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In the late summer of 1859, Charles Darwin finally completed the last
paragraph of his greatest work on The Origin Of Species.
But he wasn't drawing his inspiration from the exotic islands
that he'd visited on his famous voyage on HMS Beagle.
A chalk bank in Kent, near his house at Downe,
provided his metaphor for the laws
that explain the diversity of life on our planet.
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.
Darwin was unleashing a new vision of nature,
where species evolved independently from the guiding hand of a creator.
The established vision of a harmonious world, divinely ordaine
to serve God's noblest creation, mankind, would be shattered.
He was very aware
that what he was dealing with was effectively intellectual dynamite,
and he kept most of his thoughts about what he was doing
in terms of where man might come from,
where new species might arise, effectively secret.
It was a secret with which Darwin had wrestled for 20 years.
20 years of unflinching support from his wife Emma, who feared that
her beloved husband might be consigned to eternal damnation
for challenging traditional beliefs.
Together they would endure two decades of debilitating illness,
self-doubt, and family tragedy.
It was a life struggle that Darwin also saw
among the animals and plants in the fields and tangled banks
of the Kentish countryside.
A struggle that is a founding principle of his theory of natural selection.
And the last paragraph of the Origin Of Species really goes out with a perfect bang.
The whole book has been about the struggle for existence
and what Tennyson had called nature red in tooth and claw.
The last paragraph gives, to me, a sense of hope.
It sort of shows that this war of all against all,
actually has a result and the result is the living world we see around us.
The beauties of the tangled bank,
the worms and the butterflies and the grass and the orchids,
all of these beauties of nature emerge from Darwin's simple idea.
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 along
according to the fixed laws of gravity,
from so simple a beginning
endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful
have been, and are being, evolved.
Just as beauty and wonder emerge out of a war of nature,
so too did Charles Darwin's great book evolve out of years
of painstaking research and inner conflict.
At the age of 33,
Charles Robert Darwin was already an established gentleman naturalist.
His substantial private income
enabled him to pursue his particular interest,
solving what had been called "the mystery of mysteries".
How animals and plants might transmute or evolve.
It was to find a quiet place to write
that in 1842 he and his burgeoning family had moved to a house
just outside London near the village of Downe, in Kent.
After several fruitless searches in Surrey and elsewhere,
we found this house and purchased it.
I was pleased by the diversified appearance
of the vegetation proper to a chalk district,
and so unlike what I had been accustomed to in the Midland counties.
And still more pleased with the extreme quietness
and rusticity of the place.
Darwin knew in the country there was space to expand his experiments,
to walk, to observe nature.
There was plenty of information there for him to draw on
and then there was a very important factor for Darwin
of getting into a space where he felt safe,
with his secret theory of transmutation.
In the early 1840s, transmutation or evolution was still a radical idea,
associated with social revolution.
It was a secret that he shared with his wife and first cousin
Emma Wedgwood, whom he had married three years earlier.
I marvel at my good fortune that Emma, so infinitely my superior
in every single moral quality, should have consented to be my wife.
Emma was the precondition for everything that he did.
She... created a love-shaped space
where he felt safe to work obsessively without fearing
the loss of love and damaging their relationship.
She was to nurse him through years of recurrent bouts of illness,
the nature of which remains unclear to this day.
Possibly damage caused by a South American parasite,
inflamed by anxiety and nervous tension.
25 years' extreme spasmodic daily and nightly flatulence.
Vomiting preceded by shivering, hysterical crying,
dying sensations or half-faint and copious and very pallid urine.
Air fatigues bring on head symptoms, nervousness when Emma leaves me.
I think she was always concerned about his health.
She was constantly trying to persuade him
to have a day off here, go on a trip there,
not because she wanted his company,
but because she felt if he carried on working at the pace
at which he was going, then he would become more ill.
Emma was to provide Charles with ten children, seven of whom survived to adulthood.
As a father, Charles Darwin did not conform
to the standard Victorian stereotype
of the distant and stern pater familias.
Darwin was very much a family man.
He writes rather wryly one year
that his wife hadn't been doing very well last year
because she hadn't had a baby,
which is pretty rude for a Victorian, I have to say.
But what's fascinating is that he used his children
as experimental animals.
He noted their expressions when they were crying, when they were angry
and he saw how similar they were to the expression of a dog.
He saw his family as part of the human family,
the human family as part of the mammal family,
the mammal family as at one with the primroses.
And that really shows that he saw humankind
as an intrinsic part of the living world and not apart from it.
This was radically different from the established Christian view
of the time, where mankind was God's special and separate creation.
He kept his real opinions in a private notebook.
Man in his arrogance thinks of himself as a great work,
worthy of the interposition of a deity.
More humble and I believe true,
to think him created from animals.
And Charles and Emma did what animals do,
only they had a bed to do it in, upstairs.
But then because Darwin believed strongly in analogy,
it's not only animals that do what people do, but it's also plants
that do what people do in strange and complicated ways.
So from the marriage bed to the flower bed was only 100 yards
and Darwin would go downstairs,
out the back door, down to his flower beds
where experiments were being performed and how these creatures,
he even regarded some plants as simple animals,
also reproduced themselves.
Just over a year after he arrived at Downe,
he felt bold enough to tentatively raise the issue of species change
with his botanist friend Joseph Hooker.
At last gleams of light have come
and I'm almost convinced that species are not immutable.
It is like confessing a murder.
Hooker's response was noncommittal.
Darwin retreated into his shell.
If Hooker wouldn't buy it, then his old teachers at Cambridge certainly wouldn't.
Even the most progressive members of the Anglican clergy still saw nature's beauty and abundance
as divinely ordained for the benefit of the Lord's highest creation, man.
The fundamental idea around nature for many people during the early part of the 19th century,
particularly in Cambridge, but throughout Anglican Britain,
was that of design.
The world was made for man and probably the best way
of explaining this is just to think about the 24 hour day.
We think of that of course as just an outcome of astronomical chance,
in the way that the planets work and so forth.
For people who were sitting in Cambridge,
the idea was basically the 24 hour day is...
that's because humans need to sleep for eight hours.
And everything around them is organised from that fact,
from human need going outwards.
To suggest that mankind was merely a product of nature risked attack
from the black robed priests, the black beasts, as Darwin called them.
But what he possibly feared even more was the loss of respect
from the Cambridge dons who had taught and inspired him.
Men such as the straight spoken Yorkshireman
the Reverend Adam Sedgwick, professor of geology,
who saw God's design in nature.
"Denying this... "
".. Might brutalise it and sink the human race
"into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen
"since records tell us of its history. "
Sedgwick represents a union, an uneasy union of science and religion
that had prevailed since the 17th century, in Britain particularly.
A division of labour in which those who study nature
offer to those who study God,
evidence of God's greatness and goodness and wisdom
in the world about us and those who study God's revelation in the Bible
offer reasons for believing in God that he has revealed to us
and how to go to heaven.
Nature doesn't tell us how to go to heaven,
but it tells us that there is a God in heaven,
who has revealed himself and how to get there in the Bible.
It was with these traditional views in mind that in early 1844,
Darwin began to prepare a manuscript
that he hoped would eventually show even men like Sedgwick
that evolution was a reality,
and that he had found the mechanism that made it happen.
But as a punctilious and cautious man,
he needed to marshal his evidence.
What he does there at Downe
is really create a living laboratory.
You know, a laboratory to go along with his career, as it were.
It's not just Darwin sitting alone, looking out the window.
Darwin didn't just use his house and gardens to observe and learn from nature.
He bred pigeons and orchids, raised 50 varieties of gooseberry,
and to counter the creationists,
he became a beekeeper
in order to show that the near perfect hexagons in honeycombs
were made by instinct rather than divine design.
My habits are methodical,
my love of natural science has been steady and ardent.
I have the strongest desire
to understand or explain whatever I have observed.
To group all facts under some general laws.
He would also create a place to think.
A rough oval shaped path of gravel was laid down and trees planted
to provide him with a half kilometre walking circuit.
He called it the Sand Walk.
Darwin called the Sand Walk his thinking path.
He watched the trees grow and many of them are still there...
.. in the knowledge and hope that he would be able to
pace around this plot and escape the pressure
of sitting in one place
and writing and squeezing one's ideas out the point of a pen.
Darwin would lose himself in thought on the Sand Walk,
so much so that the only way he could keep track of the time he spent there
was to keep track of the laps and he kept track of the laps
by a pile of flints,
one of which he would kick to the side after a lap
and when the whole pile had been moved across the path,
he knew he had completed his exercise, that was your thinking time for the day.
We, the subsequent generation, love the Sand Walk
because we can imagine Darwin on it and think about
what he can see from the sand... in the Sand Walk.
He can see these climbing plants, the bryony
in the hedge for example.
He can see Great Puckland's field where he will, you know,
formulate a concept of biodiversity.
Secluded in his rural laboratory, Darwin's manuscript on what he was already calling natural selection
developed into an essay, suitable for publication.
Some of his text drew on the experiences he had on his round the world Beagle expedition.
Out of the five years he spent on the voyage,
he'd stayed just five weeks on the Galapagos Islands,
collecting specimens of plants and different species of mockingbirds and finches.
The significance of his Galapagos experience in the development of his theory has been overstated.
Just as I think it's very common to imagine
that great theories appear in a rush, through inspiration, all at once,
as though every scientist is like Archimedes
streaking along a street from his bath somewhere in Syracuse.
So, we want the place where the inspiration hits
to be glamorous and exotic and the Galapagos does that perfectly,
but that's completely to get the origin of the origin entirely wrong.
It was only back in London after his Galapagos visit that Darwin realised
that the species of birds and plants he collected were subtly
different from island to island,
yet were closely similar to species on the South American continent.
In the 1844 manuscript, he used this as evidence
that new species had evolved
as continental birds and plants adapted to the different island habitats.
The Galapagos of course are a fantastic
place to go and... there's a way
in which they're inevitably going to be associated with Darwin.
But I think their importance I think is easy to misunderstand.
For one thing, his collections from it are really not that great.
He mislabelled most of his specimens,
he didn't identify which of the particular islands,
his various finches and other organisms were actually from.
The main thing about it is not so much about natural selection
at that stage, it's the Galapagos are much more important
in terms of helping Darwin be convinced
that evolution might have been taking place.
The Galapagos evidence was just part of Darwin's awakening.
Only a way mark on the twisting path
to his completed theory of evolution.
Now at Downe, he was able to draw on nine years of intellectual struggle.
He'd set down some of his most brilliant insights
in what would become known as the transmutation notebooks.
It was in these pocketbooks that he first drafted the idea
that the vast range of living species
must have all evolved from a shared common ancestry.
Twigs and branches, stemming from one tree of life.
He is brainstorming with total abandon, totally unorthodox,
unacceptable to philosophers in his day.
Maybe there were a few enlightenment rationalists in France
who would do that, but no-one in Britain would countenance someone
seriously trying to find out about the world by doing what Darwin did.
And he wasn't just tapping physics and theology,
he was going to economics,
he was going to animal breeding, he was reaching out in every direction
for evidence of intuitions
to build up the world as he sensed it existed.
Yet that vision of the world was changing all the while,
he was testing what he thought might be the case,
this is the brainstorming with what people were saying was the case.
Darwin's 1844 manuscript was based on wide reading
from Milton's Paradise Lost
to the evolutionary speculations of his grandfather Erasmus
and the radical French biologist, Jean Baptiste Lamarck.
His great geologist mentor Charles Lyell taught him
that the Earth's surface had been formed
gradually over countless ages.
But it was the political economist, Thomas Malthus who would stimulate
the closest parallel to a eureka moment that Darwin would ever have.
In October 1838, 15 months after I had begun my systematic inquiry,
I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population.
In terms of natural selection,
there's a crucial moment in Darwin's discovery
and that is I think when he reads Thomas Malthus's essay
on the Principle Of Population.
Now, this was an incredibly controversial book.
It was controversial basically
because it argued that there were limits to growth.
A lot of philosophers in the 18th century had said,
"Mankind can progress indefinitely, everything's gonna be great. "
Malthus says, "No, that's not the case.
"In fact we've got limited food supply,
"and effectively what happens is you're going to get this population exploding exponentially,
"and it's going to be cut off by the need for food. "
What Darwin does is turn this into a creative principle in nature.
Death becomes the way of explaining life.
And so what happens is you get this incredible idea that all
of these thousands of forms, all these slightly different species
are competing for these tiny spaces on the Earth and in nature.
Each one trying to live and only those that are most fit,
only those that are really going to match in to that little spot,
those are the ones that are going to survive and all the thousands,
the millions, the billions, the rest are going to die.
It at once struck me that under these circumstances,
favourable variations would tend to be preserved
and unfavourable ones destroyed.
The result of this would be the formation of new species.
Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work.
He says that this population growth
is like 100,000 wedges pounding into the face of nature.
You know, pushing in stronger ones and throwing out weaker ones.
Therein capturing the essence of struggle for existence,
of survival of the fittest.
He had a moment, where he got very excited,
you definitely can tell the excitement
because it's very, very tight, very, very careful.
It's controlled thrill I would say, very, very detailed writing,
layer upon layer really, of a reaction to this thing.
By 1844, Darwin had placed Malthus's ideas on population
at the core of his theory of natural selection,
as a mechanism by which evolution occurred.
The war of nature destroyed the weaklings.
Only the best adapted went on to reproduce,
passing on their successful characteristics
to succeeding generations.
In having so many children, Charles and Emma were effectively conducting their own Malthusian experiment.
By the time he had finished the manuscript,
one baby child had died and Emma was about to be pregnant with a fifth.
William and Annie, their first two were thriving.
Anne Elizabeth Darwin was born in March 1841.
She became indispensable to her mother by the time she was that wonderful age, eight or nine.
She showed her parents great tenderness.
And I think that that increased Emma and Charles's love for Annie.
She would pet them and stroke their hands and stroke their hair
and take her father's hair and plait it and fix it just so.
Then take his hand and walk around the Sand Walk and skipping ahead.
And she had her own little flower patch in the back, all these endearing things
as they watched their eldest daughter become a young woman.
Her joyousness and animal spirits radiated from her whole countenance,
and rendered every movement elastic and full of life and vigour.
It was delightful and cheerful to behold her.
Her dear face now rises before me, as she used to sometimes come
running down the stairs with a stolen pinch of snuff for me.
Her whole form radiant with pleasure of giving pleasure.
And as these children grew up, these were not only loved children,
but they were creatures, they were little developing organisms.
They were like the orang-utan in the London zoo and Darwin would compare
his son, William and Annie growing up, with the orang-utan in the zoo.
At Downe, Annie and her siblings provided an emotional relief
from the constant struggle with his new and contentious theory.
But there was another long-term source of unease.
Emma read his completed manuscript.
Darwin must have known that she would find it uncomfortable reading.
In a strong and loving relationship, his rejection of traditional
religious teachings made her anxious about his salvation.
Although the manuscript acknowledged the existence of a creator,
Emma felt it undermined the belief
that man was specially created by God.
If you put yourself in the mind of a 19th century reader,
the notion that species had evolved, that humans had evolved,
would be deeply upsetting because of this presumption
that humans are at the top of the ladder of the hierarchy,
perfect formed, noble, all of those things.
To suggest that we had evolved from apes and before that from primitive sea creatures,
must have seemed deeply heretical.
Darwin's very aware that he needs to tell his wife the general tenure
of the work that he's actually doing,
but he's also quite aware too that she's going to be upset.
I mean, Emma's quite liberal in her general outlook,
but she also is a practising Christian and a strong believer.
Emma feared that her husband's religious doubts would mean
that he might not be saved and join her in the afterlife.
When I am with you all melancholy thoughts keep out of my head,
but since you are gone some sad ones have forced themselves in,
of fear that our opinions on the most important subject
should differ widely. My reason tells me
that honest and conscientious doubts cannot be a sin,
but I feel it would be a painful void between us.
The big question for Emma was were they going to spend eternity together?
Or when she died and then he died
was that something where they were going to be apart,
and I think that was a terrible kind of burden for her
and it remained a burden right up till the end of their lives.
I do not wish for any answers about all this.
It is a satisfaction for me to write it.
Don't think it's not my affair and does not signify much to me.
Everything that concerns you concerns me.
And I would be most unhappy if I thought that we would not belong to each other forever.
That became an item of unfinished business in their relationship.
It was buried perhaps many times,
but when a child was sick and dying or when Darwin, as so often the case,
fell ill and she had to care for him,
it was the spectre of being eternally without her beloved,
that haunted Emma and made her bring it up to him.
We don't know how many times in private.
We do know that the issue weighed heavily on Darwin from a note he later added to Emma's letter.
When I am dead, know how many times I have kissed and cried over this.
Whatever her personal misgivings,
Emma loyally read and commented on the essay.
Darwin was still not confident enough to have it published
and his anxieties about hostile attitudes to evolutionary ideas were soon to be confirmed.
He finishes this essay, and I think any decision that he had
that he was thinking about publishers
is certainly knocked on its head in October of 1844,
when he learns through an advertisement in the London Times
that a book has been published
called the Vestiges Of The Natural History Of Creation.
This is an anonymous book. Who its author was subject of great guessing and uncertainty
and it's a book which even the advertisements say,
deals with the whole range of natural phenomena and explains it
through a natural law of development.
In other words, there's some sort of evolution
that will explain how everything in the universe came in to being.
It becomes one of the great sensations of the 1840s.
Everybody reads it, from Queen Victoria to the poet Tennyson,
most of Darwin's friends.
It's discussed very extensively by a whole range of different people.
The whole train of animated beings,
from the simplest and oldest up to the highest and most recent,
are then to be regarded as a series of advances
of the principle of development.
It has pleased providence to arrange
that one species should give birth to another
until the second highest gave birth to man.
The identity of the author, Robert Chambers, a Scottish journalist,
was not revealed for another 40 years.
He had feared the inevitable backlash.
In the vanguard of the attack was Darwin's old Cambridge teacher,
the Reverend Adam Sedgwick.
He detected the "serpent coils of false philosophy"
in the book's vision of transmutation.
People came down on it very hard.
His professor Sedgwick here at Cambridge,
referred to it as a filthy abortion, whose head ought to be crushed.
Now of course that's consistent with seeing it as the offspring
of a frail, female mind, this book, this filthy abortion.
That's hard talk from the Reverend Adam Sedgwick,
Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.
I cannot but think the work is from a woman's pen.
It's so well dressed and so graceful in its externals.
This mistake was woman's from the first.
She longed for the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
And she must pluck it, right or wrong.
And Sedgwick absolutely loathes Vestiges.
For him as for many evangelical Christians, Vestiges is, which was bound in red, is the scarlet harlot.
It's a book that has the beautiful attraction of a woman.
What you need to do, he says, is rip off the pretty clothes
and reveal underneath the foul mass of corruption within.
If the book be true, the labours of sober induction are in vain.
Religion is a lie, human law is a mass of folly and a base injustice,
morality is moonshine.
Our labours for the black people of Africa were works of madmen,
and men and women are only better beasts.
And Darwin reads this, as he says, in fear and trembling.
It also, I think, serves a very useful role for Darwin though,
because when he reads the review,
when he looks at what Sedgwick has to say,
in many ways he's able to start ticking off the kinds of things
that he needs to look into,
the kinds of questions he needs to answer,
in order to make sure that his theory is safe,
it has the right kind of armour around it,
so that it can go forward in the world without having
the same kind of reaction against it that Vestiges has.
Still reeling from the savage response to Vestiges,
Darwin seems to have gone into a period of self doubt.
His fears of being regarded as a lightweight speculator were possibly
raised by some words of advice from his botanist friend, Joseph Hooker.
Hooker said to him that he thought that no-one had the right
to pronounce on species unless they had examined many.
A throwaway line in a letter from Hooker to his friend,
and yet, clearly a remark
that haunted Darwin, that he knew, absolutely that Hooker was right.
That if anyone was going to believe this enormous claim
that he was going to make,
then he really had to do the examining of many.
He had to really do the work with the microscope
and with the dissection tools, and once he'd done that,
and once people admired him for the detail of that work,
then he would have a better chance with the big ideal.
Darwin decided to embark on a comprehensive description
of an entire subclass of marine organisms, barnacles.
It was a project he anticipated would take a matter of months.
It was to take him eight years.
There are two types of barnacles, mainly. There's the coned barnacles.
They're little white volcanic, tiny cones that cover every rock.
Inside the cone there's a little creature,
which is cemented to the rock by its head and which fishes with its feet.
So, when the tide comes in, the feet come out through the little hole,
and there's this wonderful pulsing movement, like feathers almost,
as the feet fish for tiny plankton.
They also, barnacles, the coned barnacles, have the largest penises
proportionate to size in the entire animal kingdom,
so every now and again you can also see,
coming out of one of the tops of these cones, an enormous penis,
which will come out the top and then go in to the top of another valve,
maybe four or five barnacles away.
So he quite quickly comes to see and express this sense of wonder.
That here they were, seemingly ordinary, you know,
covering every shoreline of the temperate world,
and yet when you go in really, really close,
what seems like a simple organism becomes a very sophisticated one
and you see that pattern over and over again in Darwin's early work,
that sense of, we must stop talking
about higher animals and lower animals.
That actually the lower animals are often very sophisticated,
almost fantastic in the way that they've adapted to their conditions.
You can almost hear him gasp, you know, as he goes further and further in at the beauty of these things.
There was another pay-off.
Darwin's barnacle research relied on people sending him specimens from all over the world.
Downe House developed into the hub of a network of contacts
which would supply vital evidence for writing The Origin Of Species.
Darwin's communication networks are absolutely remarkable.
They're partly a tribute to the sophistication
of the Victorian postal service,
without which most 19th century science would have collapsed.
Pigeon breeders and orchid fanciers,
colonial physicians and Royal Naval officers were badgered
by Darwin from his study in Downe,
so that flowing on to that desk were piles and piles of paper.
It was while he was still laboriously dissecting his way
through hundreds of barnacle specimens
that one more of Darwin's own children was struck down
with what is now thought to have been tuberculosis.
When Annie was about nine years old, she began to have tummy troubles,
which isn't surprising in a house
where the father was periodically throwing up in his study
and doing all kinds of odd things to keep himself from becoming violently physically ill.
It was one of the ways one got attention at Downe House,
was to be sick, very sick preferably.
And finally her illness became so acute
that while Emma was seriously pregnant,
she was having her ninth child,
Charles put Annie under his own doctor
and the doctor immediately diagnosed
a grave situation that was bound to get worse
and finally over the Easter weekend, she died.
Her eyes sparkled brightly, she often smiled.
Her step was elastic and firm.
She held herself upright and often threw her head backwards
as if she defied the world in her joyousness.
A week after Annie died, this is what's most remarkable,
Charles sat down and in a single draft, you can tell by reading it,
wrote a magnificent threnody for this loved and sorely missed child,
in which he describes Annie's human nature in all of its physicality.
This is not just a struggle for existence
in which a vulnerable life is crushed,
this is a loved person who is their offspring.
We have lost the joy of the household
and the solace of our old age.
She must've know how we loved her.
Oh, that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly we do still
and shall forever love her dear joyous face, blessings on her.
Annie's death came just three years after Darwin's father had died, an unbeliever.
With his own belief in a Christian God already shaken,
Darwin now severed his ties with traditional faith.
Disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate,
but it was at last complete.
I indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity can be true,
for if so, the plain language seems to show that men who do not believe will be everlastingly punished.
And this is a damnable doctrine.
There it seems to me is the quintessence
of any anger that he felt at Annie's being torn away at Easter, focused into a single moral statement.
And it's the statement of a non believer.
A non Christian, but still a believer in God.
Just a god who will not punish ten year olds.
Death in the war in nature had been the driving force
of Darwin's theory of evolution from the time he read Malthus.
Eight years after her death,
Darwin would weave his daughter into that vision.
Annie is in chapter three of The Origin Of Species where Darwin talks about the struggle for existence.
And, in that chapter, Darwin,
he's now writing five, six years, seven years after Annie's death.
He describes for us nature as it appears
and then nature how it really is.
He refers to the smiling face of nature.
He refers to the nature that we look out upon
and is so celebrated, the green and pleasant land of England,
the insects flitting through the air, the birds sporting themselves.
We do not see, he says, beneath the surface.
It's a continual state of war.
Under this surface of nature,
the young are dying young
and the rest of the animal life struggles to survive.
And then he says that this struggle for existence is like,
and he uses the old notebook figure, wedges being driven into the face.
We behold the face of nature bright with gladness.
Every single organic being around us may be seen to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers,
that each lives by a struggle at some period of its life,
that heavy destruction inevitably falls either on the young or old
during each generation or at recurrent intervals.
The face of nature may be compared to a yielding surface with 10,000 sharp wedges
packed close together and driven inwards by incessant blows.
Sometimes one wedge being struck and then another with greater force.
And there's this nature with a smiling face
and then there are wedges being driven...
It's the most horridly anthropomorphic figure.
When I first read that, after studying Annie's death,
I thought, "Could it be her face?"
And, of course, when you read his account of her, a week after she died,
over and over again, it's her brilliance face,
her beaming face, her smiles that he remembers
with the picture of the daguerreotype sat next to him.
In writing this chapter in the struggle for existence in The Origin of Species
he's portraying Annie's fate in falling victim
to a remorseless struggle that gives rise to higher forms of life.
She suffered at Easter that others may live.
Darwin now lost himself in barnacles again, taking three more years to finish his huge study.
At last he now felt able to return to his big theory but, for some time,
something had been nagging him.
How did a group, like barnacles, evolve consisting as they did of
thousands of slightly different species, many living side by side?
Was his idea of natural selection enough by itself
to explain the extraordinary diversity of living things?
At that time, I overlooked one problem of great importance.
The problem is the tendency in organic beings
descended from the same stock to diverge in character
as they become modified.
There's a place in the autobiography where he talks about
the moment of discovery
of the principle of divergence.
You can see a... small piece of paper among many
that are dated the same date, November '54,
in which his handwriting is extremely jagged
in pencil.
And I can remember the very spot in the road,
whilst in my carriage, when to my joy the solution occurred to me.
The solution, as I do believe, is that the modified offspring
of all dominant and increasing forms tend to become adapted
to the many and highly diversified places in the economy of nature.
What Darwin realised was that the more individuals differed from each other,
the better able they would be to take advantage of the particular environment in which they lived.
Just as importantly,
species would diverge even more as they adapted to each other.
This interdependence had a parallel
in what would eventually become the Victorian factory system.
He uses, I would call it more like the Adam Smith phase
of Darwin's encounter with the political economists,
because, you know, Adam Smith had this idea of the division of labour,
that you can produce more wealth if you have people who are specialists,
you know, instead of everybody being a farmer.
If some people become tailors and some people become leather workers,
you can produce more wealth.
Darwin uses the essentially the same idea
and applies it to these little plots of ground
and his view is that more life can be sustained
on a square plot if the organisms use different parts of the environment.
If you think about this in terms of this kind of lawn plot experiment.
You've got grasses and other plants growing and its roots might go down to a certain depth,
so it can take nutrients from that level,
but another might grow to a deeper depth,
You can sustain more life that way than if they are all growing to the same depth.
If they were all one kind.
And he's seeing that as a process of divergence.
Darwin set up innovative trials to test out his ideas.
Leaving a few square feet of his lawn unmown for three years,
he regularly noted the change in composition in the struggle for life
among 20 plant species, recording 11 winners and nine losers.
In Great Puckland's meadow
he counted 142 different species, the first ever survey of its kind.
The chalk fields and banks around Downe support
as many as 40 different species per square metre.
An abundance explained by natural selection and the principle of divergence.
And his applications of Adam Smith's ideas of capitalist manufacture
were not lost on the inventor of the idea of class struggle, Karl Marx.
Darwin discovers among the beasts and plants the society of England, with its division of labour,
competition, opening up of new markets, inventions
and the Malthusian struggle for existence.
And certainly Darwin, when he looks at those tangled banks,
where new varieties
and eventually new species are preferentially being produced
by competition and the physiological division of labour,
Darwin calls those "manufactories of species. "
The very phrase "factory system" is about 30 years old
and it had first been applied to this new system of economy,
based on industrial production,
ferocious division of labour, automation and mechanisation.
Now Darwin was using those principles
to try and make sense of what was happening
when competition was particularly vigorous
and therefore adaptations peculiarly intensely favoured.
It was at this time that Darwin began to feel confident enough to come out in public with his theory.
He started to prepare a master work where every possible criticism could
be anticipated and every assertion backed up by evidence.
He wanted to win over his Victorian readers
with striking and familiar examples.
Understanding their fascination with domestic animals,
he chose a particularly popular species, the pigeon,
in order to make an analogy.
Fancy pigeon breeding by artificial selection
showed how natural selection worked in the wild.
He was especially concerned with just the sheer diversity of pigeons,
all the different forms, the amazing types of pigeons
and how those related then to a single ancestor.
On the one hand you had fantails,
really beautiful birds with beautiful feathers
down to the almond tumblers, very small birds with beaks so small
that they could hardly get out of their egg shells.
Carrier pigeons were very large, had these kind of big ugly beaks.
They showed this incredible diversity.
How could they all come from one ancestor?
Just as pigeon breeders bred different varieties,
so nature acted in the same way over longer periods of time,
naturally selecting different varieties,
each passing on their own inherited characteristics.
So in some sense what Darwin was saying was just as the pigeon fanciers had a fancy,
nature had a fancy and that fancy
was to produce these incredible varieties,
all these different kind of forms
and types of animals and plants that we see around us.
That diversity could actually be explained by looking at something as simple as pigeons.
Pigeons were to be one example amongst many
in a work that might have amounted to three heavy volumes,
had Darwin not been interrupted.
My plans were overthrown.
For early in the summer of 1858 Mr Wallace,
who was then in the Malay Archipelago, sent me an essay
on the Tendency Of Varieties To Depart Indefinitely From The Original Type,
and this essay contained exactly the same theory as mine.
Alfred Russel Wallace had been supplying Darwin, and other rich collectors
with animal and plant specimens from the Indonesian archipelago.
Now, Darwin, one has to say, was a toff, there's no question of it.
Wallace was exactly the opposite.
He had a few years of schooling, he was kicked out,
and he went to the university of life, that's all he could afford,
and he decided to set up shop as a collector of animals
and he had an extraordinarily adventurous life.
He went to Indonesia and had a tremendously challenging and difficult time.
I mean, he was living out in the jungle for year after year after year
and then suddenly one day, he had a good idea.
Like Darwin,
Wallace had been struck by Thomas Malthus's essay on population.
His theory came to him while he was lying incapacitated with malaria struggling for life.
So he wrote with a certain amount of trepidation to the grand
and already famous fellow of the Royal Society, Charles Darwin,
with this idea and, of course, it landed on Darwin's breakfast table,
here in Downe, with the force of an hand grenade.
So all my originality, whatever it may amount to, will be smashed.
Though my book, if it will ever have any value, will not be deteriorated
as all the labour consists in the application of the theory.
Darwin was distraught. Also his daughter, Henrietta, was sick
and his infant son, Charles, gravely ill.
He put his trust in his friends Joseph Hooker and Charles Lyell,
to decide the fate of his theory.
With Wallace far away in Indonesia, they resolved to have papers
by both naturalists presented
at a meeting of the Linnean Society in London.
Remarkably, the joint presentation stirred up little interest.
Darwin too was absent from the event.
His infant son had died.
Once recovered, he resolved
to publish his book as soon as possible.
The great thing that Wallace did, I think in many ways, was to make
sure that Darwin basically finished his book and wrote it in such a way
that it was readable to a much wider audience than it would have otherwise been.
Darwin was basically writing a three volume treatise on natural selection,
with all the evidence, pigeons, bees, ants, everything, all put in.
There was going to be a chapter on man, it was everything.
What Wallace did would galvanise Darwin.
He recaptured much of the energy he had when he was working
in the Beagle voyage and he suddenly started writing with a real passion.
In September 1858, I set to work on the strong advice of Lyell and Hooker
to prepare a volume on the transmutation of species.
It cost me 13 months' and ten days' hard labour.
It was published under the title of
The Origin Of Species in November 1859.
Darwin was to describe his book of nearly 500 pages
as one long argument.
He gently and tentatively coaches his reader
through a developing series of observations and examples.
Throughout the same pattern is repeated
of moving from specific details to grand overarching conclusions.
I often think that the theory of evolution of natural selection
is a bit like the grammar of biology.
You can't learn a language without understanding at least something about its grammar,
and you couldn't be a biologist before 1859
because none of the facts seem to fit together.
You could be studying flowers, or earthworms,
you could be collecting birds on the Galapagos but they were sort of independent discoveries.
But suddenly The Origin Of Species made it all make sense.
It gave you a framework onto which you could bolt all these facts.
So it really was, and still is,
the central book of the science of biology.
The book appealed to a new breed of professional men of science who were prepared to accept
that all nature was governed by fixed laws, The Origin Of Species
as much as the motions of the planets.
But Darwin had invested so many years developing the book
because he also hoped to win over his old Anglican mentors.
On The Origin Of Species only twice refers to the origins of mankind
but for old naturalists,
such as his respected teacher Professor Adam Sedgwick,
the implications were obvious and odious.
Adam Sedgwick wrote him a letter.
This old man sat down and sorrowfully
told his geological student
how much he disapproved of this book, The Origin Of Species,
which in places Sedgwick said,
"attempts to break the link
"between the world of nature and the reality of God. "
I have read your book with more pain than pleasure.
Parts of it I admired greatly,
parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore,
parts I read with absolute sorrow
because I think them utterly false and grievously mischievous.
Sedgwick hoped that they would see each other in heaven
and that said it all, didn't it?
Sedgwick realised perfectly well what was at stake
and what Darwin himself always knew was at stake.
Sedgwick saw the fabric tottering and falling.
That is the fabric of salvation and eternal life.
If you make a man out of a monkey that all comes down.
The family was really quite upset about this. I think it's probably
for Darwin the most upsetting letter he gets about The Origin Of Species
because it represents the kind of, on some level,
his failure in a certain way to be able to reach
the kind of person that Sedgwick actually was.
And it's particularly upsetting, I think also for Emma,
because Sedgwick is somebody that she particularly admired and whose views she respected quite heavily.
And so there's quite a lot of sense that there's upset in the household
as a result of Sedgwick's intervention in the debate.
Whatever the personal set-backs, Emma steadfastly supported Charles
throughout the years of controversy that followed
enabling him to write nine more books,
despite further breakdowns and mounting exhaustion.
But he was later to call The Origin Of Species
the chief work of his life.
The book has never been out of print.
In it he immortalised a chalk bank at Downe to illustrate
the extraordinary diversity and interdependence of living beings
that result from the process of natural selection.
It might also serve as a metaphor for his struggle to write the book.
And, of course, the entangled bank that he describes at the end is also a vision of his own life, you know,
the entangled bank that he sees, central to his vision of nature
is also the world that he's lived in.
There's a sense of worship in that,
a worship of nature as he sees it fully.
That he accepts the war, the destruction, the famine,
the pain, the suffering, the loss of children
but nonetheless you put all of that together,
the death and the suffering and the beauty and the miracle of it
and you end with wonder.
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 along,
according to the fixed laws of gravity,
from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful
and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E- mail [email protected] co. uk


A Luta de Darwin (Documentário-2009)

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Why Why 2013 年 4 月 11 日 に公開
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