Charles Darwin

The Origin of Species

"If it could ever be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."

. . . .

"We have seen that the members of the same class, independently of their habits of life, resemble each other in the general plan of their organization. This resemblance is often expressed by the term 'unity of type'; or by saying that the several parts and organs in the different species of the class are homologous .. What can be more curious than the hand of a man, formed for grasping, that of the mole for digging, the leg of the horse, the paddle of the porpoise, and the wing of the bat, should all be constructed on the same pattern, and should include the same bones, in the same relative positions?"

"If we suppose that the ancient progenitor, the archtype as it may be called, of all mammals, had its limbs constructed on the existing general pattern, for whatever purpose they served, we can at once perceive the plain signification of the homologous construction of the limbs throughout the whole class." Ch 13

[This was discussed on p106-7 of Bethell's "Darwin's House of Cards"]

. . . .

"The bones of a limb might be shortened and widened to any extent, and become gradually enveloped in thick membrane, so as to serve as a fin, or a webbed foot might have all its bones, or certain bones, lengthened to any extent, so as to serve as a wing; yet in all this great amount of modification there will be no tendency to alter the framework of bones or the relative connection of the several parts." Origin of Species,2nd ed p433-435

[Bethell really pounces on all these assertions which are really like the "is to ought" errors that Hume attacks. p107"Darwin's House of Cards"]

Letter to William Graham, 3 July 1881
Darwin's Doubt

"With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy."

Cited by Lennox on pg48 of "Can Science Explain Everything?"

Letter to Joseph Hooker, February 1, 1871
Warm little pond

It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are now present which could ever have been present. - But if (& oh what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts and ammonia and phosphoric salts, - light, heat, electricity etc., present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured, or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed."
Darwin Correspondence Project, Letter no. 7471, University of Cambridge,

Cited by Thomas on pg51 of "Taking Leave of Darwin"

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