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On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or, The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life

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Excerpt: ...have been to a social community of insects, on the same principle that the division of labour is useful to civilised man. As ants work by inherited instincts and by inherited tools or weapons, and not by acquired knowledge and manufactured instruments, a perfect division of labour could be effected with them only by the workers being sterile; for had they been fertile, they would have intercrossed, and their instincts and structure would have become blended. And nature has, as I believe, effected this admirable division of labour in the communities of ants, by the means of natural selection. But I am bound to confess, that, with all my faith in this principle, I should never have anticipated that natural selection could have been efficient in so high a degree, had not the case of these neuter insects convinced me of the fact. I have, therefore, discussed this case, at some little but wholly insufficient length, in order to show the power of natural selection, and likewise because this is by far the most serious special difficulty, which my theory has encountered. The case, also, is very interesting, as it proves that with animals, as with plants, any amount of modification in structure can be effected by the accumulation of numerous, slight, and as we must call them accidental, variations, which are in any manner profitable, without exercise or habit having come into play. For no amount of exercise, or habit, or volition, in the utterly sterile members of a community could possibly have affected the structure or instincts of the fertile members, which alone leave descendants. I am surprised that no one has advanced this demonstrative case of neuter insects, against the well-known doctrine of Lamarck. SUMMARY. I have endeavoured briefly in this chapter to show that the mental qualities of our domestic animals vary, and that the variations are inherited. Still more briefly I have attempted to show that instincts vary slightly in a state of nature. No... Hide synopsis

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Reviews of On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or, The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life

Overall customer rating: 5.000
Kate H

In progress

by Kate H on Nov 1, 2012

I tried readiing this book over 30 years ago and failed. I recently watched a documentary of Darwin's life and my curiosity was aroused again. I chose the first of the six editions. I am part way through and am impressed by the breadth of Darwin's thinking. I am in the process of writing a novel and there are themes in Origin of the Species that inform. Close members of a species being the toughest competitors like siblings in a family. I will make it to the end, but it will take me some time.

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