to such conditions; but in some cases it can be shown that quite opposite conditions produce similar changes of structure. Nevertheless some slight amount of change may, I think, be attributed to the direct action of the conditions of life—as, in some cases, increased size from amount of food, colour from particular kinds of food and from light, and perhaps the thickness of fur from climate.

Habit also has a deciding influence, as in the period of flowering with plants when transported from one climate to another. In animals it has a more marked effect; for instance, I find in the domestic duck that the bones of the wing weigh less and the bones of the leg more, in proportion to the whole skeleton, than do the same bones in the wild-duck; and I presume that this change may be safely attributed to the domestic duck flying much less, and walking more, than its wild parent. The great and inherited development of the udders in cows and goats in countries where they are habitually milked, in comparison with the state of these organs in other countries, is another instance of the effect of use. Not a single domestic animal can be named which has not in some country drooping ears; and the view suggested by some authors, that the drooping is due to the disuse of the muscles of the ear, from the animals not being much alarmed by danger, seems probable.

There are many laws regulating variation, some few of which can be dimly seen, and will be hereafter briefly mentioned. I will here only allude to what may be called correlation of growth. Any change in the embryo or larva will almost certainly entail changes in the mature animal. In monstrosities, the correlations between quite distinct parts are very curious; and many instances are given in Isidore Geoffroy St Hilaire's great work on this subject. Breeders believe that long limbs are almost always accompanied by an elongated head. Some instances of correlation are quite whimsical; thus cats with blue eyes are invariably deaf; colour and constitutional peculiarities go together, of which many remarkable cases could be given amongst animals and plants. From the facts collected by Heusinger, it appears that white sheep and pigs are differently affected from coloured individuals by certain vegetable poisons. Hairless dogs have imperfect teeth; long-haired and coarse-haired animals are apt to have, as is asserted, long or many horns; pigeons with feathered feet have skin between their outer toes; pigeons with short beaks have small feet, and those with long beaks large feet. Hence, if man goes on selecting, and thus augmenting, any peculiarity, he will almost certainly unconsciously modify other parts of the structure, owing to the mysterious laws of the correlation of growth.

The result of the various, quite unknown, or dimly seen laws of variation is infinitely complex and diversified. It is well worth while carefully to study the several treatises published on some of our old cultivated plants, as on the hyacinth, potato, even the dahlia, &c.; and it is really surprising to note the endless points in structure and constitution in which the varieties and subvarieties differ slightly from each other. The whole organization seems to have become plastic, and tends to depart in some small degree from that of the parental type.

Any variation which is not inherited is unimportant for us. But the number and diversity of inheritable deviations of structure, both those of slight and those of considerable physiological importance, is endless. Dr Prosper Lucas's treatise, in two large volumes, is the fullest and the best on this subject. No breeder doubts how strong is the tendency to inheritance: like produces like is his fundamental belief: doubts have been thrown on this principle by theoretical writers alone. When a deviation appears not unfrequently, and we see it in the father and child, we cannot tell whether it may not be due to the same original cause acting on both; but when amongst individuals, apparently exposed to the same conditions, any very rare deviation, due to some extraordinary combination of circumstances, appears in the parent—say, once amongst several million individuals—and it reappears in the child, the mere doctrine of chances almost compels us to attribute its reappearance to inheritance. Every one must have heard of cases of albinism, prickly skin, hairy bodies, &c., appearing in several members of the same family. If strange and rare deviations of structure are truly inherited, less strange and commoner deviations may be freely admitted to be inheritable. Perhaps the correct way of viewing the whole subject, would be, to look at the inheritance of every character what ever as the rule, and non-inheritance as the anomaly.

The laws governing inheritance are quite unknown; no one can say why the same peculiarity in different individuals of the same species, and in individuals of different species, is sometimes inherited and sometimes not so; why the child often reverts in certain characters to its grandfather or grandmother or other much more remote ancestor; why a peculiarity is often transmitted from one sex to both sexes, or to one sex alone, more commonly but not exclusively to the like sex. It is a fact of some little importance to us, that peculiarities appearing in the males of our domestic breed are often transmitted either exclusively, or in a much greater degree, to males alone. A much more important rule, which I think may be trusted, is that, whatever period of life a peculiarity first appears in, it tends to appear in the offspring at a corresponding age, though sometimes earlier. In many cases this could not be otherwise; thus the inherited peculiarities in the horns of cattle could appear only in the offspring when nearly mature; peculiarities in the silkworm are known to appear at the corresponding caterpillar or cocoon stage. But hereditary diseases and some other facts make me believe that the rule has a wider extension, and that when there is no apparent reason why a peculiarity should appear at any particular age, yet that it does tend to appear in the offspring at the same period at which it first appeared in the parent. I believe this rule to be of the highest importance in explaining the laws of embryology. These remarks are of course confined to the first appearance of the peculiarity, and not to its primary cause, which may have acted on the ovules or male element; in nearly the same manner as in the crossed offspring from a short-horned cow by a long-horned bull, the greater length of horn, though appearing late in life, is clearly due to the male element.

Having alluded to the subject of reversion, I may here refer to a statement often made by naturalists—namely, that our domestic varieties, when run wild, gradually but certainly revert in character to their aboriginal stocks. Hence it has been argued that no deductions can be drawn from domestic races to species in a state of nature. I have in vain endeavoured to discover on what decisive facts the above statement has so often and so boldly been made. There would be great difficulty in proving its truth: we may safely conclude that very many of the most strongly-marked domestic varieties could not possibly live in a wild state. In many cases we do not know what the aboriginal stock was, and so could not tell whether or not nearly perfect reversion had ensued. It would be quite necessary, in order to prevent the effects of intercrossing, that only a single variety should be turned loose in its new home. Nevertheless, as our varieties certainly do occasionally revert in some of their characters to ancestral forms, it seems to me not improbable, that if we could succeed in naturalising, or were to cultivate, during many generations, the several races, for instance, of the cabbage, in very poor soil (in which case, however, some effect would have to be attributed to the direct action of the poor soil), that they would to a large extent, or even wholly, revert to the wild aboriginal stock. Whether or not the experiment would succeed, is not of great importance for our line of argument; for by the experiment itself the conditions of life are changed. If it could be shown that our domestic varieties manifested a strong tendency to reversion,—that is, to lose their acquired characters, whilst kept under unchanged conditions, and whilst kept in a considerable body, so that free intercrossing might check, by blending together, any slight deviations of structure, in such case, I grant that we could deduce nothing from domestic varieties in regard to species. But there is not a shadow of evidence in favour of this view: to assert that we could not breed our cart and race-horses, long and short-horned cattle, and poultry of various breeds, and esculent vegetables, for an almost infinite number of generations, would be opposed to all experience. I may add, that when under nature the conditions of life do change, variations and reversions of character probably do occur; but natural selection, as will hereafter be explained, will determine how far the new characters thus arising shall be preserved. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: A CSA Word Classic
  • Audio CD: 1 pages
  • Publisher: CSA Word; Abridged edition (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934997005
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934997000
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.1 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,061 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,767,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Caraleisa VINE VOICE on October 26, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The original book by Charles Darwin is a classic that should be on everyone's reading list. There are ample reviews here which address it, praise it, and I am completely in agreement with them. Darwin's Origin of Species is a true masterpiece.

Unfortunately, this review is to help readers/buyers realize that there is a 'vandalized' version which has been published, and to tell you how to avoid it and get the real thing.

To explain; there is yet another edition also called "The Origin of Species, 150th Anniversary Edition", put out by Christian Fundamentalist Ray Comfort in an attempt to discredit evolutionary theory and Charles Darwin, and it has some extra 50 pages of unintelligible drivel about creationism, as well as having ABRIDGED Darwin's original text. If you want to read about creationism, find another book... if you want the facts, read ALL of what Darwin has to say, and please don't give any money to Comfort by accidentally buying his ABRIDGED version.

Note that he used the EXACT same name as the 'real' anniversary edition -- "The Origin Of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition by Charles Darwin". You can easily tell which version you're getting by who wrote the introduction - go with Julian Huxley, NOT Ray Comfort, and you'll have the correct and complete version.

Also, note that Amazon reviews are mixed between the books (normally not a problem at all) - I hope they are straightening this out, but currently that's not the case. Sadly, the negative reviews of the Comfort version are bringing down the rating of the 'good/real' book.

Sorry to have to write about the 'drama', but I'm sure you want to know that you have ordered the correct book, and I know you'll love it.

Enjoy.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
My four-star rating is more for this particular product than for the work of Darwin itself. Clearly Darwin's book is the cornerstone of modern biology, and I won't even pretend to try to rate its importance using one to five stars.

However, I felt it was important to let people know that this is the *sixth* edition of the book. I ordered it thinking it was the first, although I admit I had no reason to believe that other than that it did not specify that it was any other edition. The main problem with later editions is that Darwin continually responded to his critics in subsequent editions, thus changing some aspects of his theory. He also added the obnoxious concession "by the Creator" to his beautiful final sentence in order to appease the religious critics. The sixth (final) edition even has an extra chapter in response to criticisms by Catholic biologist George Mivart (which chapter is present in this edition, thus proving it is the sixth edition).

The benefit to later editions would be that they contain minor corrections to the writing, as well as these answers to objections and criticism, but at the same time I don't feel that Darwin's answers needed to be added to the book itself. "The Origin" should simply present his theory (as the first edition does) and he could easily have answered his critics in other ways and not by editing the actual theory itself.

But to reiterate my main point, I am not reviewing the actual work of Darwin. I am posting this review to inform people of which edition they are getting with this particular book, because I wish I had known in advance.

Edit: I should add that the copy I received did not have the same cover as what is displayed here. My copy shows a bird, a wildcat, and a dolphin on the cover. The cover shown on the product page at the time of writing is of a ship. However, my copy is still the 150th Anniversary Edition (Signet Classics) with an introduction by Julian Huxley.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to admit, I'm astonished by the ease with which one can be fooled into thinking they've procured the full and legitimate content of Darwin's signature work. A couple of easy clues, though:

Darwin refers in this version to a diagram in chapter IV, to illustrate "The Probable Effects of the Process of Natural Selection Through Divergence of Character and Extinction, On the Descendants of a Common Ancestor." This diagram is absent in this version, and this absence is what started me on the road to identifying this version as a fraud. I began to search for other editions of "Origins" to see if they included the diagram. And that search found not only that most versions did contain the diagram, but that the full text of this work ran to over 550 pages - twice as many as are included in this version.

I should also have known better than to have procured a free version. You truly do get what you pay for.

Be aware, as you look for a reliable version of the work, that there are many fraudulent versions out there. I won't go into detail on this, as this review concerns this specific version. But I can say that I've purchased a version that I am satisfied is a faithful rendering of the complete content. The ISBN number is 978-0-451-52906-0. It's the 150th anniversary edition, with an introduction by Julian Huxley. Still, don't take my word for it, and do your own due diligence. There is another "150th anniversary" version with an introduction by Ray Comfort, who is a Christian prothselitizer. So be careful.

Hopefully this will prevent you from having to start reading the work again from the beginning, as I've had to do. But I'm glad to have figured it out and separated fact from fiction.
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